Three generations of musicians were represented on stage at S. Saketharaman's concert for The Indian Fine Arts Society on Tuesday — veteran mridangam vidwan Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, M.A. Sundareswaran on the violin and S. Karthick on the ghatam, and finally, the youngest and the main artiste of the evening, S. Saketharaman.
Saketharaman commenced his concert with the Durbar varnam Chalamela in Adi tala. A pleasant rendition of Swati Tirunal's Deva deva in Mayamalavagowla followed. The neraval exchanges between the vocalist and violinist were especially beautiful. Many musicians tend to render the charanam after neraval and kalpanaswaras as a formality and Saketharaman did just that. Tyagaraja's Chalamelara in Marga Hindolam was followed by an alapana in Varamu (also known as Shuddha Hindolam). This may have been a conscious choice by the vocalist but the switch did not immediately work for the listener. Once in the zone, the Varamu alapana was excellently executed with the vocalist showcasing his grasp and manodharma. The ragam was just perfect for a Parur heir and Sundareswaran provided a brilliant essay on the violin with shades of Hindustani aesthetics.
The kriti Tunaipurindarul of Papanasam Sivan was sensitively presented and followed by crisp neraval and kalpanaswaras. Varanarada in Vijayashri was probably meant as a short and quick piece to precede the ragam tanam pallavi. But Sivaraman seemed to decide that he wanted to play the tani avartanam here, probably enticed by the high speed of the kriti.
Saketharaman chose to present a dwi-raga ragam tanam pallavi in Mohanam and Ranjani set to Chaturashra jati jhampa in khanda nadai. The raga alapana was restricted to Mohanam and Saketharaman brought out all the beautiful hues of the raga. Sundareswaran's alapana provided yet another exposition of his musical maturity and technical skill. The tanam was however marred by the mridangam robbing it of its unique feel and identity. Saketharaman negotiated the two ragas and the two eduppus in a complex tala with consummate ease. The pallavi was rendered in four speeds and what was notable was the lack of fuss with which he did it. Following the pallavi was yet another tani avartanam.
Saketharaman, despite the relatively high pitch has an inherently robust voice but his tonal mannerisms are excessive and unnecessary. The exaggerated volume modulation seems forced and artificial. Probably, this is derived from the tonal variations of the violin as he is a disciple of Lalgudi Jayaraman. While it works for the violin, it sounds exaggerated on the voice. He also needs to be conscious of and overcome the occasional nasality.
Umayalpuram Sivaraman's fingers and brain have no cognition of his age. His energy, sharpness of mind and dexterity of hand would put a 20-year-old to shame. The high speed tani in Adi tala and the tani following the pallavi were electrifying. In the rare opportunities that Karthick got to play, he amply rose to the occasion.
When a veteran like Sivaraman shares stage with a young talent like Saketharaman, there is something very gracious about the picture. But this was marred by his forcible hogging of limelight. For someone of Sivaraman's stature to do so was not gracious. Two tanis in a two-hour concert?
(Viswanath Parasuram is an educator and founder of Karadi Tales. He is also a vocalist and mridangist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)