A violinist from Visakhapatnam, M.S.N. Murthy used the vocal opportunity well. His concert for Shanti Fine Arts was a surprise package. He was at ease in both popular ragams such as Saveri and Kharaharapriya and Vijayavasantham and Kokilaravam.
Murthy has a 1950s approach to singing - emphasis on pristine elements and no theatrics. He even appeared uneasy with the presence of the microphone and didn’t bother to exploit its presence even though voice is not his forte. Packed with traditional sangatis, his Kharaharapriya raga alapana and the kriti, “Rama Neeyeda” (Tyagaraja) were supreme efforts. He chose distilled phrases for the raga delineation devoting most of the attention around “ma,” “pa,” “da” and “ni” — beautiful spots of the ragam.
Murthy preceded this with a good assortment of ragams, talam and kalapramanam that underlined his model of variety — ‘Chede budhi manura’ (Atana, Tyagaraja), a rarely heard ‘Entha thamasa maite’ in Saveri of Tyagaraja set attractively in misrachapu with a classic niraval, ‘Nee chittamu’ (Vijaya Vasantham, Tyagaraja) and ‘Kothanda ramam anisam’ (Kokilaravam, Dikshitar). This song had some unusual sangatis in the pallavi.
Murthy’s wife, Dr Pantula Rama on the violin, was sedate without making an impression. Mridangam vidwan Ramakrishnan was too loud and didn’t calibrate to the main artist’s subtlety or the Sastry Hall ambience and Harihara Sharma (kanjira) toed his line. Unglamorous music like this may not be popular in today’s high voltage, celebrity dominated scene, but serves to remind us that there is a no-frill artistic version of our music.