Whether it is dexterity of voice, a good sense of the kriti, manodharma in raga alapana, neraval and kalpanaswaram, talakattu or concert craft — Bharat Sundar has all of these ingredients in good measure
Bharat Sundar's concert for Kartik Fine Arts confirmed that he is living up to the promise he has shown in the last two years. Whether it is dexterity of voice, a good sense of the kriti, manodharma in raga alapana, neraval and kalpanaswaram, talakattu or concert craft — he has all of these ingredients in good measure. There is ample evidence that he has and continues to receive good guidance from his gurus. While he has worked on the dexterity of his voice, he would do well to make it fuller, rounder and stronger in the lower registers. This would substantially enhance the impact of his presentation. Throughout the concert, he did not explore the lower registers. Given his capability, he should set higher standards for himself. It would be good to see him dig deeper as a musician rather than as a performer and add the element of soukhyam to his music.
He began with the Begada varnam Intachalamu. Shambho mahadeva in Pantuvarali was rendered excellently with neraval and sarvalaghu kalpana swarams. The alapana in Dhanyasi contained several exquisite phrases but the alapana overall, did not produce a strong picture of the raga. Comparatively, the violinist B.U. Ganesh Prasad sketched a more wholesome impression.
Bharat Sundar shone brilliantly in the alapana of Keeravani. He was not afraid to explore untraditional phrases within the ambit of the raga. However, the two slower paced kritis presented in the concert — Meenalochana in Dhanyasi and Kaligiyuntegada in Keervani — fell short of his high standards. Aside from this, he presented the lyrics and sangatis of all the kritis with a great degree of respect and finesse.
The role of a violin accompanist is to enhance the concert and not merely to play second fiddle. B.U. Ganesh Prasad presented enough evidence of his musicality and skill as a violinist but chose to play a subservient role in the concert.
An old anecdote goes that a senior vocalist once denied a taniavartanam to the mridangam artiste during a concert. The vocalist's justification was that the musician played “taniya” (by himself) throughout the concert. This applied to the mridangist of the day, B. Sivaraman. Predictably, he sparkled during the taniavartanam but compromised the concert overall. B.S. Purushottam knows how to coax the best sounds out of the kanjira. Both percussionists presented some exquisite korvais during the tani.
At the end of the concert, a foreigner in the auditorium asked if most people in the audience were deaf. He was referring to the loud and unbalanced audio. It is time that artistes and audiences demand a higher level of sophistication from the sound systems and operators.
(Viswanath Parasuram is a musician, educator and the founder of Karadi Tales. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)