Kalavathi Avadhooth’s concert made it clear that there was enough space for an artiste to negotiate within the traditional framework
It is a period of churning for Carnatic music. Most modern musicians want to invest change into traditional practices, mainly the kutcheri format. One of the casualties of this modernization -- or if one must one say re-envisioning the presentation — is the varna, a brisk composition sung at the beginning of the concert. As a regular at concerts, you are witness to the amendments every artiste is bringing into his performance space. If by chance, you happen to listen to a musician who abides by the traditional format and deals with it with a sense of equanimity, it seems like the greatest change in recent times.
Kalavathi Avadhooth, who recently performed at the Spring Festival of the Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira, opened her concert with the lovely “Sami Ninne” in Shree raga, satisfying listeners who’ve been waiting to hear one. After short renditions, “Vallabhanayakasya” in Begade and “Narasimha Maamava” in Aarabhi, Kalavathi moved on to Reetigoula. Her brief exposition of the raga was discerningly mature and restrained. Unhurriedly, she unfolded each phrase and sang the Tyagraja kriti “Cheraravademira Ramayya”. Her imaginative svara prastara mirrored the lyrical beauty and impressiveness inherent in the kriti. “Sadhachaleshwaram” in Bhoopalam was reminiscent of the stunning rendition by Hyderabad Brothers. Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma’s rhythm patterns on the mridanga traced the contours of the krithi.
In Kalavathi, technique never overshadows content. In her reflective exposition of Kalyani, Kalavathi gave primacy to emotion. Even with a voice that can produce gamakas with felicity, she uses it sparingly and with wisdom. Kalavathi’s vision of music is guided by a sense of relevance. With an all encompassing sense of repose, her rendition of the raga was a treat. Matthur Srinidhi’s violin accompaniment was proficient, and not once did he resort to gimmickry in his pleasing, mellow exposition. Neraval at “Shamakrishna Sodari” for the kriti “Himadri Sute” had the short and staccato, and the long and interpretative phrases. Her rendition of Todi was outstanding. In an architecturally perfect piece, her gamakas were chaste and displayed a sound understanding of the Carnatic idiom. Excellent neraval for the rare Dikshitar’s kriti “Shree Krishnam Bhaja Manasa”, and the swaras rendered in two kalaas, ranged from the cyclical to progressive. She showed a fine sense of laya.
If at all there was a problem, it was occasional instances of compliance to shruti in the initial moments of the concert. But Kalavathi’s quiet resilience crossed this physical hurdle that her voice posed and she soon merged into the abstract.
The concert was rendered remarkable by the excellent support on the mridanga by Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma and Arun Kumar’s brilliance on morsing. Both these artistes, who come from family of musicians, have a sensitive understanding of music and added immense value to the concert with their virtuosity.