Reviews Nithyasree's Hemavati, Kadri Gopalnath's Pantuvarali and Gurucharan's Kiravani, elevated their concerts. G. Swaminathan

Nithyasree Mahadevan's musical expressions are always forceful, robust and clear. Probably, that is her strength and weakness. But, her inaugural concert was noticeably subdued and mature in most parts. The over-run of the inaugural schedule as usual infringed upon the concert duration. However, Nithyasree's presentation made one forget that time is no constraint for an artist to deliberate on the speciality of the musical idiom.

The vivacious Suddha Dhanyasi and the emotional Hemavati elevated the concert from just an entertainment to an experience.

The phrases in Suddha Dhanyasi were fully spontaneous and energetic. Each phrase brought almost a fresh shade of the raga. Tyagaraja's wonderful kriti ‘Enta Naerchina,' which is not often heard nowadays, came as a pleasant surprise. Nithyasree could enjoy the luxury of indulging in niraval at the charanam followed by a stream of swaras. The alignment of the jumping and jandai swaras added additional allure to the presentation.

Raga and gender

Can ragas be classified on gender? Yes. If one notices closely it could be felt that Hemavati carries an extraordinary feminine charm loaded with the pitch of extreme compassion.

No singer can overlook this facet of the raga, unless he is totally indifferent to the art of singing.

Nithyasree's maturity was quite visible in her structuring the raga alapana with many a finely conceived phrase through extended karvai and each phrase with an embellishment of emotional feel. Dikshitar's ‘Sri Kanthimatim' exuded the piety and the swaras with dhaivatam as the landing note moved beauteously. The stridency of Nithyasree surfaced only in the final swara korvai.

R.K. Sriramkumar toed the line of singing of Nithyasree with brevity and extra refinement on the violin. His raga exposes and swara dialogue were exact. I. Sivakumar on the mridangam with A.S. Krishnan (morsing) provided the fatherly touch to the vocal of his daughter at every stage and also his thani avartanam was marked by compactness.

A royal start for the concert was in Gambhira Nattai for the kriti ‘Sri Vignarajam Bhaje' (Oothukadu Venkatakavi). The other interesting numbers included ‘Sambo Mahadeva' in Bowli (Neelakanta Sivan), ‘Smarane Sukhamu' in Janaranjani (Tyagaraja) and ‘Iyane Natanam' in Saveri to name a few.

Rollercoaster ride

Kadri Gopalnath's concert was sheer entertainment. Although many composers of the bygone era employed Carnatic music as a vehicle to achieve salvation, later it slowly became an entertainment and a means to showcase one's musical prowess. But, for expert instrumentalists like Kadri, concerts serve as a medium to deploy their musical artillery and entertain the audience.

So from the start, it was nothing but a rollercoaster ride. ‘Bhaja Manasa' of Tulasivanam in Bahudari was the first item which ran for nearly 20 minutes, followed by ‘Raghuvara Nannu' in Pantuvarali, another exhilarating trip.

The swaras spilled like fireworks and danced with unbridled freedom in numerous permutations, combinations and speed. The unleashing of manodharma had no bounds. In the formidabale company of violinist Kanyakumari, with the frenzied padding from the three percussionists, the swarakalpanas touched a crescendo to the thunderous ovation of the audience who were waiting with bated breath.

Melody was vaguely identifiable in ‘Brochevarevarura' in Khamas, the expansion of Kharaharapriya and in the stray interlude strains.

But Gopalnath delved deep into the swarakalpana for the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Chakkani Raja' at ‘Kantiki Sundara' sans niraval. The swaras even switched over to ragamalika - Vaasanthi, Chandrakauns and Brindavanasaranga.

It was Kanyakumari's turn as she rendered these ragas with great flamboyance. There was an extended thani, which was simply riotous.

For a change, Gopalnath used tabla (Rajendra Nakod) instead of ghatam and ganjira along with Patri Satish Kumar on the mridangam and B. Rajasekar on morsing.

A Sai bhajan in Subhapantuvarali and ‘Pibare Ramarasam' in Ahir Bhairavi were rendered in the tukkada section.

Lived up to expectations

If the overflowing crowd at this sabha was a mark of Sikkil Gurucharan's recently acquired popularity, it also showed the expectations of the audience from the young and promising vocalist.

Well, Gurucharan did not belie their expectations because one had to just wade through the human sea that filled the Bhavan campus to come out after his scintillating concert for nearly 100 minutes.

It is gratifying to note that Gurucharan seems to have perfectly comprehended the most significant face of Carnatic music; bhava or passion.

Except for the swarakalpana part, where the audience looks for something stormy and prefers long winding swara trails, Charan firmly laid his foundation on a compassionate approach to his presentations.

Incidentally, the two ragas of the evening, Sahana and Kiravani, offered this singer ample scope to go deep into raga expansions. His steadfastness to build up the raga image, replete with karvais, and smooth sailing glides integrated with dynamic brigas at the right junctures, was a testimony to his musical wisdom.

The Sahana exposition was heart-warming, and the rendition of ‘Rama Ika Nannu' of Patnam Subramania Iyer matched the poignant preface. Kiravani's melody was well addressed by Charan in the upper, middle and lower registers.

Could there be a better choice to affix this alapana than Gopalakrishna Bharati's ‘Innamum Sandega Padalamo'? To add more impact, Charan chose the anupallavi ‘Ponnambalam Thannil Thandavamadiya' with full force.

The swara strands after initial stages set on different nadai switched over to the madhyama kalam and closed with kuraippu swaras focussing on panchamam.

‘Neeve Gatiyani,' the rhythmic varnam in Nalinakanti by Lalgudi Jayaraman, ‘Devadi Deva' in Sunadavinodhini of Mysore Vasudevachar with refreshing swaras and the languid Dikshitar kriti ‘Purahara Nandana' in Hamirkalyani were in the earlier part of the concert. The closing numbers were a romantic ‘Deera Sameere,' the Jayadeva ashtapadi in Pahadi and a spirited thillana in Surutti.

Sanjeev is an artist-friendly violin accompanist. He was almost invisible in comparison to the vocal power of Charan but emerged creditably during raga vinyasa and kalpanaswara.

His responses in Sahana and Kiravani were brief but inspiring. Mannarkoil Balaji kept his rhythm at the right decibels to maintain the serene mood of the concert.