Carnatic vocalist Sreevalsan J. Menon is one of the few singers who treats music as a spiritual odyssey. His rendition does not sacrifice the lyrics for the music or vice versa.
This is once again evident from the CD under review titled ‘Begane Baro’. The evergreen bhajans in the CD begins with the widely heard ‘Krishna nee Begane Baro.' It is a befitting tribute to Sreevalsan's guru, the late Neyyattinkara Vasudevan. The contours of the raga, Yamuna Kalyani, were emblematic of his idiom in Vasudevan's renditions. Sreevalsan has successfully transplanted it here.
The singer's voice is soaked in devotion when he sings ‘Garudagamana' in raga Malkauns, Roopaka tala,
The complementary nature of its sahitya and sangeeta should be an eye-opener to up-and-coming vocalists. Next is a composition ‘Madho' from the Guru Granth Sahib, composed by Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma in raga Desh. The singer has transformed it into a soulful prayer. The sparingly employed gamakas add to the expressional fervour of the song.
‘Ghoonghat ka,' a Kabir composition in raga Darbari Kanada, Adi tala, is marked by a difference in Sreevalsan's voice modulation. He frees himself from the otherwise cautious progression and gravitates towards an emotional rendering. The voice and the words dream of infinity. Edappilly Ajith essays this portion on the violin with an extraordinary timbre. ‘Je Je Guruji Matha Bhavani,' a composition of Pandit Bade Ramdasje Mishra in raga Durga, is a moving bhajan that touches the hearts of rasikas. Swara constraints not withstanding, raga Durga evokes in us an inexpressible tranquility. Swati Tirunal's ‘Vishveshwaru…' in raga Sindhu Bhairavi is familiar to most aficionados of music.
The last song in the collection is ‘Vaishnav Janato' in raga Khamas.
The concept and the background music enhances the rendering. There is never an off pitch tone. None of the instruments used (such as the sitar, the tabla and the dholak) interfere with the content.
If in the final analysis, music, like poetry, is ‘emotion recollected in tranquility,' ‘Begane Baro' cannot be spared from your collection.