Both approach and presentation were interestingly different in the concerts of Sheela and Malladi Suribabu.
Unlike several sabhas that become operational only during the music season, Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha presents concerts throughout the year. On the threshold of a silver jubilee, the Sabha recently held its anniversary and paid homage to Saint Tyagaraja. A series of concerts spread over five days was organised and dedicated to D.K. Pattammal.
M.S. Sheela, who has a sonorous voice began her concert with ‘Raghunayaka’ (Hamsadhwani), which had finely built swaras at the pallavi. She then extended her swara-expertise to ‘Marubalka’ (Sri Ranjani) indulging in speedier versions as a matter of variation.
The pancharatna kriti meant for the day (Varali) was followed by ‘Sogasujooda Tharama’ (Kannadagowla). Kalyani (‘Amma Ravamma’) and Bhairavi (‘Lalithe Sripravridhe’) had alapanas that had solidity as their main standpoint. Sheela’s control over laya was exemplified when she split the line ‘Thamarasa Dhala Nethru’ (Kalyani) and presented swaras as double sets with uniformity and creativity. This swara process was sustained till the very end with remarkable accuracy employing all conceivable combinations.
‘Palukukanda’ (Navarasa Kannada) was her contribution by way of bringing to the fore, a less-sung kriti of Tyagaraja. What dismayed the listener was the sight of paper in front of the artist – something not expected from a musician of Sheela’s calibre.
V.L. Kumar on the violin showed his potential and answered as fairly as an accompanist would during the alapanas and swaraprastaram. Kumar could have avoided the higher octaves for a sruti of this nature and mandhara sthayi playing may have provided a healing contrast. Sivaraman on the mridangam and Purushothaman on the ganjira adopted a style of following the songs with established nadais and combined well to play a thani that had a satisfying round of shared korvais.
Malladi Suribabu began with a premise. Avowing to limit his alapana, niraval and swara in this concert, his task he said would be to primarily concentrate on giving rasikas the kriti-anubhava, and the concert truly adhered to this pattern. Suribabu also fittingly presented a sloka of Walajapet Venkatramana Bhagavathar, Tyagaraja’s t disciple, which was in praise of the Sadguru. This sloka was profuse in its emotional content and was rendered in Videshi ragas, Jog, Behag and Sindu Bhairavi. Sundareswaran on the violin respectfully emulated Suribabu and showed that he had a particular genius in depicting such ragas and matched the main artist in both letter and spirit.
Suribabu’s earlier choice for the main number was again, Bhairavi and the kriti also interestingly was ‘Lalithe Sripravridhe.’ This led to an educative comparison between two back-to-back interpretations - of Sheela and Suribabu - which speaks again of the infinite scope each raga affords in terms of manodharma.
The other pleasurable renderings were ‘Smaranesukhamu’ (Janaranjani), ‘Entharo Mahanubavulu,’ ‘O Rajeevaksha’ (Arabhi) and ‘Paripoorna Kama’ (Poorvikalyani). Arabhi and Poorvikalyani had scholarly alapanas. Suribabu recalled Voleti Venkateswaralu’s inimitable style of portraying ‘Pani Pathi Sayi’ (Jangaradhwani), as he sang this kriti. Sundareswaran on the violin was at his best and was able to give his full measure during the short alapanas and swara-exchanges.
Patri Satishkumar (mridangam) and Karthik (ghatam) provided calm rhythmic support and presented a thani that thoughtfully partitioned two avarthanams into three portions and fitted sollus suitably to make it an engaging experience for laya rasikas. These two concerts were held at Kasthuri Srinivasan Hall, the Music Academy.