There was plenty of energy in the recitals of Salem Sriram and Mohan Santhanam.
Salem Sriram is a prince of aesthetics. He is committed to good music and hence, has concentrated on voice culture too. A resonating voice supported by brilliant modulation is an asset for him. His emphasis was more on enlightenment rather than on entertainment. Little wonder, as he is one of the prime disciples of Calcutta K. S. Krishnamurti.
Sriram’s RTP in Poornachandrika demonstrated his deep understanding of the structure of ragas. There was no trace of Janaranjani, the raga’s twin! Evidently, Sriram finds ample time in the U.S. to practise chaste Carnatic music. His initiative and individuality were unmistakably manifest throughout. The pallavi, ‘Poornachandra Nibhanana’ in Khanda jathi triputai had a unique pattern. He handled the second kala and tisram effortlessly.
Sriram has the knack of introducing a raga from the most uncommon phrase. Hemavathi was no exception which was projected in its regal splendour through an expansive alapana for Dikshitar’s masterpiece ‘Sri Kanthimathim.’ Niraval and swaras were at ‘Shuka Shaunakadi.’
In the Sama alapana, Sriram could bring out a few uncommon sancharas that enriched the rendering. Dikshitar’s rarely heard kriti ‘Guruguhaya Bhakthanugrahaya’ followed, with niraval and swaras at ‘Sakalagama Mantra.’ Earlier, he rendered Garbhapurivasa’s lilting ‘Brova Samayamide Ramayya’, in Gowrimanohari that had majesty, artistry and compassion. One felt he could have included at least one Tyagaraja keerthana.
Akkarai Sornalatha (violin) is an asset to any vocalist. She possesses the enviable talent of enriching a concert with her involved playing. Here too, she put in her best and her elucidation of Poornachandrika and Hemavathi had the stamp of authenticity.
The thani by Mudhra Bhaskar (mridangam) and Adambakkam Shankar (ghatam) was superb rhythmic exchange. Mudhra Bhaskar performed his role throughout as a brilliant accompanying artist, enhancing the overall musical impact.
Mohan Santhanam belongs to a family with rich musical lineage. His mother was the disciple of Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer while his uncle and aunt were the direct disciples of Kotiswara Iyer. He himself has been under the tutelage of T.R. Subramaniam, Dr.V.V. Srivatsa and N. Ravikiran.
Mohan has a sonorous voice that traverses the lower sthayi without any strain. His innovative skill was at its best in the raga alapana of Pavani, the 41st Melakartha. He did it with effortless ease. Kotiswara Iyer’s beautiful kriti, ‘Anjathe Nenjame’ in Misra Chapu was exquisitely rendered. The Kuntalavarali elucidation was equally rich and had a variety of rare sancharas. Swati Tirunal’s ‘Bhogindra Sayinam’ was another soulful rendition.
The Begada alapana had a few rare sancharas, and was absolutely appealing. What a sparkling rendering of Tyagaraja’s ‘Nadopasana!’ This is a kriti in which the saint clearly mentions Nadopasana, worship of Nada, and explains its power. This composition has a lot of subtle references. Mohan chose ‘Thanthrilaya’ for niraval and kalpanaswaras. The concluding korvai was literally the zenith.
Earlier, Mohan commenced with the Ata Tala Kanada Varnam, followed by Tyagaraja’s ‘Seethamma Mayamma’ (Vasantha-Rupakam) and Mahavaidyanatha Iyer’s ‘Pahimam Sri Rajarajeswari’ (Janaranjani).
Dr. M. Narmadha (violin) was totally at home in Pavani. Her Begada delineation was grammatically perfect and aesthetically charming. In the Kuntalavarali alapana, she produced a few unusual sancharas.
Erode Nagarajan (mridangam) along with Nanganallur Swaminathan (ghatam) produced a lovely thani after the Begada piece. It is hoped that both Sriram and Mohan will find their rightful places in the festival next year.