Bhajans and devotional kritis by various composers were presented with solemnity at the Kalpadruma music festival.
The insignia of the Kalpadruma Arts & Artists Annual Festival signified cymbals to indicate the theme of bhajans or namasankeertanam. So the inaugural day programme was aptly termed as ‘Naama Pravaaham,’ which was designed and presented by mridangam maestro Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman.
Everyone knows that bhajans anchor more on rhythmic structure, and it is a challenge for many percussion artists to play for bhajans. With present day rasikas willing to experiment, Sivaraman infused some novelty and included not just bhajans but popular compositions of Tyagaraja, Dikshitar, Syama Sastri, Purandaradasa, Ramdas, Narayana Theerthar, Andal, Papanasam Sivan and G.N. Balasubramaniam. After all, these kritis too sing the glory of the Almighty.
It is just superfluous to list the kritis offered that day. However, for the record, ‘Varavallabha Ramana’ (Hamsadhwani), ‘Sooryamoorthey’ (Sowrashtram), ‘Thunai Purindarul’ (Varamu), ‘Tharunameethamma’ (Gowlipanthu) and ‘Geetharthamu’ (Suruti) are a few which could hardly fit into the genre of bhajans, yet in the general sense, could be termed as devotional music.
Up and coming artists K. Bharat Sundar, R. Ragavendra, Sandeep Narayan and Rithvik Raja sang in unison and in parts with cymbals and ‘ciplakattai’ in their hands. B. Srikrishnan followed them on the harmonium while Sivaraman bolstered the proceedings. The audience was so enthusiastic that even a 30-second raga alapana drew applause. True, there was a surge (pravaaham) of devotional songs; but, at no point, did the programme touch the pulsating crescendo of vocal or rhythm, which is generally the highpoint of a bhajan. The dynamic youngsters gave their best with an inflection here, an excursion there, unusual sangatis and a few artistic touches to the proceedings which otherwise would have turned just mundane.
The second day saw Priya Sisters offering a repertoire that was on the theme ‘Om Namo Naraayana’ in the company of M.A. Krishnaswamy on the violin, Delhi Sairam on the mridangam and B. Purushottam on the ganjira. The siblings stuck to the usual concert format but dedicated the last segment to bhajans.
Their elaborate essays of Subhapantuvarali and Khambodi carried delectable passages. Subhapantuvarali, shared by both, had finesse while Khambodi by Haripriya was more energetic than empathetic. T.R. Subramaniam’s Behag varnam, Ponniah Pillai’s ‘Ranganathude’ in Sowrashtram, Annamacharya’s ‘Garudagamana’ in Hindolam and poet Pothana’s verses in Saveri, Shanmukhapriya and Neelambari led to ‘Ennage Manasu’ of Tyagaraja and Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Satyanarayanam.’ Here the sisters chose to go for some brisk swarakalpana on the line ‘Matsya Koorma Varaha’.
Kavi Kunjara Bharati’s ‘Ivan Yaro’ in Khambodi went for detailing on ‘Padathil Oru Mangai’ with bouncy swara sallies between the sisters and the accompanying artists.
The bhajan part included slokas preceding numbers such as ‘Pibare Ramarasam’, ‘Nigama Nirmartha’ and the colourful Madhurashtakam to the chime of the cymbals.