Suguna Varadachari’s knowledge came to the fore as the ragas unfolded with all the finer elements.
Suguna Varadachari was cool and composed. She could weave each sangati gracefully. She has crystal clear diction, sweet gamakas and profound raga bhava. When Suguna sang Khambodi, it was as if centuries co-existed - traditional to the core and very contemporary. In her alapana, one could feel the raga’s majestic attire, its regal gait, inspiring moods, striking charms, soothing melody and its alluring glamour. On the violin, R. Hemalatha’s elucidation was equally absorbing.
When Suguna Varadachari sang Tyagaraja’s ‘O, Ranagasayi,’ it was a virtual trip to Srirangam for the rasikas. The pallavi had 14 sangatis. At ‘Bhuloka Vaikuntam Ithiyani’ she rendered an utterly unhurried niraval and easy-on-the-ear kalpanaswaras. She is, no doubt, a treasure house of musical knowledge and hers is a life dedicated to good music.
H.S. Sudhindra (mridangam) deserves a special pat on his back. When he realised that there was not much time left, he presented a brief, yet sweet thani, along with Tiruchi Murali (Ghatam). The way Sudhindra accompanied the main artist confirms that he is a maha vidwan. He has a bright future ahead of him.
Suguna Varadachari ‘s Purvikalyani alapana brought out the variety in her manodharma. Her disciple Vidya Kalyanaraman took over the elucidation for a brief while, in the middle. Hemalatha too produced a few attractive sancharas. Her landing phrase was particularly charming. Thanjavur Ponniah Pillai’s ‘Satileni Guruguha Murtini’ is a brilliant composition on Bruhadiswara. The niraval and swaras were at ‘Koti Manmatha Rupute.’
That she is proficient in tapping the niceties of a raga was evident in the Hindolam alapana and the sweet rendering of Dikshithar’s ‘Neerajakshi Kamakshi’ (Rupakam). The chittaswaram in two speeds was simply fabulous. Mridangam literally accompanied the vocal in almost every sangati.
The Sriraga varnam gave an impressive start to the concert. In ‘Pahimam Sri Rajarajeswari’ of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, she effortlessly rendered kalpanaswaras at ‘Janaranjani,’ nine aksharas after samam. She perhaps included ‘Sri Parthasarathina’ (Suddha Dhanyasi) of Dikshitar in Rupakam in relation to the sabha. She concluded her recital with Suguna Purushothaman’s enjoyable ragamalika on Devi Yasoda, ‘Punniyam Seidha Thaai’, which brought out the lakshya value of this musical form.
Unswerving adherence to tradition, solemnity and refinement is the hallmark of Rama Ravi’s style of singing. She is an extraordinary musician, who has learnt the art from stalwarts. Her training as a musicologist has given her deep insight into the grammar of music and sharpened her analytical skills. The subtleties and nuances she has mastered over the years were noticeable in her evening concert.
She presented in her detailed alapana, an authentic, conventional Madhyamavathi. Padma Shankar (violin) offered an equally captivating elucidation. I found her enjoying the concert throughout. ‘Ramakathasudha’ of Tyagaraja revealed her uncompromising classicism. It was a sheer beauty. Niraval and swaras were at ‘Bhamamani.’
A simple and imaginative thani by Sai Giridhar (mridangam) and B.S. Purushothaman (ganjira) proved that they are a wonderful team.
Rama’s Pantuvarali delineation covered all aspects of this great raga. The violin alapana was like a waft of cool breeze. Tyagaraja’s ‘Appa Ramabhakthi’ (rupakam), in which he describes the strength that one derives from devotion to Rama, was brilliantly presented. Niraval and swaras were at the first charanam, ‘Lakshmi Devi Valachuna.’ Here, her daughter and disciple Nandita Ravi – offering vocal support -- joined in. She is a talented vocalist with a sweet voice.
The concert commenced with the Ata Tala Kanada varnam. Rama then sang two Tyagaraja krithis. In ‘Raghunayaka’ (Hamsadhwani), Purushothaman’s ganjira lent an extra boost at Bhavasagaramu.’
‘Enduku Nirdaya’ (Harikhambhodi) didn’t have an alapana. Rama then presented Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Parthasarathina’ (Suddha Dhanyasi – Rupakam) with pleasant chittaswaram. Gopalakrishna Bharati’s ‘Sivakamasundari’ in Jaganmohini followed.
Rama Ravi wound up her scintillating concert with the all-time favourite, ‘Saramaina’ (Javali), ‘Eppati Padinaro’ and Purandaradasa’s ‘Kaliyugadalli.’
Earlier in the day, Bharat Sundar proved that he is not an excellent musician ‘in the making’ any more. He is a full-fledged vocalist. He has a resonant voice, originality, creativity, good control over sruthi and laya and above all, command over concert-craft. He is fortunate to have outstanding gurus.
He offered a detailed alapana of Thodi. His panchama varja prayogas added lustre to the elucidation. Todi Sitaramayya (19th Century) is said to have sung this raga for eight days!
M. Rajeev on the violin was equally dexterous in his alapana. Syama Sastri’s ‘Ninne Namminanu’ (Misra Chapu) was rendered with aplomb. Niraval and swaras were at ‘Kamakshi Kanchadalayathakshi’. The swara prasthara had complicated, yet melodic phrases.
The thani by Trivandrum Balaji (mridangam) and K.V. Gopalakrishnan (ganjira) was exceptionally pleasing.
Though Thodi was superb, I would consider his Harikambhodi the highlight of the concert. The alapana was brief, yet lively. Tyagaraja’s ‘Entarani Tana’ was the chosen kriti. The song pertains to the Ramayana. “Whatever I gain or lose, I can’t afford to lose my thoughts on you,” says the saint. In this song, he gives details of the various celestials having taken birth in this world to assist Sri Rama. It is a lovely metrical Sahitya. This composition shines with pushtitrayam – raga pushti, sahitya pushti and bhava pushti. Neraval and swaras were at ‘Seshudu Sivuniki’. The concluding swara korvai was well-structured and musical.
Earlier, Bharat commenced with the Nattakurinji varnam, followed by GNB’s masterpiece ‘Varavallabha Ramana’ in Hamsadhwani. Swaras were rhythmic to the core. He concluded with ‘Annalum Nokkinan Avalum Nokkinal’ (Amir Kalyani –Tisra Nadai) and Lalgudi’s Mand thillana.