At Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Coimbatore Kendra, Aruna Sairam's concert was scintillating, Neyveli Santhanagopalan's lecdem was scholarly. O.S. Thyagarajan's recital brought forth his vidwat and Vijayalakshmi Subramaniam exhibited her control over laya.

The 15th Pongal music festival organised by the Coimbatore Kendra of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in its campus began with the conferment of Sangeet Samrat award on Valayapatti A.R. Subramaniam and Kovai Subri Muruga Gana award to K.V. Nataraja Bhagavathar.

Following the award ceremony, the vocal recital of Aruna Sairam with her quicksilver voice to the accompaniment of Bhaskar on the violin, Satish Kumar on the mridangam and Ramani on the ghatam cast a spell on the listeners. who had occupied all vantage points of the Bhavan. Aruna, a popular singer, has carved a niche for herself and she casts a spell on the listeners. ‘Sree Vignarajam Bhaje’ in Gambhira Nattai embellished with swaras was the curtain raiser and she followed it up with ‘Anandamruthakarshini.’ Her presentation of the song prefaced by a virutham of Pattinathar in Paras was scintillating. Her alapana of Sahana with run-of-the-mill phrasings lacked gana naya for the kriti, ‘Vandanamu.’ Though she mapped the contours of the raga, Kalyani with imaginative sancharas, she could have chosen a weightier kriti to show her vidwat instead of ‘Vasudevatani.’ The swara blizzard following the niraval was a virtual stormy crescendo. Her abhang on Vittal, ‘Vishamakkara Kannan,’ a Purandaradasa bhajan, etc were intended to appease the gallery. Bhaskar’s mellifluous accompaniment on the violin in meeting the challenges of the vocalist and the percussion support of Satish Kumar (mridangam) and Ramani (ghatam) added punch to the Kutcheri.

Erudite exposition

An illuminative and scholarly exposition of Saint Tyagaraja’s concept of sangeetham as a means to realisation of God was given by Neyveli Santhanagopalan in his lec-dem on ‘Karnataka Sangeeetham Ennum Yogam’ as part of the Pongal music festival held at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Coimbatore Kendra. The learned vidwan said that Carnatic music was nothing but the essence (saaram) of Samaveda. Sage Narada with his divine instrument, Veena, was a bard singing the glory of the Lord. Hence, veda janitha vara veena vaadana. The pranava sound ‘OM’ was the base – aadhaara shadjam from which the sapthaswaras emanated. Where there is vibration there is sound. It is this sound when properly raised from the naabhi (navel) that makes the mind become one with the Supreme. The learned speaker said that sound (sabdam) was of two kinds – anaahatam and aahatam. While anaahata sabdam was the sound heard within man, the aahata sabdam emerged from an external beat. Gamakam, the life blood of Carnatic music and sangatis enhanced the total effect of the saptaswaras. The emanation of the first raga was Mohanam according to all texts in Tamil literature and Tholkappiar. The entire Thiruvachakam was composed in ragam, Mohanam. There are ample references of words borrowed from Sanskrit used in Tamil classics. Referring to swanubhava, the vidwan said that rasanai (appreciation) of a composition itself is yogam. Bhakti, gnana and yoga will lead one to the ultimate realisation. The bard of Tiruvaiyaru emphasised this aspect through his varied compositions. Explaining the various aspects of composition, the artist said that a good composition had yati (metaphor’s and allegories), visramam or visranti (relaxation) and sadbhakti (true devotion to the Lord). Tyagaraja’s compositions thus exemplify the naada yoga. The entire pancharatna kritis was the distilled essence of yoga marga. Speaking at length, Santhanagopalan said that the power of naada was like a cobra raising its head. The poorvanga (sa,ri,ga ma) and uttaranga (pa,da,ni,sa) swaras when produced from the naabhi (navel) and tuned harmoniously, activate the chakras in the human body. This is the amplification of the pranava naadaswaroopa.

Tyagaraja exemplified the true state of yoga marga through a synthetic union from the panchamam to shadjam. A good artist should become skilled in handling all the swaras. The exponent sang relevant compositions of the bard to illustrate his statements. K. Balasubramaniam on the violin and Prakash on the mridangam were the accompanists. Vaidyanathakrishnan, musicologist, summed up the proceedings succinctly.

Impressive performance

O.S.Thyagarajan in his vocal recital displayed his music sense and vidwat. His impressive performance whether in the rendition of kritis or manodharma aspects in alapanas, niraval and swaras kept the session lively through out. Beginning with ‘Karunimpa’ in Sahana with chittaswarams with elan, ‘Balakanakamaya’ (Ataana) and ‘Sethamma Mayamma’ (Vasantha) following next were sung with swaras. The kutcheri took a breezy complexion with his spontaneous vistaram of Sriranjani with sancharas for the kriti, ‘Petridalam Maname.’ Long karvais and gorgeous sancharas of Varali alapana for the kriti, ‘Eti Janma’ added vigour to the recital. The highlight of the session was Khambodi for the kriti, ‘O! Rangasayee’ was built around sensitive and core perceptive sancharas and the niraval and swaras at ‘Bhooloka Vaikunta’ were refreshing. Ambika Prasad proved his competence to follow the vocalist convincingly on the violin. The rhythmic support of Thyagarajan (mridangam) with his grip on kalapramanams played zestfully for a wholesome recital.

Melodic interpretation

Sunadha pravaham marked the vocal concert of Vijayalakshmi Subramaniam at the second day of the concert. The intensity and richness of her musical frame of mind was visible in her melodic interpretation of the ragas and compositions she had carefully selected. Her opening Bhairavi varnam ‘Viribhoni,’ in two speeds, warmed the cockles of the rasikas’ heart creating the right ambience for the music session. The following ‘Jaya Jaya’ in Nattai with a spate of kalpanaswaras

attested to her complete command over laya. After a brisk rendition of ‘Sadinchane,’ her expansion of Varali, interspersing it with rakti sancharas, was an outstanding feature of the recital for the kriti, ‘Maamava Meenakshi.’ The magic casements she wove around Mohanam with intricate patterns for the kriti, ‘Kapali,’ was a soothing experience. Her

sense of sahitya bhava was evident in her interpretation of ‘Kamala Charana’ in Amritabehag. The joie-de-vivre of the kutcheri was her RTP in Shanmukhapriya with the pallavi- ‘Sarigamapadanisa Paaduvom Saamagaanamrutha Saaramaam’ and her raga sancharas in Sankarabharanam, Saveri and Hindolam.

Subhalakshmi (violin) scanned the ragas in her solo versions with an eye on their beauteous light and shade. Balaji’s (mridangam) grip on kalapramanams and vivacious sollus and Rajaganesh’s (ganjira) measured strokes made the thani enjoyable.

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