Music filled the air as eminent musicians performed at the week-long Isha festival in Coimbatore.

Veteran Kirana gharana exponent Channulal Misra's inaugural vocal recital at the Isha festival of music and dance, in front of the Lingabhairavi shrine, with songs associated with our ancient lore, regaled the audience. His invocation to goddess Shakti from Durga Sapthasati in raag Shyam Kalyan in vilambit ek taal followed by a paean to Lord Siva, ‘Tum Ho Aadhar,' was a soulful presentation in two speeds with laya and swaras.

Channulal's rendition of ‘Vathapi Ganapatim' in Hamsadhwani in perfect sruti was endearing and this was followed by ‘Durge Jagadambe Bhavani' in the same raga to show the difference between the two styles of music. Presenting a sample each of thumri, dadra and chaitha, chaithi and bhakti, the vocalist brought out the rasa aspect of the gopis for Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna and Siva celebrating holi, each in their own way, was a typical example of his music. Pt. Ravikumar Misra (tabla) and Indresh Misra (harmonium) accompanied the artist in the concert.

The inimitable power and energy of Shubha Mudgal's voice, with her strong-spirited identity, was evident in her pulsating vocal recital. Commencing with a vilambit ek taal khayal in raag Yaman on Lord Siva, ‘Deva Deva Mahadeva,' summoning up the imposing Lord with his divine aspects of jatha, damaru and the trident, her subsequent pleasing akaara delineations followed by a vilambit teen drut taal on Devi, ‘Devi Dayaani Daani,' ended surprisingly without the usual sargams. Clarity of diction marked the ensuing bhajans - ‘Mein Ghulam Mujhe Bech Gusai' in thumri and ‘Ab Kaise Chootey Nam Raath Lagi' in Kalyan thaat in jhap taal. Her tribute to her guru in Bagesri in jhap taal, ‘Sadguru Sahib Jab Meher Kani,' was soulful.

The artist's sufi presentation of ‘Dayayari Mohe Bheejo' showed how music had been a shaping force in her life. Her accompanists, Aneesh Pradhan (tabla) and Pt. Sudhir Nayak (Harmonium) lent dignity to the concert.

Eloquent rendition

The jugalbandi of Ravikiran (Chitravina) and Tarun Bhattacharya (Santoor) began with a brief preface on the features of the instruments by Ravikiran. Absolute control over the instruments by the virtuosos revealed their diligent saadhakam. Accompanied by Subhalakshmi on the violin, Tiruchi Sankaran on the mridangam and Abhijit on the tabla, Ravikiran, as is his wont, created a vocal feel and took the music buffs on an inimitable music journey. Their opening with a specially composed RTP was handled with a clear perspective. The maestros vied with each other to bring out the nuances of the raga eloquently, the pallavi being ‘Paratpara, Maheswara, Dayakara Sadhaa Pahimaam' in khanda jati.

The exquisite raga vinyasam by Ravikiran was followed by Tarun with equal virtuosity. Their perfect fast tempo with all the frills, rich in bhava was enthralling. Traversing the octaves with ease and perfection, the fast brigas and sangatis invested the exercise with sheer melody throughout. ‘Varanamukhi' (Hamsadhwani), played with gusto, ended their session. Subhalakshmi provided colourful responses on the violin from the start. The vibrant thani of Sankaran (mridangam) and Abhijit (tabla) was well within the comfort zone throughout the concert.

Creativity based on melody marked the outstanding violin duet of L.Subramaian and Ambi Subramanian. Synthesis of sahrdya feeling and a clear vision of the rakti content of music made their exposition of the ragas highly sensitive. Flagging off with the popular Adi tala kriti, ‘Vathapi Ganapatim' in Hamsadhwani, the alapana brought alive the elegance of the raga and the bewitching inherent melody. The virtuoso and the chip off the old block- Ambi Subramanian- excelled in the niraval and stream of swaras impelling audience attention. After a brief outline of Kharaharapriya, the kriti, ‘Siva, Siva, Siva' was presented with stately and tonal subtleties. Raga Kaapi was handled by the duo sharing the alap and swaras with distinction for the composition, ‘Kuzhaloodum Kanna.' The mellifluous strains of Subhapantuvarali and Chandrakauns, during the intricate swarabhedam, with nectarine phrases in the alapana segment was the epitome of dignified and qualitative presentation. The percussionists, D.S.R. Murthi (mridangam), Sathyasai (morsing) and Satish Pathakot (ganjira) took advantage of the vigour of the artists during accompaniment and the tani avartanam, the nadai variations, in particular.

Rooted in classicism, exquisite manodharma characterised Neyveli Santhanagopalan's concert the following day. The opening ‘Vathapi Ganapathim' (Hamsadhwani) with niraval and swaras showed his performance potential. The Pantuvarali alapana traversing through the higher octaves with akaara and crooning techniques spoke of his vidwat. The feisty niraval for the kriti, ‘Ramanatham Bhajeham' brought forth the contours of the raga displaying his musical perception of a high order. The Dasar padam on Lord Siva was evocative. A vibrant tillana in Darbari Kanada brought the curtains down on the recital. Ravi's accompaniment on the violin was below par in the solo versions of the ragas and swara forays. Prasad, Ramani and Krishnan played superbly throughout with a delightful silky touch.

The grand finale of the week-long Yaksha festival of music and dance was the vibrant performance of the sarod recital of the sixth generation artist of the Bangash lineage, Pt. Amjad Ali Khan in the company of Fatesingh Gangani (pakhwaj) and Pt. Tanmoi Bose (tabla). Prefacing his programme with the statement that music unites people and varied cultures of the world, his dexterous fingers brought out the many shades and subtle nuances in his tribute to the Sadguru in the opening piece in vilambit ek taal.

His rendition was a combination of Shri, Marwa, Poorvi and Purya Dhanshri set to a vibrant 14 beat cycle, Deep Chandi. His imaginative improvisations played with varying rhythmic movements in the devotional numbers, ‘Vaishnava Janato' and ‘Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram' were pleasing to the ears.

The drupad with the ensuing thumri and dadra in the alap and jod and jhala in Shuddh Kalyan followed by Yaman in teen taal was spellbinding. Another melody in Kaafi and a tillana showcased his talent.

Tagore's composition, a folk song of Bengal, ‘Ek La Chalore' - Keep walking alone,' was a spirited version. The percussionists were inspired by the artist to present a lively thani.