Paavendar Bharathidasan’s beautiful poem about a child’s desire to be its mother’s bangles, ear rings and vermilion on her forehead, goes thus: “Amma Undan Kai Valayaaiaga Maataena...” This song, soulfully set to tune for Doordarshan’s ‘Pallu Paaduvomae’ choral music during the late 1970s by the legendary music director M.B. Srinivasan has been included by music director V.S. Narasimhan (VSN) in his latest album ‘Raga Fantasy,’ which was released at a function held recently at ARKAY Convention Centre and was attended by several musicians and aficionados.

VSN introduced each of the 10 songs and played it over the audio system for about a minute. ‘Amma Undan’moved one to tears. Such was the impact of the composition presented in the haunting voice of Bombay Jayashri. The arrangements – just violins and a cello – were mesmerising.

A different experience

Bombay Jayashri had this to say: “It was an experience of a kind, recording for VSN Sir for the first time. He sent me the notation a month ahead and taught me the song line by line patiently. His expectations are high and his approach very meticulous. I am grateful to him for choosing me to render this beautiful song on a ‘Mother.’ It was a learning curve for me on how a song should be recorded.”

Tyagaraja’s ‘Telisi Ramachandra,’ rendered briskly by Sriram Parthasarathy, has a lovely introduction with a classical guitar piece. R. Chandrasekar excels in this and the other portions where he leads the singer to the anupallavi and charanam. The improvisations in the anupallavi lines are effectively repeated by the violin, cello and the guitar.

B. Shree Sundar Kumar’s electrifying beats on the mridangam are another plus point. Sriram considers the presentation of voice along with the quartet as a unique attempt. His rendition of Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Saraswathi Namosthutay’ stands out for perfect diction. The string quartet plays the arrangements to the accompaniment of Prabhu’s thavil. A scintillating beginning has been given to this song by R. Parthasarathy (veena) followed by Sekar’s cello. That Sekar has been able to play spuritams on the cello, something that is next to impossible, only shows his calibre.

Inspired by Dave Brubeck’s 5/8 jazz rhythm, VSN has composed ‘Count Five’ in Abheri where the cello provides the basic rhythm with the lead violin, played by the composer himself who also takes credit for the viola in this song. So does he for Tyagaraja’s ‘Sobillu’ and ‘Hecharikagaa Raara.’ Karthick’s ghatam for ‘Sobillu’ and Sreesundar Kumar’s ganjira for ‘Hecharikagaa’ are noteworthy.

‘Durga,’ composed in Suddha Saveri, has again Sekar playing difficult phrases on the cello. VSN joins him and the result is soul-stirring. Ranjith’s tabla is apt.

VSN has chosen Raag Bhilaval for a bhajan-style song ‘Impromptu’ with the Quartet in novel arrangements. Chandrasekar’s rendition of the refrain on the classical guitar and Ranjith’s tabla contribute effectively. Navya (Suddha Dhanyasi) and a folk tune (Maund) complete the album. Noted variety percussion player Jaychaa has leant his unobtrusive rhythmic support for this effort.

Releasing the album, Dr. Pappu Venugopala Rao, secretary, The Music Academy, spoke highly of the dedication of VSN and said he knew him since three decades when they had collaborated on a project on the Gita. He added that Narasimhan belonged to that category of composers such as Annamacharya who never included his name in any of his 32,000 songs. Mr. Rao said the album has touched upon all facets of music be it Carnatic, jazz, Western or Hindustani.

Guru Karraikkudi R. Mani, who received the first copy, analysed the songs minutely and paid rich encomiums to all the artists who are part of the album. He also recalled his 48 year association with VSN and said that he was amazed at his focus and keen sense of music.

Chitravina N. Ravikiran made specific reference to the scientific way VSN has approached fusion and urged the audience to start giving music CDs as gifts for weddings. K.S. Raghunathan, a veteran recording engineer, praised VSN’s talent.

Special mention has to be made about the brilliant efforts of lead guitar and keyboard player R. Chandrasekhar in mixing and mastering this album.

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