G. Srikanth chose some unusual kritis of Tyagaraja.
In interpreting Tyagaraja's kritis, the innate artistic process has to be given more importance than the external dressing up with vocal manipulation.
G. Srikanth, in his concert for Sri Thyagaraja Seva Samiti, took too many liberties with his voice and over-reached aesthetic limits. In his raga alapana, there were many clever turns of phrases with creative excitement getting the better of the need for restraint.
While rendering the songs, Srikanth lent proper articulation to the sahitya, which was commendable. His concern to pay attention to the sahitya without distortion or mutilation enhanced the message of the songs in clear terms.
The selection of kirtanas, however, failed to make his presentation impressive.
His preference was towards unfamiliar songs -- ‘Oka Mata Oka Bana' (Harikhambodi), ‘Inthanusu' (Guntakriya), ‘Palinthuvo' (Kanthamani) and ‘Nalina Lochana' (Madhyamavati). These items did not help add weight to his performance.
He handled Varali (‘Kanakana Ruchira'), Vachaspati (‘Pariyasahama') and Madhyamavati (‘Nalina Lochana') with elaborate alapana. In presenting the Varali Pancharatna as the sixth item, Srikanth seemed to approve of the trend to change tradition.
The violinist Shimoga Ananthapadmanabha revealed a better understanding of the flavour of the ragas in his solo versions.
His Madhyamavathi version brought out raga bhava. The mridangam artist Madipakkam Suresh played with gentleness.
In this context, I reproduce a fact recorded by the late Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar (1866-1943), a great devotee of Sri Tyagaraja, who conducted the Tiruvaiyaru Aradhana for many years. He wrote profiles of prominent vidwans of his time, particularly the three Tyagaraja sishyas – Umayalpuram Brothers Krishna and Sundara Bhagavathar and Thillaisthanam Rama Iyengar. I quote: “Having had the unique privilege of knowing the bhava of the pieces from the great composer himself, their exposition based on direct knowledge had a telling effect. Although the brothers had a high degree of swara gnana, out of deference to the wishes of their master, they never indulged in kalpanaswaras. Thus their concerts had a unique excellence about them.”
About the other prominent disciple Thillaisthanam Rama Iyengar, he wrote: “Occasionally the Umayalpuram brothers and Rama Iyengar used to sing together. Although Rama Iyengar was a past master in the art of singing kalpanaswaras, still he refrained from doing so lest his own creative music should to a certain extent obliterate the beautiful impression of the composition.”
The extracts along with many others were published in The Hindu more than six decades ago.
The sentiments of Tyagaraja's sishyas are something our present day musicians have to introspect about.