Geetha Raja's Thodi and Chittoor Brothers' Sankarabharanam were powerful and melodious while Mahathi's Ragavardhini, the 32nd mela raga, displayed her confidence.
Geetha Raja gave a wholesome vocal recital with some impressive choice of compositions. The laudable feature of Geetha Raja's offering was the complete absence of hyperbole attempts and methodical approach to the main aspects of a Carnatic concert like alapana and swaras with humility and ingenuity.
‘Gana Murthey' in Ganamurthi and ‘Mantrabalam Adaintha Mantralayam' a song in praise of Guru Raghavendra in Hamsanadam and an attaché of swaras kept the concert's tempo bright. Purvikalyani was essayed with well aligned phrases leading to ‘Paripoorna Kama.' Geetha's choice to extend a niraval at ‘Saaketha Dipa Neeruha' and a set of swaras added to it were done within the right frame work of grammar.
The song selection with varying rhythmic cycles like Adi, Roopkam earlier and khanda chapu with a spirited ‘Meevalla Guna Dosha' of Tyagaraja in Kapi gave further impetus to the concert. Thodi was launched with certain powerful phrasings and advanced with full involvement in development without employing any short cuts or vague motifs. The essay moved with neat perception. Papanasam Sivan's ‘Karthikeya Kangeya' with both the charanams was a treat to hear.
Geetha Raja took care of the niraval and swaras at ‘Malmaruga Shanmuga Muruga Guha' luxuriantly; her punctuating swaras with panchamam as the focal note was deftly done with a frill of ‘pa ma pa ga ma pa.'
Geetha Raja's accompanying artists Kalyani Shankar (violin), Mohanakrishnan (mridangam) and Sethuraman (ganjira) extended unbiased support to her lively deliverance.
It is sad that despite many comments on the audio systems, halls more suited for chamber music keep blaring loudspeakers with improper balancing of sounds. This was evident in the flute recital of the Chittoor Brothers, Pathanjali and Mahalingam. Every time the upper notes were reached, the sharp and splitting output of the flute was virtually ear-piercing and robbed the concert of its aesthetics.
The Chittoor Brothers surely know their instrument. They showed agility in their presentation. But they lacked the grace and sensitivity while elaborating the ragas or forging on sangatis or swaras. The usually favourite shrill sangatis exclusive to the bamboo reed, were frequently opted for. The selection of kritis was on popular lines; ‘Viriboni' Bhairavi Ata tala varnam, ‘Mahaganapatim' in Nattai, ‘Evarani' in Devamruthavarshini, Ranjani ragam and ‘Durmargachara' with swaras, ‘Nagumomu' in Abheri and ‘Srirama Padama' in Amruthavahini. The main raga was Sankarabharanam and the kriti, ‘Swararagasudha.'
But, can choosing well known numbers alone elevate the quality of a concert? Perhaps not; because most of the time, the performers were racing… melody was deficient in Ranjani and depth was missing in Sankarabharanam. Spiralling phrases, quick notes and fast ascends and descends may create awe but not appreciation. The brothers can shine even more if they shift their focus to create melodic strains and finesse in the offerings. Matching the tepid offering of the main players, C.K. Vijayaraghavan's violin support was sketchy. So was Kalakkad R Srinivasan's rhythm on mridangam.
The striking aspects of Mahathi's vocal concert was the way she is developing into a fine vocalist and the manner in which she exploits her vocal prowess in alapanas and swaraprastharas.
Mahathi's creativity was in focus here; the open mouthed articulation, the emphasis on sruti-backed karvais, poignant pauses and dynamic akaras and brigas were integrated in right proportions, leading to slow and steady raga delineations.
The 32nd Mela raga Ragavardhini that resembles Charukesi and Vagadheeswari was launched by Mahathi with great confidence and clarity. She had tuned a Bharatiyar verse ‘Vaiyam Muzhudum Padaithu' in Ragavardhini. The Ranjani treatise was designed with ascending glides, smooth descends and bright brigas woven in without haste to emphasise the aesthetics of the raga. ‘Durmargachara' of Tyagaraja was the kriti.
The main raga was Thodi. The alapana carried sangfroid and did not forsake Thodi's majesty, depth and striking shades. Mahathi touched the mandra sthayi phrases and the upper notes with equanimity and consummate ease. ‘Gaddanu variki' was the right follow-up kriti and Mahathi chose the line ‘Paddu thappaga bhajiyinche' for niraval and swaras. The built up and kuraippu swaras and the final korvai were sung with great assurance.
In the swarakalpana, Mahathi almost eschewed panchaman which did not sound odd at all but added to the charm of Thodi.
Melakkaveri Theagarajan on the violin followed the vocalist in right earnest. The exuberant partner was R. Sankaranarayanan on the mridangam, who sounded loud at times. K.V. Gopalakrishnan's soft but stern touches on kanjira lent the right touch.
For the record, the concert began with a Kalyani varnam; there was as ‘Ranganayakam' in Nayaki in the middle and the conclusion was an exaggeratedly extended ‘Baro krishnayya' and a thillana in Hamsanandi.