Rare ragas and devotion-laden kritis were Shertalai Ranganatha Sarma’s choice. It was not just Suriya Prakash, but the whole team with total coordination, offered a rich aural treat. And raga bhava was Kiranavali’s forte.

What stood out in Shertalai Dr. K.N. Ranganatha Sarma’s concert were his powerful yet melodious voice, his precious patantara, adherence to tradition and crystal-clear intonation.

Sarma’s Natakurinji alapana evoked a transcendental mood. Trivandrum N. Sampath (violin) responded with a brilliant elucidation. The raga offers immense scope for tanam and Sarma exploited it to the fullest. The pallavi ‘Saravananai, Muruganai, Guhanai, Ninai’ was at two aksharams after samam in khanda triputai. He followed the traditional trikalam and tisram pattern.

Sarma rendered ragamalika swarams in Hamsanandi, Mohanam, Surutti and Sindhu Bhairavi.

Sherthalai Ananthakrishnan (mridangam) presented a scintillating thani. His speciality is strict kalapramana and pleasing korvais.

After a leisurely alapana of Purvikalyani, Sarma rendered Oothukadu’s kriti on Jayadeva, ‘Padmavathi Ramanam.’ The very structure of this kriti is exquisite. In the swaraprasthara at pallavi, the concluding korvai was decidedly harmonious.

Sarma’s Bilahari delineation had something unique that evoked karuna (compassion) and bhakti (devotion) rasas. Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Madhurapuri Viharini’ (Rupakam) was the chosen kriti. May be because Sarma is presently settled in Madurai as a Professor of Music!

He commenced his sparkling concert with Thulasivanam’s ‘Pranathosmi Devam’ in Nattai, with a brief swaraprasthara. Syama Sastri’s Ananda Bhairavi piece, ‘Mahilo Amba’ was an enjoyable rendition. ‘Mother Amba, is it possible for me to describe your power and splendour?’ asks the composer. While playing for Swati Tirunal’s ‘Bhogindra Sayinam’ in Kuntalavarali, Ananthakrishnan revelled with a variety of Khanda nadai combinations.

Sarma rendered Tyagaraja’s ‘Satthaleni Dinamulu’ in the rare Naganandini with musical precision. The Saint laments that even in the first quarter of Kaliyuga, one witnesses several acts of sin! Dikshitar’s ‘Ekamresa Nayakim’ in Samaram (Shanmughapriya) was well rendered.

Sarma concluded his concert with a Surdas bhajan in Kalyanavasantham and Gopalakrishna Bharati’s ‘Irakkam Varamal’ in Behag. Sarma’s disciple Santhosh Subramaniam offered able vocal support.

R.K. Sriram Kumar (violin), Thiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam (mridangam) and Anirudh Athreya (ganjira). What more can a vocalist aspire for? R. Suriya Prakash was lucky to have these stalwarts with him for his morning concert. They were pillars of strength to him.

And, Suriya Prakash possesses all the ingredients that a vocalist requires, viz., a fine voice, knowledge of music, sruti suddham sound patanthara, and control over raga and tala. Above all, it is evident that he practices hard. He could therefore live up to one’s expectations in his morning concert. The highlight was a perfectly elucidated Kiravani. Its aesthetic form was well presented. It was as extensive as it was melodic. R.K. Sriram Kumar brought out the subtle and delicate beauties underlying the raga. Suriya Prakash presented Periyasami Thooran’s kriti on Paramacharya, ‘Punniyam Oru Koti Purindheno’ with verve and an element of devotion. His niraval at ‘Annai Kamakshi Pole’ was gentle while the swaraprastara was powerful. The repetitive phrases ending with ma pa dha ni sa ri were particularly musical.

The thani was a special item in the concert. There was total understanding between Bhaktavatsalam and Anirudh and it came to the fore when they presented their Misra Nadai, which was a rhythmic treat.

Suriya Prakash presented a beautiful Kannada alapana. Sriram Kumar’s response was equally brilliant. Of course, the chosen kriti was Dikshithar’s ‘Sri Mathrubhutham.’ Suriya Prakash offered kalpanaswaras to this kriti.

Suriya Prakash commenced the concert with the anupallavi of Muthaiah Bhagavatar’s ‘Valli Nayaka Nive Gathiyani’ in Shanmukhapriya. He provided an appropriate swaraprastara. Then he sang Tyagaraja’s divine piece in Vagadeeswari, ‘Paramathmudu’ followed by the Saint’s ‘Vasudevayani Vedalina’ in beautiful Kalyani, which was rendered without alapana, but with niraval and swaras at ‘Raga Tala.’ In the strictest sense, this song cannot be categorised as a kriti, it is a Daruvu. It is the second song of ‘Prahlada Bhakta Vijayam.’ The song introduces the dwarapalaka, who comes shouting the name, Vasudeva. Suriya Prakash wound up the concert with Swati Tirunal’s Bhajan, ‘Ramachandra Prabhu Tum Bin’ in Sindhu Bhairavi.

The concert commenced 25 minutes behind schedule as the vidwan who was giving a lecture earlier, exceeded his time-slot. Thus, there was a chain reaction. A few of our artists have to realise the value of time!

Kiranavali Vidyasankar’s Sankarabharanam was a vocal display of the range and depth of the raga and of her own dexterity and precision. She is the granddaughter of the legendary Gottuvadyam maestro Narayana Iyengar and daughter of Chitravina Narasimhan. She is a performing artist in both vocal and Chitravina.

She possesses a sweet voice, which occasionally gets husky. She revels in conveying the raga bhava in totality. Adithi Krishnaprakash (violin) responded with a well-played alapana. Her violin had a special resonant tone. Kiranavali chose to render Tyagaraja’s ‘Swararagasudha,’ with niraval and swaras at ‘Mooladhara.’ Her swaraprastara, kuraippu and korvai had a stamp of elegance and artistry. The thani by Sridhar Chari (mridangam) had a string of korvais and it was a pleasure watching them ending at the arai idam on the dot.

Similarly in her Sriranjani alapana, the essence of the raga came to the fore. Adithi’s alapana was equally impressive. Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Ini Oru Kanam’ is a beautiful kriti in this raga and Kiranavali was at her best in kalpanaswaras at ‘Thamarasadalakshane’ in atheetham.

The Sahana varnam gave a dynamic start to the concert. It was followed by ‘Sarasiruhasanapriye’ (Nattai) of Puliyur Doraiswamy Iyer. Incidentally, he is the father of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer.

In Dikshitar’s ‘Anandamrithakarshini,’ the tisra prayogam at the latter part of Pallavi proved highly musical. The kriti’s chittaswaram was also beautiful. Likewise, her well-rendered ‘Marivere’ (Anandabhairavi – Syama Sastri) also has a lilting chittaiswaras. She concluded her recital with Swati Tirunal’s thillana.

(ramakrishnan.h @gmail.com)