Aruna Sairam had the rasikas mesmerised with her powerful vocals and stage presence.
The Music Academy witnessed a full turn out for the vocal concert of Aruna Sairam with H.N. Bhaskar on the violin, Vaidyanthan on the mridangam and S. Karthik on the ghatam. From the word go, Aruna's music dumbfounded the rasikas as her super-charged energy levels were so high that it burst out into a grand flow of ideas. She was in complete control of the stage.
Possessing a voice which she has tamed to obey her musical commands implicitly through untiring practice, she could hold the audience almost mesmerised with the powerful delivery of music of immense magnitude. The amplification of the hall was also under her dictate balancing it to her full advantage.
The unparalleled Bhairavi Ata tala varnam of Pachi Miriyam Adiappayya was the first song sung in 2 speeds. After a couple of phrases of Atana ragam ‘Elaneedayaraadu' in Adi Talam, supposedly the first creation of Tyagaraja, was Aruna's second presentation. The kriti traditionally starts from anupallavi, the opening words being ‘Balakanakamaya.' After this, Aruna's kalpanaswaras were also at this point and it was in second speed.
Her opening phrase for the Kedaragowla raga alapana triggered memories of drama of yore where the hero used to appear shooting a phrase of a raga. The phrase was ‘Ma Pa Ni Sa Ri Gaa Ri Ri' from madhya sthayi madhyama to tara sthayi rishabha, this sanchara of Kedaragowla exposing the raga in the first stroke itself. Aruna's raga alapana was blemishless and scintillating. The kriti was ‘Neelakantam' in Rupaka tala of Muthuswami Dikshitar .
‘Ennaganu Ramabhajana' in Rupaka talam of Bhadrachala Ramadas was prefixed with a fine alapana of Pantuvarali and suffixed with niraval and kalpanaswaras in the line ‘Rama Rama Rama Enuchu.'
A virutham on Lord Siva in Mukhari made many rasikas anticipate the song which was coming, ‘Entraiku Sivakripai Vaarumo' of Neelakanta Sivan in Misra Chaapu tala. Incidentally, Aruna had not given the list of songs to the Academy which artists are requested to do.
‘Saravanabhava' in Pasupathipriya, Adi talam, of Muthiah Bhagavathar was an engaging filler. Aruna moved on to the alapana of Thodi for RTP. She commenced when she had enough time to execute a pallavi, indicating her time management skills. The alapana was thoroughly exploratory as no corner of Thodi was left unexplored. The grandeur of the ragam was fully on display. The violinist's version was also executed with equal aplomb. During the tanam, mridangam and ghatam artists joined, as it is the practice in Thiruvananthapuram during Navarathri Mandapam concerts. The mridangam and ghatam entry heightened the melody quotient.
The pallavi line was ‘Thamadham En Swami Bala Subramanyane' in Adi talam 2 kalai with eduppu in samam. Aruna announced that this being the centenary year of GNB, she had conceived the pallavi to suit the occasion. Her handling of the pallavi stood musically exalted but did not adhere to the pallavi's norms strictly as the eduppu and aruthi kept on varying. Perhaps the pallavi line was considered to be a convenient medium to showcase her music prowess. The Ragamalika swara session for the pallavi saw Aruna's unique way of ending the swaras of the raga not in the pallavi but in the lines of a keerthana in that particular raga. Kalyani ended in ‘Vasudevayani', Hindolam ended in ‘Samagana Lole', Behag in ‘Dikkuteriyada Kattil' and Yaman in ‘Radha Sametha', all GNB's famous songs. This novel practice would certainly thrill the audience but could lead to the dilution of the sanctity of the pallavi culture. Musicians of the present generation look up to seniors such as Aruna as their role model and innovations such as these could send out wrong signals, ultimately resulting in the loss of the age-old pallavi singing tradition.
Vaidyanthan and Karthik excelled in the thani session. Aruna kept the accompanying artists on their toes throughout the concert. She ended with an abhang and a folk song which is doing the rounds these days ‘Vishama Kara Kannan.' She totally enjoyed her singing and was given a standing ovation at the end of the concert. Aruna has literally re-engineered her style to capture both the mass and the elite alike.