Ninety six… that was the number of Vidya Mandir students seated on the stage to render kritis. What a sight! What a congregation! One could not have asked for a better way to start the last day of Svanubhava 2010.
The Hyderabad Brothers’ (Seshachari and Raghavachari) concert was next in order. ‘Ennalu Oorage’ (Shubapantuvarali, Tyagaraja) was balm to the soul. The brothers took their time answering questions that came up. “When is one qualified to perform on stage?” The aspirant was told to be ready with a bare minimum (!) of 150 songs which would cater for the requirement of 10 concerts. These songs need to have variety – varnams, Trinity, Papanasam Sivan, vilambakala kritis, shorter brisk numbers, padams, javalis, thukkadas and even a thillana. A tall order when compared to today’s quick-to-stage options, somebody murmured. Concert planning, the brothers said, would depend on its duration. They wanted the young blood never to begin with the sruti instantly. “Internalise the nadham from the drone and slowly commence your singing as you merge with it. Perfect thought for perfect alignment!”
Unity in Diversity, claimed Nithyashree Mahadevan as she paired with Sowmya to sing their maiden duet-on-stage. It was an enjoyable experiment, one thought! Each singer’s niche, orientation and perspective were retained as their music flowed continuously. The highlight was a virutham (was it rather long?) describing the beauty of Rama and Sita as the couple incomparable, from Valmiki Ramayana that was sung between them, as a prelude to ‘Kalyanarama’ (Hamsanadham, Oothukkadu). Their conversation was humorous enough during the question hour as the singers recalled their childhood years; they remembered their common source (at least for some songs) and competitive learning.
As for the audience, their reactions were varied. Aymeric from France said, “I have to observe that nothing was lacking in the singing by the new pair, Sowmya and Nithyasree. Each of them gave space to the other and one could feel the sense of camaraderie in play on the stage. In jazz, it is possible to bring two geniuses, total strangers, together to perform.” For Ernesto from Mexico it is his first visit to India and this event provided him a chance to experience first-hand the rich music and dance of India. Kshithija Nanjundan from Karnataka thought it was a unique learning experience. Teaming up new pairs bolsters their creativity, she felt. Jaya of Cuddalore never ever had concerts at her place. The concerts showed the artists’ commitment and passion for music. R. Mala thought it was a bit of an overload during the previous years. She has now educated herself, thanks to Svanubhava, and derives a special thrill while identifying ragas.
The second session of the sixth day was at The Music Academy. Sriram Parasuram and Anuradha ‘portrayed’ T. Viswanathan (Viswa) to the young and the not so young. “The idea of prescriptive notation, the challenge of notating gamakas and a vision that had an eclectic outlook - that embraced Hindustani and even Western system of music - were the distinguishing features of this vocalist-flautist. He was a teacher to many stalwarts including MS, KVN and Ramnad Krishnan. His repertoire included composers known and unknown – from the Trinity to Goplakrishna Bharathi. Viswa even outgrew the bhani he was heir to and was a musician’s musician.”
Anuradha for her part said, “Viswa sir made me realise that music is not something that proves a point, it is Vedanta in a nutshell where you connect with yourself and then the whole world. He had an exceptional way of imagining a note and its sophistication (with an example from Palamanjari) and always felt the syllable or the vowel and its sound can never be separated. He taught notation as an art as he felt it was a musical necessity.”
Sriram rendered ‘Vazhi Maraithirukkudhu’ (Natakurinji) and ‘Thaye Yashodha’ (Thodi) with delight. The youth responded to this exposition: Sri Sudharshini of Kalakshetra said that the final virutham of Viswa sir created feelings of being in a temple and listening to divine music and thus showed how bhava ruled Viswa’s music.
For Kanya from Arunachal, a dance-student, Malavika Sarukkai’s dance - the way she did it - and her awesome choreography left her amazed.
She was honest enough to admit that the musical part in this Viswa-hour was a bit difficult for her and yet she could get at the concept of bhava. Darshana called this hour an eye-opener.
Aymeric from France said, “I did not know anything about Carnatic music before joining Kalakshetra. The John Higgins story - how Viswa sir raised his capacity - they told us is of immense relevance to my journey in art, as I keep progressing. Everything is new to me and by simultaneously singing and lecturing, they emphasised that hard work is most important.”
An interesting aside was from Sri Sundar Kumar, a ganjira vidwan: “I am happy that upa-pakka vadhyam has been given a separate slot, rightfully. Such highlights are necessary and would make audiences realise the importance of the other vadhyams for the success of concerts.”
Svanubhava was seen the world over, says the statistics that was revealed periodically. That means great planning and harnessing the benefits of technology for a cause. Its agenda for 2011 needs to be
this. The need to move to Purasawalkam, Ambattur, Villivakkam and other ‘musically famished’ areas that are longing for such anubhavams. And then to Tiruchi, Madurai, Tirunelveli and
Keywords: Svanubhava 2010