Presenting the extraordinary in concert after concert, Yesudas unearths the rare and the forgotten, bringing them back to life.
It is 50 years since Yesudas entered the field of music but his passion for singing is still youthful. Never do you discern a tinge of ennui. Concert after concert, he unearths the rare and the forgotten bringing them back to life. His zest for music is evident in the choice of ragas.
Take, for instance, the fare at two of his recent concerts - at the Nungambakkam Cultural Academy and Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha. Manavati, Devamanohari, Hamsavinodhini and Suvarnangi — all rendered elaborately with alapana and swaras. True, Devamanohari is not so rare, but the kriti he chose – ‘Palukavademi na Rama’ of Mysore Vasudevachar – was.
In both concerts, Yesudas did also treat the audience with the familiar – Kharaharapriya (‘Nadachi nadachi’) and Bhairavi (‘Upacharamu’). This clever mix of the uncommon and the familiar did the trick in both the concerts.
There was only one little niggle. At Nungambakkam, the audience sat bolt upright when Yesudas took up Tyagaraja’s ‘Seethamma mayamma,’ for the alapana had been of Lalitha. The splendid alapana evoked expectations of ‘Nannu brova Lalitha’ or ‘Hiranmayim,’ but the appearance of ‘Seethamma mayamma’ brought a grimace on one’s face. For sure, this is not for the first time that this song has been sung in Lalitha — some believe that the song was originally composed in this raga. Yet, no matter how well the celebrated musician sang it, it was jarring on the ears. Despite the minor technical difference between Vasantha and Lalitha, the two ragas are quite apart and ‘Seethamma Mayamma’ could not be relished in the latter.
Apart from just that, the two concerts were extraordinary. Manavati rang out with distinct vivadi notes. It has all but ‘dha’ in the lower frequencies. The bhava-imbued rendition of Tyagaraja’s ‘Evarito ni duludi’ deserved a standing ovation.
The Hamsavinodhini piece (‘Onkara porule’ of Punithasri) produced the same electrifying effect at the Parthasarathy Swami Sabha concert as the Manavati did at Nungambakkam. The concert began with a varnam in Vasantha and then, as the third piece of the concert, the artist took up Hamsanandi. At this point, Yesudas explained (it was rather loud thinking) why he was taking up, one after the other, ragas without the ‘pa’— “first Vasantha, then Hamsavinodhini and now Hamsanandi”, and thus the identity of the raga was revealed.
However, over Suvarnangi there was no such mystery, for Yesudas announced the raga, as well as its arohana-avarohana, right at the beginning. This 47th melakarta raga sounds like Subhapanthuvarali up to ‘pa’ and resembles Kalyani beyond panchamam — evoking a curious mix of melancholy and mirth. Dikshitar’s ‘Sarasa Souveera’ was the composition chosen and it was brilliant. Niraval and swaras appeared at ‘guruguha bhavathara’. Here mention must be made of the superb follow-through by violinist Mahadeva Sharma.
The Parthasarathy Swami Sabha concert began well, and kept getting better as it progressed. Perhaps the best piece of the concert was the ‘filler’—‘Ninnu Vina’ of Tyagaraja in Navarasa Kanada — briskly rendered with a long series of swirling sangatis.
Coming to the main fares of the two concert, the Bhairavi at Parthasarathy Swami Hall was way above the Karaharapriya at Nungambakkam. The Bhairavi was a chaste classical with not a trace of the light touch that is the hallmark of Yesudas. In a little contrast, the Kharaharapriya, with the alapana sounding at the upper reaches like Bruce Lee’s cat-calls, and staccato swaras, was more an egregious display of talent than a provider of meditative calm.
The other elements of the concert were: ‘Enna punniyam seidheno’ (Ritigowlai, Oothukadu Venkatakavi) at Nungambakkam and ‘Maakelara’ (Ravichandrika, Tyagaraja) and ‘Saarasa mukha’ (Gouda Malhar, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhaghavathar) at Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha.
Nagai Muralidharan accompanied on the violin at Nungambakkam. Harikumar (mridangam) and Vaikom Gopalakrishnan (ghatam) were the percussionists at both concerts.
Through the two concerts Yesudas busted two myths – that rare, vivadi ragas can be sung only either beautifully or elaborately and not both, and that Yesudas is a light-touch singer and less of a puritan. The genius established that both are untrue.