Some musicians enter the field blazing like a meteor while some others make a slow and steady climb to fame over a long period, during which they require tenacity and perseverance to stay on and try. Rithvik Raja probably belongs to the second category, rising steadily over the last couple of years with an impressive number of billings this season. The hall looked well-occupied for a junior artiste's concert. Rithvik has moulded his music largely on a gamaka-oriented style of singing.
At Kartik Fine Arts on Tuesday, Rithvik commenced his concert with the immortal Ata tala varnam in Bhairavi. His low-pitched voice reached the lower octave with ease. His kalapramanam was steady as he sung the piece in two speeds. Strangely, the mridangam support fell short of expectations in the slower tempo though it jelled very well in the faster one. Tyagaraja's Rama nee pai tanaku in Kedaram was rendered at a brisk pace. A good alapana of Varali was next on show with a rarely heard piece of Purandara Dasa (Ille vaikuntha) with neraval and swaras sung with a felicity reminiscent of his guru T.M. Krishna. Thereafter, he sang Nattaikurinji, again with a closing spell in the mandra sthayi. However, the violinist K.P. Nandini scored over him in this effort.
An old Tamil composition, Ekkalattilum, was rendered with poise. Shyama Sastri's Parvati ninnu in the rare raga Kalgada was sung as the ‘pace maker'. Kharaharapriya was chosen as the main raga for rendering ragam, tanam and pallavi. Rithvik sang an impressive alapana and a fluent tanam. It is good to see youngsters such as Abhishek and Rithvik accommodate a pallavi, cleverly choosing talas of short cycles to fit into the available time and, perhaps, also out of consideration for the mridangam artistes whose solos are pushed into this slot. The pallavi was executed well with neraval and swaram. Nagarajan played a short but effective tani. The concluding piece was a Dikshitar kriti, Jambupate (Yamuna Kalyani). The concert maintained a high standard throughout. Some of Rithvik's akara passages in the alapanas bore the unmistakable style of Semmangudi. There is an all-rounded accomplishment in various aspects of his singing. On the flip side, a needless hurry is noticed during the middle stages of raga alapanas. One missed the ‘killer instinct' at the climactic stages of his improvisations, something that his guru is known for!
K.P. Nandini supported competently on the violin. Her raga essays earned a lot of appreciation from the audience.
The only concern is her tendency to provide a vibrato effect at the shadja and panchama notes, which ought not to be oscillated. It is not uncommon among violinists to do so but can the “21st century violinist” break free?
Erode Nagarajan was good in parts. There were times when his accompaniment was fantastic and there were others when his playing seemed intrusive or inappropriate. Hopefully, he will mature with experience.
(T.T. Narendran is a professor in the Department of Management Studies at IIT Madras. He is also a vainika and a keen follower of Carnatic music.)