Amrutha Venkatesh, accompanied by Anand Viswanathan (violin), Arjun Ganesh (mridangam) and Anirudh Athreya (kanjira) gave a concert on Sunday at Vani Mahal under the auspices of the Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha.
Endowed with a good voice that has range, depth and good shruti alignment, Amrutha is not given to excesses in any one area and is able to deliver her music with a pleasing tonal clarity that is common in Hindustani music, but often dismissed in the Carnatic system, in pursuit of other ideals. She sits back from the mike most of the time and the taara sthayi “shouting” effect common in Carnatic concerts was mostly absent. The concert started with Mamava sada janani in Kanada and this was followed by the Andal Tiruppavai Too mani madattu in Hameer Kalyani. Then there was an excellent alapana in Shubhapantuvarali by Amrutha. After the violinist's sketch, Tyagaraja's Yennalurage in Mishra Chapu was rendered with the requisite sedate bhava. Next was Ini oru kanam in Sriranjani. Amrutha's habit of using madhyama shruti for panchama varjya ragas like Sriranjani and Hindolam, even though the ragas have the shuddha madhyama, is inappropriate. It would have been better to use simply the shadja shruti. Next up, Parama purusha in Lalitapanchamam was rendered very briskly, perhaps too briskly giving it an artificial feel.
Mohanam was the main piece of the evening and Amrutha sang a lovely alapana that held the audience in thrall and drew a lot of applause. Violinist Anand, who had a bad start to the concert, came to the fore and rendered a good alapana that also drew applause. The Tyagaraja classic Nannu palimpa was highlighted by neraval — nice but hurried, due to paucity of time perhaps — at karamuna followed by swaraprasthara, a kuraippu leading to a neatly executed korvai. This was followed by the taniavartanam. At the tail end, there was an exciting Balamuralikrishna tillana in Hindolam.
Anand seems to have had some smooth finger movement problems in the beginning which got set right eventually. His violin sounded a little strident on occasion, perhaps aggravated by the mikeman's misguided zeal to jack up the volume during the solos.
Arjun Ganesh is yet another highly accomplished mridangam artiste in the Chennai concert scene. He showed good anticipation and finger dexterity. Anirudh Athreya on kanjira was equally dextrous and shadowed Arjun very well. Perhaps he could show a little more interaction with the vocalist. The volume levels were surprisingly normal and pleasant with the exception of the violin solos.
(Uday Shankar is a biomedical design engineer interested in acoustic and wind musical instruments. Email: udayshankar10@ gmail.com)