Sowmya's alapana for Kharaharapriya reminded one of her guru Ramanathan. V. Subrahmaniam

The Sankarabharanam raga, Ata tala varnam of Swati Tirunal produced a delectable start to Sowmya's kutcheri. She was accompanied on the violin by R.K. Sriramkumar, on the mridangam by Poongulam Subramaniam and on the morsing by Payyanur Govinda Prasad. Instead of the listed Dikshitar composition in Mayamalavagowla, Adi talam ‘Sri Nadadi Guruguho,' she opted for ‘Tulasi Dala Mulache' in the same raga, Rupaka talam of Tyagaraja. The niraval and kalpanaswara that Sowmya undertook in the charanam line ‘Sarasiruha Punnaga' of this song, which was at the beginning of the concert appeared to be too protracted. A shorter version could have given a better gait and fillip to the concert.

The first raga alapana of the concert was Kharaharapriya for Tyagaraja's ‘Kori Sevimpa' in Adi Talam. Sowmya's long alapana brought memories of her master Sri Ramanathan as the mode was similar. This keerthana had only a kalpanaswara bout at the charanam point ‘Bhoosurulu.'

‘Jnana Sabhayil,' the Papanasam Sivan composition in Saranga raga and Misra Chapu Talam, the contrast piece that came next was a precise presentation. Surutti raga alapana was next in the sequence. Though this was not listed the rasikas could guess the kriti that would follow being a Tuesday ‘Angarakam Asrayami,' Rupaka tala creation of Muthuswami Dikshitar.

The Pallavi ‘Pahimam Sada Dharma Samvardhani Paramananda Vivardhani' the words were relevantly chosen to suit the ragam Vardhini for the Pallavi. It was couched in Khanda Triputa talam. All the exercises of Pallavi singing were undergone meticulously with Sriram kumar enriching it well. The percussion session by the mridangam and the morsing artists after the Pallavi was deftly handled.

Padams are almost a forgotten ingredient in the present day concerts displaced by bhajans and abhangs. It was a pleasant surprise to hear the Thodi raga Padam ‘Yarpoisolluva' in Misra Chapu talam of Vaideeswaran Koil Subbarama Iyer by Sowmya in verily ‘the Muktha style' was truly like a waft of fresh air.

The final item of the day was ‘Tiruvai Paninnthu,' a Mand raga creation of Bharatiar. R.K. Sriramkumar, Poongulam Subrahmaniam and Payyanur Govindaprasad performed their respective roles in support of the vocal artist. The concert was one of sedate standard fare devoid of fireworks of any kind.

When the curtain went up for the flute concert of Mala Chandrashekhar, the rasikas almost concluded that it was going to be a “full bench” concert but on closer observation realised that two or more percussion artists - the Morsing and Konnakkol - were needed to complete the bench. The accompanists were M.R. Gopinath on the violin, Kallidaikurichi S. Sivakumar on the mridangam, V. Umashankar on the ghatam and Trivandram D. Rajagopal on the ganjira.

Before launching into the opening song of the concert, the Khamas Raga Daru of Muthiah Bhagavathar –“Mathe” in Adi tala - Mala invoked the blessings of Lord Dakshinamurti by rendering the sloka “Om Namah Pranavarthaya” in true M.S. Subbulakshmi style. The Khamas Daru is a grand creation and was well presented. Mala gave an alapana of Suddha Danyasi ragam and the kriti for that was “Subrahmanyene Rakshitoham” in Adi Talam of Muthuswami Dikshitar.

The GNB composition in Amrita Behag in Adi talam was the one that followed. Mala took up Thodi raga alapana as a prelude to the swarajati (Syama Sastri, Adi). It was apparent that certain nuances of the Swarajathi could not be captured perhaps on account of the limitations of the instrument.

After ‘Thaye Tripura Sundari' in Kanda Chaapu Talam, Suddha Saveri Ragam of Periyasami Thooran, Sankarabharanam was taken up for alapana. And Mala was just settling down. The ragam and the kriti “Manasu Swadheenamai” (Tyagaraja) with niraval and kalpanaswara adornments went on well.

This year ragam Saraswathi seems to be the one doing the rounds in the Music Academy concerts. Mala's choice also fell on this ragam for the Pallavi. Curiously enough Mala skipped the Tanam in the session and from Raga alapana she embarked on the Pallavi straightway. The Pallavi was a Thisra Triputa Tala 2 kalai, the lyric being “Saraswathi Namosthuthe Sharade Vidyaprade.” The ragamalika kalpanaswara chain contained Hindolavasantham, Valaji, Sama, Vasanthi, Kanada and Brindavani. “Dikkuteriyada Kaattil” (ragamalika of Subramania Bharati) kindled memories of the late GNB. A tillana in the ragam Gavathi (Adi) of Thanajvur S. Kalyanaraman was the concluding piece of the concert. The concert also ended in true M.S. style with “Maithreem Bhajata” The violin and percussion artistes did their role effectively in giving a boost to the concert. A gifted artist, Mala's concert had some glowing aspects but on the whole did not make an impact.