The main raga Poorvikalyani is threatening to become this season's record-maker for the number of times sung
There is a genre of Carnatic music that may be called “21st Century”! Leading musicians of the latter half of the 20th century have contributed a lot to the creation of this genre. Chaitra Sairam's performance at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Mini Hall on Saturday evening with accompaniment by K.J. Dilip (violin) and Kumbakonam Swaminathan (mridangam) was in accordance with this genre.
Chaitra commenced her concert with an invocation to Vinayaka in Abhogi, composed by Spencer Venugopal. The appendage of kalpana swaras followed inevitably. Conscious of the time limit in this season of multi-layered concerts in most sabhas, she quickly launched an alapana of Mukhari with a striking opening phrase that brought out the identity of the raga instantaneously. She sang Tyagaraja's Sangita shastra gnanamu impressively with neraval and swaras at the lines, prema bhakti.
There was a lot of dignity in the manner in which Chaitra handled Raga Kosalam. She sang a good alapana and followed it up with Koteeswara Iyer's Ka guha shanmukha. Thereafter, she sang an elaborate Hindolam (sub-main, as it is known in local circles). She mixed melodic phrases well with fast-paced akara passages and presented the raga with bhava and sowkhyam without the element of melodrama. Papanasam Sivan's Sama gana lolane was the kriti, sung with swaras at the end.
The main raga for the evening was Poorvikalyani, which is already threatening to become this season's record-maker for the number of times sung! The image of the raga was intact. It was a competent handling of the raga but Chaitra belongs to a generation that hears Poorvikalyani more as a straight scale and seems oblivious to the vakra phrases which ought to be heard more often. Ninnuvinga mari dikkevvarunnaru (Shyama Shastri) was sung in the normal Mishra Chapu (not viloma chapu). She sang a good neraval at pannaga bhushanudai, skipped swaras in the slower tempo, probably for want of time, and passed on to the tani after a spell of fast-paced swaras.
K.J. Dilip played with tonal clarity and showed clear evidence of the Parur style of violin. His bowing was good even at this high pitch. His Hindolam had a touch of Malkauns but his Kosalam sounded more of an up-and-down glide over the scale. On the whole, Dilip is a good accompanying violinist to have by the side of the main artiste. There is a spark in Kumbakonam Swaminathan's mridangam accompaniment. His kalapramanam is steady and there is a punch in his playing that enlivens the proceedings.
Chaitra's voice does not flow comfortably in the higher octave. Despite her fidelity to sruti, her inadequate tonal quality in the upper region mars the overall impact on the listener. Sometimes, her swaraprastaras did not finish well. What she has to watch out for is, “doing everything right”, by itself, is not a recipe for a great concert!
(Prof. T.T. Narendran teaches at the Department of Management Studies, IIT-Madras, and is a vainika and a connoisseur of music)