“Music must never offend the ear, but must please the listener, or, in other words, must never cease to be music." - Mozart.
Sowmya’s music is in the sweet spot that obeys the Mozart doctrine and yet can satiate the curiosity and innovation within traditional contexts. She is able to demonstrate scholarship, intensity and a higher order engagement without ecstatic modulations or dramatic voice surges that offend the ear. Her concert for Brahma Gana Sabha was a supreme effort in musical intelligence and presentation. She chose the 60th Melakartha, Neethimathi for elaboration. There were clean phrases that kept underlying the raga’s differential character from adjacent ragas and yet steered clear of repetition. She sang ‘Aravinda lochane’ composed by Ambujam Krishna and tuned by Dr. S. Ramanathan.
Overcoming an uncertain voice in the beginning, Sowmya followed the Thodi varnam (‘Eranapai’) and ‘Kalala nerchina’ (Deepakam, Tyagaraja), a GNB favourite, with a nice sketch of Sriranjani (‘Ini oru kanam’, Papanasam Sivan) that settled the voice issue. ‘Dayarani’ (Mohanam, Tyagaraja) provided a re-energising effect in the middle.
Sowmya took up the Syama Sastri masterpiece, ‘Mayamma’ (Ahiri) and emotively traversed its course. One could visualise Syama Sastri and the Devi in her melody. The RTP in Shankarabharanam was chiselled with a soft raga alapana with ringing single notes and short phrases. It was a satvik rendition that touched a cord.
Sowmya’s Pallavi was in honour of Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi, whose 127th birth centenary fell last week. ‘Paar athi potrum Bharathi, Tamizh isai kavignan’ were the simple words that super-structured the Pallavi in Adi two kalai (half eduppu). She crowned it with a good niraval and kalpanaswaras that in one sweeping motion, travelled from Shankarabharanam to Behag to Ananda Bhairavi to Revathi to Suruti seamlessly. Sowmya’s handling of swara is another noteworthy aspect – melody mixed with intelligent laya and dattu patterns, again without offending the ear or seeking a journey to space. This sense of balance underpins her style.
Neyveli Radhakrishnan provided competent accompaniment on the violin and Manoj Siva excelled with his anticipative and calm technique aligning his play with the nadai of the songs.
Saketharaman brings to the arena a good musical mind and gait honed by his training under maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman. His concert had enough proof of why he is rated a promising potential. He adopted an ‘early attention’ strategy by choosing to sing, as the first song after the varnam, ‘Vasudevayani’ (Kalyani, Tyagaraja) in a brisker madhyamakala beat, followed by striking swaras. Mukhari (‘Enraikku siva kripai’, Neelakanta Sivan) was more mellowed in contrast and showcased his ability to traverse different ends of the swinging pendulum of tempo.
Saketharaman’s main piece was ‘Mohana Rama’ of Tyagaraja. The raga alapana was a mixed effort. He shunned the traditional ‘ladder’ structure for a free flowing style which gave an impression of some repetition and an up-down-up course. His upper octave singing was impressive as were his kalpanaswaras in Mohanam. The viruttam in Saveri, Dhanyasi and Behag followed by ‘Irakkam varamal’ (Gopalakrishna Bharathi) once again reminded the audience of his musical talent. He is intelligent enough to fine-tune his style, structure and the needed voice-polish that would take him to higher levels.
H.K. Venkatram’s (violin) seasoned playing and the engaging efforts of percussionists Palladum Ravi (mridangam) and Sundar kumar (ganjira) pepped up to a good concert.