While Vijay Siva's voice was a royal treat, U. Shrinivas's mandolin made rasikas ecstatic.

One more season (the 36th Music and Art Festival) began for Kartik Fine Arts (KFA) with hundreds of artists participating in their month-and-a-half long festival, held at three different auditoriums in the city with one dedicated to Tamil Isai. Kudos to the KFAtheir team for putting up organising a schedule of such a mammoth proportion. It was also a home coming for many.The second day (December 2) saw Vijay Siva opening his account for the season. A very forthright person, Vijay's music too is the same. No gimmicks, no artificial climaxes, but only music of the highest order. The Poorvikalyani he sketched methodically was a connoisseur's delight. As he was building it, R.K.Sriramkumar (violin) was meandering on the panchamam. Vijay smiled and thereafter it was a fountain of phrases.

With two manual tanpuras behind him in stereo position, the sruti alignment was immaculate. Mayavaram Vedanayagam Pillai's ‘Indha Para Mugam' was packed with emotion more so in the niraval. After a royal treat of Begada, Vijay proceeded with ‘Tyagaraajaya Namasthe' ( Dikshitar). Close on its heels came Syama Sastri's ‘Devi Brova Samaya' (Chinthamani) and ‘Tyagaraja's Toli Naynoo' (Kokiladhwani).

Vijay Siva started off Todi in a style similar to that of a nagaswara vidwan and

maintained the same tempo throughout his alapana. He was at ease while negotiating phrases in the tara sthyai.

This man's self-confidence and his poise on stage are lessons for up-and-coming youngsters. Sriramkumar's reply was equally interesting. ‘Munnu Ravana,' a gem of Tyagaraja was laced with niraval and kalapanswaras in the right dosage.

Unassuming Manoj Siva (mridangam), Vijay Siva's younger brother, who kept the concerts tempo in the right direction during the kriti phase in the company of young Anirudh Athreya (kanjira), presented a tani with an array of strokes that reminded one of his guru Palghat Raghu.

Camaraderie on stage

The evening's second concert was nostalgic in a way, for U. Shrinivas (mandolin) was playing for Kartik after a long gap. There is something divine about Shrinivas. Especially that smile, when he is pleased with a phrase. It is as charming as it used to be when he was a child playing what seemed to be an unusual instrument.

The camaraderie on stage, with his ‘sabash' and ‘bale' encouraging his co-artists, did have a multiple effect.

Full credit goes to Shrinivas, for adopting a modified version of the mandolin - hardly two feet in length with narrow frets - to suit the needs of classical music with telling effect.

The vibration of Vijay Siva's Todi that lingered on stage, might have prompted Shrinivas to begin his concert with Todi varnam. The alapana that preceded it and the Hamsadhwani that followed were brief yet had the royal stamp.

‘Vandeham' (Kanda Chapu-Annamayya) saw him meander time and again in the mandhara (base) string that created a haunting effect. The swaras were systematically developed.

It was heartening when Shrinivas took up Manirangu for his next raga essay, for this raga does not find favour with the vidwans nowadays. Probably the raga's nearness to Sri and Madhyamavathi may be a reason why it is avoided. He created a duet effect by playing several phrases of the raga in two strings. S. D. Sridhar's reply on the violin was soothing.

Tyagaraja's ‘Raanidhi' -popularised by Chitoor Subramania Pillai and then by his disciple Madurai Somasundaram- was rendered, surprisingly at a speed that almost matched the one employed by the vidwans mentioned above. The swara garland was centred on the notes ‘Pa,' ‘Ma,' ‘Ga,' ‘Ri,' ‘Sa.' Showing several variations in placements of these swaras, Shrinivas created a magic web. Raja Rao's repartees were equally good.

Simendhramadhyamam took the rasikas to ecstatic heights. Be it the shrill notes on the upper octaves or the base notes in the lower octave,

Shrinivas's proficiency on the instrument saw him playing it with relative ease. Adopting an unusual approach to the tisra nadai variations in the second round of the tani, Raja Rao (mridangam), S.V.Ramani (ghatam) and Srirangam Kannan (morsing) played competitively.