That he was 80 had no impact on his vocal prowess.
When I was asked to write about a Carnatic vocal concert by an 80-year old man, I was pretty apprehensive. To begin with, how can a 80-year-old sustain a full-fledged concert? How sensitive will he be to sruthi and laya alignment? Such thoughts assailed me as I entered the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan Mini Hall, Mylapore, for the concert by Bombay Ganesan, presented by Aaroahanaa.
And there was seated on stage was the athletically built Ganesan, with an erect posture humming Natakurinji. PHis voice had a powerful throw. The songs came one after the other – ‘Thayagi Thanthaiyumaam’ (Hamsadhwani) and ‘Bruhadeesawara’ (Kanada) before he took up Shankarabharanam.
It had well etched phrases built on traditional lines. Blessed with a crystal clear voice, his ‘Enduku Peddala’ was rendered with perfect diction, belying his age. Vishranthi marked violinist V.V. Ravi’s replies. He developed Shankarabharanam step by step at his own pace. Years of playing have given him the maturity to approach ragas with clarity. The result? Discerning rasikas were satisfied.
Ganesan experimented with the line ‘Veda Sastra’ with niraval with a fair amount of success. He then made an announcement that he is averse to singing kalpanswaras as they rob the beauty of the kritis. Next, with a tinge of humour, he continued that he was also not well versed in that art. This evoked laughter. This was proof that rasikas are not always after pyrotechnics. Decades ago, I remember a senior vainika saying, “It is enough if you sing the raga well and treat the kriti with a complete understanding. Swaras should be to a very minimal level. The mathematics should be left to the mridangam, ghatam, ganjira and morsing artists. Niraval should be attempted to show your prowess in laya-based raga presentation with lyrics intact. Then the rasikas will definitely be satisfied.” That evening, I experienced that.
‘Edaari Sancherinthura’ (Sruthiranjani), ‘Hiranmayeem’ (Lalitha) and ‘Entha Muddo’ (Bindumalini) were some of the kritis he offered before the Kalyani raga alapana which had a classic touch.
Kallidaikurichichi Sivakumar (mridangam) played a supportive role with his simple rhythmic patterns that were a treat to the ears.
Ganesan has forayed into short story writing and has won the first prize in a short story competition conducted by Tamil weekly ‘Kalki’; he wrote under the pen name ‘Ponniththuraivan.’ Retired from BAARC, he is an avid collector of philosophies from various parts of the world. On the whole, it was an evening of music for the soul.