Easily, the most absorbing segment of Papanasam Ashok Ramani’s singing session was the ‘ragam tanam pallavi’ and subsequent songs. The engaging sequence followed a thunderous percussion solo after the Khambodi kriti ‘O Rangasayi.’
The inevitably brief exposition of Kokilapriya - a little over two hours into the recital - had Ramani deftly manoeuvring the terrain of the 11th scale in the foundational Melakarta raga system. On a rather rough and ready reading, Kokilapriya draws partly from Todi and Sankarabharanam and holding the balance is of the essence for artists.
Ramani’s pallavi ran thus: ‘Guha, Kumaragurupara Vadivelava Enakkarul Saravanabhava,’ rendered in kandatriputa talam. The ragamalika that followed contained besides Kokilapriya, Valaji and Kapi, all of which were sung beautifully.
Listeners’ delights followed in quick succession thereafter. ‘Ma Ramanan Uma Ramanan,’ of Papanasam Sivan in Hindolam, ‘Irakkam varamal ponadenna karanam’ of Gopalakrishna Bharati (Behag), a Tiruppugazh verse in Desh and ‘Karpagame kanparay,’ in Madhyamavathi, again by Sivan.
‘Karunimpa,’ the Sahana varnam provided a sober beginning to the concert. ‘Sri mahaganapatimbhajeham,’ in Atana and Tyagaraja’s ‘Sripathe nipada chintane jeevanamu,’ in Nagasvaravali were both decorated with nice improvisations. After a short essay in Sriranjani, Ramani sang ‘Ini oru kanam unai maraven yedukula tilaka.’ Immediately following on that was also a Sivan composition, ‘Srivalli Devasenapathe,’ in Natabhairavi.
By the time the Kambhodi alapana commenced, the vocalist had noticeably found his rhythm and easy flowing phrases marked the entire exposition. M.R. Gopinath the violinist, who was prominent even on other occasions, excelled during his solo essays of Khambodi and Kokilapriya.
Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan on the mridangam and N. Guruprasad on the ghatam gave a spirited display all the way.