Looks like nagaswaram vidwan Seshampatti Sivalingam is a staunch believer in the Ariyakkudi format. While nagaswaram vidwans are known for playing elaborate raga alapanas, Sivalingam, in a span of two and a half hours, neatly packed a dozen kritis and yet did not disappoint the rasikas. Despite the thin attendance in the beginning, which however swelled to respectable crowd later, he had put up a good show, marking the beginning of the Margazhi music with the traditional instrument.
Normally, nadaswaram is provided at the inaugural functions in sabhas and the moment the VIP arrives in the premises, the vidwan is asked to hasten and no sooner the VIP reaches the hall than the vidwan and his entourage would be sent off from the stage almost unceremoniously. The Academy should be complimented for opening the festival with a full-fledged nagaswaram concert and honouring the artist in the presence of the audience.
Sivalingam began with invocatory song in Sriranjani raga, ‘Gajavadana’ of Papanasam Sivan, with a brief alapana. Tyagaraja’s ‘Marugelara’ was the next and here too, his Jayantasri alapana was brief. The swarakalpanas were short but proportionate to the kriti. Again for the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Kanukontini’, there was alapana in Bilahari preceding the song. Albeit short, he etched the contours of the raga clearly.
When Sivalingam began the alapana of Kharaharapriya, one thought he would embark on a large canvas to paint the raga elaborately. However, he reserved it for the main piece and rendered ‘Pakkala Nilabadi’ without much ado. The Sanskrit kriti ‘Mamavasu Govinda’ of Mysore Vasudevachar (Sama -Rupakam) is not often heard and it was pleasing to listen to this song with poignant touches usually associated with Sama.
Kalyani was the main raga of the concert, and Sivalingam chose to render ‘Vasudevayani’ of Tyagaraja. The niraval was succinct but the swarakalpanas were given much space. The lighter piece of javali ‘Sarasamula’ in Kapi followed next, after an exuberant display of thani on the thavil by Mannargudi Vasudevan and Koviloor Kalyanasundaram.
Andal’s Tiruppavai, ‘Oruthi Maganai Piranthu’ in Behag, perhaps a must in the month of Margazhi, found the place in the miscellaneous items, including ‘Katrinile Varum Geetham’ of Kalki from the film ‘Meera’, a tillana in Revathi (by Madurai A. Srinivasan), ‘Jagajanani’ (Rathipathipriya) made famous by Dandapani Desikar and Rajaji’s ‘Kurai Onrum Illai’ serving as the grand finale.
This writer recalls the article ‘Melody of the duck instrument’ (The Friday Review, March 13, 2009, by Suganthy Krishnamachari) wherein the German girl Martina Leopoldt, who was in Chennai and learnt to play the nagaswaram, expressed the opinion that the instrument should not have microphones in sabhas. “The nagaswaram is a loudest wind instrument in the world and your sabhas provide amplification for the nagaswaram too!” I, for one, would endorse this suggestion.
Incidentally, many are not aware that Sivalingam hails from Seshampatti, the most backward, dry area between Salem and Dharmapuri and did his gurukulavasam under Keeranur Ramaswami Pillai in Nagapattinam!