Sankaranarayanan preferred high-speed phrases while Aiswarya Shankar chose for a leisurely pace.
Sarasangi was child’s play for V. Sankaranarayanan. He could effortlessly traverse the entire gamut of the raga. If anyone had any doubt about the scope of this not-so-popular raga, one ought to listen to him. His Sarasangi had all the melody, range and depth of a major raga.
His resonant voice and endless creativity provided vigour and elegance to the 27 raga. Commencing with subtle phrases, he went on to flashy expressions spontaneously. The violinist V.V. Ravi offered a leisurely and an equally classic version of the raga.
While many whispers in the audience suggested ‘Jaya Jaya Padmanabha’ of Swati Tirunal, Sankaranarayanan threw a surprise by rendering ‘Unathu Thiruvadi Nambi Vanthen’ of Gopalakrishna Bharathi. Frankly, I was listening to this krithi for the first time. In the swara prasthara, the janta prayogas were pleasing. Overall, it was a rewarding experience.
The main raga was Bhairavi. I don’t think he had to put in any effort into it. The raga on its own gushed like a fountain. He seems to be partial to high-speed phrases. The high octave sancharas were marvellous. Ravi brought out the jivan of the raga through elegantly woven phrases. The all-time favourite swarajathi, ‘Amba Kamakshi’ was the chosen piece. It is a structural beauty with the swaras and sahitya vying with each other. Niraval was at ‘Syamakrishna Sodari.’
The thani by Neyveli B. Venkatesh (mridangam) and B.S. Purushotham (ganjira) was a rhythmic beauty in misra chapu with soft touches. Yes, touches indeed. Because, neither of them used one hard beat. Purushotham is an asset to any concert as he adds an undercurrent of melodic rhythm.
Those days, Tiger Varadachari used to sing Desh and say that everything else is Videsh! With Sankaranarayanan, it was pure Desh. And, he offered a twenty minute RTP in it, ‘Varade Sharade Sakalavarade.’ Sankaranarayanan commenced his concert with Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar’s Ata tala Kanada varnam, ‘Neranammithi.’ The day was still young and Kanada was a warm, welcome selection. Dikshitar’s ‘Ganapathe Mahamathe’ (Kalyani) had swaras at ‘Himadrija Sutha’ – Madhyama Kala. He wound up with a Shobhanam of Tyagaraja, ‘Ramakrishna Govinda’ of Bhadrachala Ramadas and a Tiruppugazh.
It was a magnificent Vachaspathi by Aiswarya Shankar; an index to her profound musical talent. She is endowed with a sweet voice that could easily traverse all three octaves. The alapana covered every possible shade of this majestic raga.
On the violin, young Sriram Sridhar (he has just completed his Plus Two) responded competently with an equally well produced elucidation. Swati Tirunal’s ‘Pahi Jagajjanani’, a sacred combination of poetry and serene music, was rendered elegantly. The niraval at the anupallavi, ‘Mohana Thara Gathri’ brought out the essence of this stately raga. The swaraprasthara was musically sweet. Another youngster R. Ramkumar was on the mridangam and his thani was pleasing.
Equally absorbing was Aiswarya’s Begada, which offered ample scope for creativity. The alapana had classical depth in every prayoga. ‘Sankari Neeve’ was the chosen krithi.
The composer, Subbaraya Sastri, the second son of Syama Sastri, was a worthy son of a great father. He was a gifted singer and a violin artist. He had the fortune of tutelage under Saint Tyagaraja. Little wonder that he could compose kritis in draksha rasa.
Aiswarya’s rendition highlighted the element of devotion. She commenced her concert with a slokam on Hayagriva, followed by the evergreen Durbar varnam, ‘Chalamela’. She then sang Papanasam Sivan’s Ritigowla kriti ‘Thathvamariya Tharama’, popularised by Madurai Mani Iyer.
The composition has a unique structure. The swarams at ‘Mathisekaran’ were appropriate. ‘Atu Karadani’, a composition of Tyagaraja in Manoranjani, was breezy. Aiswarya concluded her recital with a Bhairavi Javali and a ragamalika Tiruppugazh.