Hamirkalyani was appropriate with Prince Rama Varma's voice and style of singing. TVG's Kalyani had the signature of his guru, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar.
Take any standard text book on Carnatic music, you will come across references to ‘minor ragas' that “do not give much scope for elaboration.” In his concert for AIMA, Prince Rama Varma proved this wrong by elaborating Hamirkalyani making a brilliant exposition.
Prince Rama Varma, a scion of the Travancore royal family and a disciple of K.V. Narayanasamy and Balamuralikrishna, has a light voice that gently flits over the musical notes. Hamirkalyani was eminently appropriate for his voice and style of singing. The raga could be identified even in the opening phrase. It was a sweet alapana and the violinist, Dr Hemalatha, did a good job of following it.
The vocalist singer chose Swati Tirunal's ‘Gangeyavasana dhara.' There are a few interesting features in the Prince's style of alapana singing. He plays a lot around the lower octave notes for a splendid bass effect. There are not too many briga sequences, nor does he stress on long karvais on each note. Phrases are short and clipped. All these were evident in both Hamirkalyani and the previous piece, Saveri (Barayya Venkataramana of Purandara Dasar).
Clearly, swara singing is Prince Varma's strong forte. He sings a lot of single tala cycle (ekaavarthana) swaras - a fading trait that is today only with a handful of elderly musicians. In fact, the swaras for Saveri ended with some ten ekaavarthana rounds. For the Hamirkalyani piece, the singer used the prathi madhyamam as the landing point for his sequences during kuraippu.
Earlier, Prince Varma sang Dikshitar's ‘Siddhi Vinayakam' in Shanmukhapriya and it was here that the lack of ‘weight' in the singer's voice seemed to be a handicap.
‘Barayya Venkataramana' was rather an odd choice. The dasar kirtana is popular among 'namasankirtanam' music and to select that was rather unwise, considering that a Hamirkalyani was to follow. Both are slow-moving. Wedged between the Shanmukhapriya and Saveri was a Nalinakanti (Manavyala of Tyagaraja). Swaras again were brilliant.
Shertalai Ananthakrishnan extended the ‘Hamirkalyani mood' with his feather-touch play and did a good job of giving percussive support.
T.V. Gopalakrishnan's concert makes one happy partly through his music and partly from the cheer he spreads. Happiness just exudes from the colourful artist and engulfs everyone. The nonchalant stroking of his long locks, the raised arm that indicates the place of a swara, the roll of his shoulders in rhythm with the tala, the effusive praise showered on accompanists, the unfading smile on his face - all these go to make them a success.
His concert comprised three major elements - Vasantha Bhairavi, Bilahari and Kalyani. The alapana of Vasantha Bhairavi was breezy and had obvious touches of Balamuralikrishna, whom TVG has accompanied on the mridangam innumerable times. Tyagaraja's ‘Nee Daya Raada' was the song chosen and was delivered without any loss of the composition's devotional import.
The kalpanaswaras that tagged the composition ended in 'ni' rather emphatically, like the sharp ring of a bell, and that made the listening even more fun. Not that his music is any less compelling.
After a quick Kannadagowla (‘Sogasu Chooda Tarama'), came the Bilahari alapana, which was neat, though unremarkable. It was in the song that followed - Patnam Subramanya Iyer's ‘Parithanamichethe' - that TVG's affecting mannerisms had a telling bearing on the listening experience. The Jampa tala composition is generally delivered in a speedy gait, and with Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam responding with enthusiasm, the Bilahari piece came out very well.
TVG offered a Syama Sastri composition in the raga Kalagada, a derivative of the 13th Melakarta Gayakapriya. The raga uses a vivadi note, suddha nishadam, and sounds a bit like Bowli. TVG's rendition of ‘Parvathi Ninnu' brought memories of D.K. Jayaraman who loved singing the song in his concerts.
The main piece of the concert was Kalyani. The alapana featured unmistakable signature phrases of his guru, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, which TVG produced with closed-mouth and sideway-jerks of the lower jaw-an interesting style of singing.
TVG was accompanied on the mridangam by Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, who arrived 30 minutes late, and on the violin by V.V.S. Murari.