Nirmala brought out the myriad hues of Kalyani. A resonant voice and graceful delineation marked the concerts of Manimaran and Ashvin.

Two things, first: Many, if not most of the vainikas do not find it convenient or necessary to have violin accompaniment. Nirmala Rajasekhar, however does not belong to this majority. Secondly, in olden days vainikas used to sing along as they plucked the instrument.

Dikshitar calls himself ‘Vainika Gayaka Guruguha.’ I have had the golden opportunity of listening to M.S., singing along while playing on the Veena! Nirmala Rajasekhar would have done that, but for certain constraints imposed by the AIR recording of her concert!

Now, on to her concert: Of all the charming compositions that she played in her incredibly aesthetic and dynamic concert, the one that appealed to me most was the Ritigowla kriti. Nirmala elucidated the raga with creative spontaneity. The alapana got the listeners hooked. Although speed is her strong point, she was agreeably slow in this concert, but sure. She rendered Subbaraya Sastri’s ‘Janani Ninnu Vina,’ which has a charming in-built chittaswaram, and its swara sahityam.

The main raga was Kalyani. In her alapana and tanam Nirmala gave a variety of tonal colours, making full use of the strings at her command. Another noteworthy aspect is that she did give enough space to the violin artist, V.V. Srinivasa Rao, who sketched a dynamic delineation. The all-time favourite, ‘Ethavunara’ of Tyagaraja came off with full verve and vigour. The elaborate niraval and kalpanaswarams were impressive.

The thani by Shertalai Ananthakrishnan (mridangam) and S.V. Ramani (ghatam) was well conceived and executed. While accompanying and in the thani, Ananthakrishnan was soft, while displaying technical virtuosity. Ramani’s skill in anticipation is outstanding.

The navaragamalika varnam gave a brisk start to Nirmala Rajasekhar’s morning concert. After the Shanmukhapriya alapana (‘Samaram’ in Dikshithar School), she offered ‘Siddhi Vinayakam’ in Rupakam. Another Dikshitar kriti that she played was ‘Kalavathi Kamalasana’ in Kalavati (otherwise known as Yagapriya), on Devi Saraswathi of Kashmir. Tyagaraja’s Nalinakanti kriti ‘Manavyala’ was a straight, neat rendering.

Nirmala concluded her brilliant concert with ‘Enna Thavam Seidhanai’ (Kapi- Papanasam Sivan), which was evocative of devotion, and the Hamsanandi Thiruppugazh, ‘Thullumatha.’

V.K. Manimaran

I confess, when I heard V.K. Manimaran the first time, I fell for his music. There is something magical about it. He has a robust, rich voice, soaked in aesthetics. He learnt his music from his uncle Kuzhikkarai Viswalingam and later from Calcutta Krishnamurthy. Little wonder that he has acquired a sharp intellect in raga swaroopa and strict patanthara. With all these, he is modest to the core.

His Lalitha alapana still lingers on. It was a masterpiece of inspired rendering and faithful to tradition, with a sprinkling of beautiful phrases of creative music. His extensive karvai at nishadam provided the very soul of the raga. V.V.S. Murari on the violin in his masterly response was equal to the main artist. In ‘Hiranmayim Lakshmim’ of Dikshitar, the niraval and swarams were at ‘Sangeetha Vadya Vinodini.’

The main raga for the morning was an extensive and engaging Kalyani. On the violin was Murari who offered a concise portrayal. In Tyagaraja’s ‘Ethavunara’, the niraval with weighty sangathis was at ‘Seetha Gowri. The swaraprasthara was lively with an interesting concluding korvai. When Poongulam Subramaiam is around, there will be no dearth of delight. His thani, along with K.V. Gopalakrishnan (ganjira), offered a dazzling rhythmic exchange.

Manimaran commenced his concert with ‘Sri Mahaganapathe’ (Nattai) of Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri, who was a performer and composer. ‘Jayathi Jayathi Bharatha Matha’ is his composition. He was born at Therezhundur (the birth place of Kamban) near Mayiladuthurai in 1883. Viswanatha Sastri was the first to set Thirukkural verses to music.

Manimaran then rendered the Bhadrachala Ramadas composition, ‘Rama Daya Joodave’ with an emotive element. ‘Arumuga Adimaiyai’ (Suddha Saveri) of Papanasam Sivan had a gorgeous swaraprastara.

Arunachala Kavi’s ‘Eppadi Manam Thunindhadho’ elicited the pensive mood of Husseini. Manimaran concluded his recital with Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Ramanai Ninaitthal’ in Mandu and Bharatiyar’s ‘Suttum Vizhichudarthan.’

D.B. Ashvin

When it is D.B. Ashvin, you can expect a torrent of music surging ahead. And, there is no stopping him. It’s hardly surprising, as he is the grandson of T.K. Rangachari, who occupies an honoured place in the galaxy of musicians of the 20 Century.

Ashvin, a management consultant settled in New Jersey, has a flexible and resonant voice and has brilliantly mastered the vallinam and mellinam modulations. This was manifest in his exceptionally detailed Pantuvarali alapana.

On the violin, M. Vijay too offered an elegant and graceful elucidation. Ashvin chose a Periyazhwar Thirumozhi, ‘Vennaiyalaintha’ (Adi) tuned by his grandfather.

Niraval and swarams at ‘Manickame’ saw his voice traversing effortlessly from kizh panchamam to mel panchamam.

In the crisp thani, Ashvin Sridhar (mridangam) played a few lovely pharans. His concluding korvai merged smoothly with the eduppu.

Ashvin opened his concert with Tyagaraja’s ‘Salakalla’ (Arabhi), a lovely piece with chittaswara. He sang the anupallavi, ‘Kalamuponu’ with nine varied sangatis. Kalpanaswaras were at ‘Ilalo’. His Sriranjani alapana had an emotive character, which was reflected in Vijay’s response too.

In Tyagaraja’s ‘Sogasugamridanga’ (Rupakam), swarams were at pallavi, ‘mridanga’ and at ‘talamu’ alternately.

Ashvin concluded his inspiring concert with a Tilang thillana of T.K. Rangachari. Those who couldn’t make it to his concert certainly missed some high-quality music.

Ashvin is truly beyond time and an eighty-minute slot is hardly enough for him to give even minimal expression to his music. He deserves prime slot and I hope he gets it next year.

(ramakrishnan.h @gmail.com)