Geeta Raja provided a rewarding experience for rasikas.
Between 2009 and 2010, Geetha Raja seemed to have made an earnest self-appraisal and consolidated her strengths, of which the most significant one is a fluent flow of improvised swara sequences, not only in the main numbers but also in the less elaborate ones.
So when she embarked on an unusually long excursion with kalpanaswaras following the invocative song, ‘Vatapi Ganapatim' (Dikshitar, Hamsadhwani) in her recent concert , the sensitive listener had a distinct sense of fulfilment even in the initial stage of the performance.
‘Vatapi Gaanapatim' is probably the most frequently heard song in Carnatic music (can you think of any other?) and therefore, usually sounds rather ritualistic even when rendered by the most accomplished singers. If stretched too far – by vocalists or instrumental soloists – it tends to sound quite artificial.
It was certainly Geetha Raja's natural flair for extended and lucid swara improvisation, which made the familiar prayer song sound so refreshingly different and set the music in a cruising mode at the initial stage of the recital.
She went on in due course to sing lovely strings of swaras in the ragas Poorvikalyani and Thodi for Tyagaraja's kriti ‘Gnaanamu Osaga Raadha,' and Papanasam Sivan's ‘Kaartikeya Gaangeya' respectively.
The beauty of these impromptu passages was greatly enhanced because the violin was in the hands of Narmadha, who seemed to have found some of her best MSG touches in the company of Geetha Raja. Of course, as an accompanist she normally tends to be very restrained, presumably because she's afraid of overshadowing the vocalist. But with Geetha Raja, she probably felt she had been invited to excel, which automatically set a higher standard for the vocalist also.
The subdued and yet resonant percussion support provided by Ganapati Raman on the mridangam and N. Sunder on the morsing contributed to the graceful quality of the music, as was the excellent tuning of (and perfect alignment with) the sruti. All told, the setting was conducive to an excellent team spirit, resulting in a rewarding experience for musicians and rasikas alike.