Pristine Carnatic music reigned supreme during the Kalpathy Music Festival in Palakkad.

The Kalpathy Music Festival in Palakkad, which is conducted on the sidelines of the Ratholsavam (car festival) associated with the festivities of Kalpathy Siva temple, celebrated its 26th year.

The festival’s success can be largely attributed to the musicians who performed at the fete – O.S. Thyagarajan, Sreevalsan J. Menon and Gayathri Venkatraghavan, as well as newcomers such as Ramakrishnan Murthy, Bharath Sundar and Saketharaman.

The festival’s choice of venue is another reason for its popularity.

By disrupting the conventional concert-goer’s spatial comfort zone, this festival on a temporary thatched stage in the heritage village has created an audience that cares more about the music and less about its frills.

Gayathri Venkatraghavan

On the opening day, which was devoted to Purandaradasar, Gayathri Venkatraghavan’s concert was redolent with sparkling classicism. She was at her evocative best all through.

With the accent on melody, the way she embroidered ‘gamaka’ casements over the contours of chosen ragas, particularly for raga Thodi, (Dikshitar composition ‘Sri Subrahmanyo’, Adi) crafted nifty swarakalpana or fluent niraval was reflective of her enviable command over Carnatic classical idiom.

Violinist B.V. Raghavendra Rao’s aptitude for parallel lines became clear during the impromptu sessions. Manoj Siva’s sensitive beats on the mridangam was embellished by Guruprasad on the ghatam.

Saketharaman

The second day was devoted to Annamacharya. In the opening prelude ‘Sreeman Narayana’, an Annamacharya kriti (Bouli), Saketharaman employed masterful dynamics to realise the composer’s melodic episodes.

Saketharaman’s central piece was Swati Tirunal’s ‘Mamava Karunaya’ (Shanmukhapriya, Misra Chapu). He used a wide range of dynamics to convey a sombre mood, with a slowly rising crescendo that melted into the air. Mysore V. Srikanth’s violin fittingly allowed the final notes to fade away in silence.

The tani that Mannargudi Easwaran and Udupi Sreedhar created on the mridangam and the ghatam respectively stood out for its aesthetic appeal.

Sreevalsan J. Menon

Saint Tyagaraja was the composer honoured on the third day. To a lay listener, the saint’s compositions offer pleasurable music. The subtle experiences of the saint composer, his devout mind and intuitive realisation of God through his compositions appeal to those who intensely yearn to share his divinity.

Sreevalsan’s music was for the latter group. Restrained accompaniment by Idappally Ajithkumar on the violin, K.V. Prasad on the mridangam and effervescent energy flowing from Vazhappally Krishnakumar on the ghatom motivated the singer to be prolific in his offering.

Kambhoji in detail with ‘O Rangasayi’ and Sreevalsan’s handling of the raga reflected his sensitivity to the genre. ‘Aliveni’ in Kurunji and the dance-like Kavadichinthu (Chenchurutti) was a fitting finale for his recital.

Bharat Sundar

Dedicated to the royal composer Swati Tirunal, the fourth concert of the festival was that of Bharat Sundar’s. In the Adi tala varnam ‘Eranapai’ in Thodi, with which he took off, Bharat’s technique highlighted the absolutely perfect intonation. Be it ‘Deva deva kalayamithe’ (Mayamalavagoula), ‘Etijanma’ (Varali) or even ‘Nadachi nadachi’ (Kharaharapriya), the expressions were blended with subtle sangatis and random patterns of swara interludes.

In addition to total mastery over laya, Trivandrum V. Balaji on the mridangam had the uncanny ability to anticipate and reproduce gamakas on the mridangam.

In his solo versions of the ragas, M.A. Sundareswaran reflected Bharath’s music on his violin.

Balaji and Adampakkam K. Shankar on the ghatam were brilliant in their tani, which comprised ‘chaturasram’, expanded ‘khandam’, ‘khandakuraippu’, ‘mohra’ in ‘chaturasram’ and ‘koruvai’ in ‘tisram’.

Ramakrishnan Murthy

The fifth day evening’s concert, which featured Ramakrishnan Murthy, was set aside for Syama Sastri. Tyagaraja’s ‘Janaki Ramana’ (Suddhaseemanthini) wasfollowed by Syama Sastri’s ‘Trilokamatha’ (Paras, Adi). The song list was dominated by Syama Sastri's compositions.

Madhyamavathi was a surefire hit in lending grandeur to the concert. Murthy plunged straightaway into the core of the raga and went on to give solid shape to the dynamics spread over three octaves. When the time came to delve into the dense texture of the composition ‘Palinchu Kamakshi’, Adi, Nagai Sriram was ready to step up his violin and give the audience a rich essay of the raga.

The whole team gave primacy to the sanctity that the occasion demanded.

Mridangam maestro Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman’s tani with Giridhar Uduppa on the ghatam was imaginative in design and dexterous in display.

O.S. Thyagarajan

O.S. Thyagarajan captivated the audience with his enrapturing forays of ragas on the final day which was earmarked for Muthuswami Dikshitar. After ‘Vanajakshi’, a varnam in Kalyani, he appended ‘Swaminatha paripalaya’ (Natta, Adi) with niraval and swaras in doublets.

From the start, there was a sense of musical continuity. The interpretation of Dikshitar’s ‘Sreekanthimathim’ (Hemavathy, Adi) showcased its deep essence and quietude.

He elaborated Surutti with beauteous echoes.

‘Nagalingam bhajeham’ (Sankarabharanam, Adi), again a Dikshitar composition, was the major plank of his session. Sancharas in the ‘alapana’ emerged with depth. The rendering of the song was presented with sharp lyrical precision. The improvisations were marked with myriad hues of srutibhedam.

Delhi Sairam on the mridangam and Tripunithura Radhakrishnan on the ghatam played laya patterns to enrich the accompaniment. T.H. Subramanian on the violin was competently supportive.

The festival was jointly organised by District Tourism Promotion Council, Palakkad, and Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala.