With some cautious moves, Abhishek can make it to the top.

Though ten minutes late, Abhishek Raghuram began with a bang. The entire concert consisted of just four items. First ‘Ra Ramaa Intidaaka’ in Asaveri, followed by ‘Naada Sudha Rasa’ in Arabhi, Abhishek managed to wade through both the kritis without distorting Tyagaraja’s sahitya beyond the regular. Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam on the mridangam had it from the word go. Mysore Srikant on the violin scratched his way through some of the complicated kanukkus that he could manage in Arabhi after much hesitation.

Abhishek next began a slow alapana, which remained ambiguous in its structure. It wasn’t a while before one realised that he was actually singing Simhendramadhyamam. Srikant whose violin has more sowkhyam than Abhishek’s singing, isn’t the best of accompanists to keep up with singer’s speed. Several times through fast phrases, his bow derailed off track.

The fourth and final piece was an elaborate RTP in Khamas. Abhishek over-stretched his alapana for almost half an hour, often repeating phrases and wandering into the notes of Behag, at an odd occasion. While notes in both the scales do overlap, a singer of his smartness can afford to exercise restraint.

Abhishek is a technical wizard and there was no doubt in the authenticity of his attempt. The pallavi took shape in the form of the Daaru varnam lyrics, ‘Maate Malaydhwaja Pandya’, set to an Adi tala in two kalais.

Though Bhaktavatsalam refused to give a percussion interlude in the earlier piece, the brilliance of his mridangam was seen in the clash of extra-loud korappus with K.V. Gopalakrishnan’s ganjira after a round of misram and tisram. A longer thani avartanam would have been equally enjoyable, given the scholarship of both the vidwans on stage.

Towards the end of the pallavi, Abhishek’s experiment to take four different tones and pair them with four different notes in a mélange of the scales of Khamas, Ahiri and Sindhu Bhairavi, proved a bit stressful for all, given the acute shortage of time. With zeal, he kept going up and down the speed breaker of the pallavi structure. At one point, Srikant had to pause to think and catch up, much to everyone’s amusement.

As the clock ticked closer to finish time, a section of the audience erupted into euphoria, almost like the end of a victorious cricket match.

What Abhishek has in his grasp is immense skill and craft. Beyond all the angst-ridden acrobatics and unwanted pyrotechnics, a genius of a great singer is waiting to emerge; an artist whose art will supersede his craft and whose music will create a long-lasting mellowness. Abhishek lacks a sense of proportion and often overdoes his exhibitionist method, almost playing to the galleries. While Abhishek is certainly a gifted artist for his age, for now, the recall effect from his music is obscured by his gimmickry. High on technique, low on music and zero on aesthetic, to sum it all up.