Kuldeep Pai has a voice that is pleasant and pliable and one that works according to his wish. His morning concert saw many creative ideas on display.
The Khamas kriti of Dikshitar, ‘Santhana Gopala Krishnam Upasmahe’ that arrived after the Varnam in Saranga, saw swaras ordered refreshingly at the charanam – ‘Narthana Muralidharam Natha Sukha Sanaka Naradham.’ It had fine pauses (karvais), and the patterns such as dha dha pa dhani dha dha, had an easy ebullience, but was never overdone.
One was reminded of Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar’s Padha Varnam ‘Maathe’ at many points. When you listen to it constantly, it is bound to emerge imaginatively in your performance -- lesson well-learnt and well-implemented. Kuldeep’s Bavapriya alapana was approached through the comfort zone where the raga was a combination of Shanmukhapriya and Thodi. It is to his credit that he could tread with a calculated balance throughout.
The song, ‘Srikantha Neeyedadhibala,’ an Ekaika kriti of Tyagaraja ran at the right pace and had swaras that were appropriately placed. Saveri, the main, had an alapana that had all its elements and was proportionately built. The higher octaves were sung with clarity -- those deep curves and embellishments had delicacy as their plank. The niraval and swaras were at ‘Parama Paavani Bhavani Krupavani’ for Shyama Sastri’s kriti – ‘Durusuga Krupa Jhoosi.’
It was relief to listen to a madhyama kala niraval, which is almost out of circulation in today’s concerts. The two-hour performance had mature planning, which made it possible for him to include two more songs of Papanasam Sivan – ‘Karpaga Manohara’ in Malayamarutham and ‘Saravana Bava Gugane’ in Kannada.
A couple of things mattered. A Carnatic music concert is not a mere learn-by-rote ritual but has a deeper purpose and significance. And Pai’s manipulations gave the impression that at times we were listening to a different singer!
Melakkaveri Thyagarajan accompanied on the violin and for some inexplicable reason had his moments of discomfiture while at Saveri, though he handled Bavapriya with a great degree of confidence. The young duo -- Vijay Natesan on the mridangam and Chandrasekara Sharma on the ghatam followed the principle of non-interference while playing for the songs. But their thani had a satisfying number of bright spots.