M. Venkatesh Kumar's Hindustani vocal concert was a blend of intellect and emotion
There are fixed roles in every concert: our notions are very clear on who leads and who follows. Hence, we commonly say the vocalist and his accompanists. But great masters have always known that these compartments rarely exist the way we imagine them.
Haven't we heard legendary stories about how eminent Carnatic vocalist Palghat K.V. Narayanaswamy being led by the mridangam legend Palghat Raghu on several occasions? Great music never takes shape in private, individual space — the vocalist and his accompanists are in a constant give and take mode.
The Hindustani music concert by Pandit M. Venkatesh Kumar at The Hindu Friday Review November Music Festival on Friday was a perfect example. Hardly surprising with the country's two top notch accompanists sharing the stage with him – Pandit Ravindra Yavagal on tabla and Pandit Vyasamurthy Katti on harmonium.
Pandit M. Venkatesh Kumar opened the concert with a prayerful Puriya Kalyan, an evening raga of Marwa That. Musicologist Deepak Raja speaking about raga Puriya Kalyan says in “Hindustani Music: A tradition in transition”, “the debate can continue”. And it does. One wonders why while some call it Purva, it is referred to as Puriya Kalyan by most. Sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan argues that it does not have the Kalyan element, and as Deepak Raja says he was probably referring to the shuddha rishabh which is absent Puriya Kalyan.
Pandit M. Venkatesh Kumar rendered the vilambit ektaal bandish “Aaj so bana” made famous by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The rich aural imagery created by him was in a different creative realm, but one couldn't escape parallely listening to Bhimsen Joshi in the mind.
The melodic development packed with microtonal nuances, was dwelt at length in the lower and mid-octave region. Incidentally, this is the region in which Yaman unfolds, however Panditji employed komal rishabh like most practitioners. Superb layakari and imaginative tans with Katti's extraordinary phrases left the rendition highly evocative.
“Charan Dhar Aayo” in Abhogi was a refined, lilting rendition. The introspective moments were heightened by the deeply poignant sarangi (Farooque Lateef) and Katti. Pandit Ravindra Yavagal shone with his brilliance throughout — mellow and majestic.
“Pranathi Ide”, Allama's vachana was a big draw. Venkatesh Kumar's passion and devotion was infectious. The concert ended with the masterly “Smarane Salade” in Bhairavi. His emotions soared with the flights of the raga.
The intense music held the audience spellbound.
With three exemplary artistes, it was hard to say who led whom.