Given his long years of training and evidently rich repertoire, Vignesh Ishwar could perhaps have been more daring and less conventional. His singing for Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha on Tuesday, if anything, confirmed once again the pressures exerted on the young merely to conform. Vignesh Ishwar is but an instance of the larger picture and the pervasive trend in the arena of classical music and a reflection of the wider social phenomenon.
Here is a young, highly motivated and skilled man, an engineering graduate, who has tenaciously pursued his passion for singing since he was a child. But given the predominant views on what makes for a good concert, artistes such as Vignesh Ishwar invest their energies into trying to fit into long-established patterns. These are supposed to tell you the kind of songs and ragas you sing on a given day and place and those that guarantee instant audience approval.
It is difficult to argue on the specifics of Ishwar’s choice of compositions. But the impression overall was that his best is yet to come. The opening piece in ragam Kalyani was just fine. His mainstay was Tyagaraja. Nobody can take issue with that either. ‘Tulasidalamulache’ in Mayamalavagowla followed and Dikshitar’s ‘Mamava meenakshi rajamatangi,’ in Varali. Came later on the Kambhoji kriti of Tyagaraja’s, ‘Yevvari mata vinnavo’, after a long exposition.
A word on speed: Singers in the southern Indian classical music tradition may or may not be devoutly religious. But the substance of the songs they sing is deeply devotional. There is no getting away from this fact wherever and whenever you happen to be singing. In consequence, recourse to the kind of high velocity output we witness nowadays during improvisations may seem somewhat incongruous with the content of the compositions.
The place and purpose of speed is at best as a display of virtuosity and variation in tempo. Excessively resorting to speed is addictive, as has been evident in recent years. We also know that it can cause injury to our finer sensibilities.
Curiously, or perhaps not so, the most lingering memory from the afternoon was from the following two songs. ‘Rama ninne namminanu nijamuga,’ in Husseini and ‘Irakkam varamal ponadenna karanam yen samikku,’ in Behag. Vignesh Ishwar showed immense promise as a potentially top-class artiste here. Parur M.S. Ananthakrishnan on the violin and Tanjore K. Praveen Kumar on mridangam were a formidable team of accompanists.