The annual Swati Sangeethotsavam in Thiruvananthapuram pays homage to Swati Tirunal by devoting the entire festival to his compositions. The fete this year featured both maestros and up-and-coming musicians.
The Kuthiramalika Palace in the capital city qualifies as a perfect venue for the annual Swati Sangeethotsavam, for it was in this palace that the composer King lived for some time. As it is the centenary year of Swati, the fete was extended to 10 days instead of the usual seven days.
The festival began with a scintillating concert by Sanjay Subramanyam. He was accompanied by Varadarajan (violin), Arjun Ganesh (mridangam), Udupi Srikanth (ganjira) and S. Karthick (ghatam).
Beginning with ‘Jaya Jaya Padmanabha’ in Sarasangi, Sanjay went on to render ‘Samodam’ in Shuddha Dhanyasi.
One of the highlights of the concert was a melodious Manipravalam song ‘Andolika vahane’ in Anandabhairavi. The main was ‘Pahi Jagajanani’ in Vachaspathi, which was an ideal blend of technique and aesthetics.
After tani came a ‘Gopala’ in Bageshree.
On the second day, Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma embarked on his melodic journey with a Kamas pada varnam followed by ‘Rama Rama’ in Bhoopalam and a melting ‘Kamala nayana’. Accompanists were Vardarajan (violin), Harikumar (mridangam) and Karthick (ghatam). The main was ‘Nrithyathi nrithyathi’ in Shankarabharanam. The accompanists came up with a brilliant tani. Rama Varma’s concert came to an end with a charming ‘Namasudharasa’ in Kapi.
Ramakrishnan Murthy’s recital exceeded expectations. It opened with the varnam ‘Suma Sayaka’, a masterpiece by Swati that encompasses a picturesque frame of Kapi raga. A fast-paced ‘Karunakara’ in Begada that followed had fluent manodharma swarams rendered with spirit.
‘Palayamadhavamamanisham’, a kriti enriched with several swaraksharams in Asaveri, and ‘Deva Deva Jagadeesha’ in Poorvikalyani were impressive right from the raga visthara to the swaras.
Avaneeswaram S.R. Vinu on the violin came up with a unblemished portrayal of Thodi raga, technically exploring its nuances and transitioning through sruthibhedams. The main kriti ‘Bharathi mamava’ was adorned with stately niravel and moving swaras. The taniavarthanam by Palghat Maheshkumar on the mridangam and P.L Sudheer on the ghatam included many crowd-pulling elements to woo rasikas. Light kritis in Behag, Aahiri and Dhanashree were sung towards the end of the concert.
On the sixth day, a vocal concert by veteran Venkataramanan opened with the kriti ‘Mamava Jagadeeshwara’ in the rare Saraswathi manohari raga.
‘Mamava karunaya’ in Shanmughapriya, ‘Shri kumara’ in Atana, ‘Vihara maanasa’ in Sudha Bhairavi and the main kriti in Kalyani were the highlights of the concert. Accompanying artistes were Sriramkumar (violin), Ganapathyraman (mridangam) and Udupi Sreedhar (ghatam). ‘Devaki Sutha’ in Madhyamavathi was the concluding song.
The Hindustani vocal concert of the fete was by Debapriya Adhikary. The concert began with an alaap in raag Sudha kalyan with mellifluous phrases touching the tender nodes of the scale. Samanwaya Sarkar on the sitar skimmed through the soft surface of the raag, which created an ethereal mood.
‘Vishwesharu Darshan’, a poignant composition in Dhanashree, marked the conclusion of the soulful concert. Nitin Mitta gave the team good support on the tabla.
Vighnesh Eashwar’s recital opened with the elegant varnam ‘Chalamela’ in Shankarabharanam. The singer’s resonant voice and eloquent style turned ‘Paripalaya’ in Reetigowla into a marvel. The attractive opening of the charanam of the kriti and improvised swaras that followed were immaculately rendered. The raga alapana, steeped in the rich essence of Sahana, proved to be soothing. ‘Jayajayaraghu Rama’, set to mischra chapu, sung with aesthetic swarams, was the kriti.
The Bhairavi raga visthara (main raga) that displayed a seasoned singer's potential contained all the classical components of the scale. ‘Janani Mamava’ set to mischra chapu was the main composition. Accompanying artistes S.R Mahadeva Sharma (violin), K.V Prasad (mridangam), Udupi Srikanth (ganjira) and Guruprasad (ghatam) contributed to the success of the concert.
On the final day of the fete, veteran vocalist O.S. Arun bridged the gap between Carnatic and Hindustani classical music with his innovative rendering, enhancing the beauty of the Swati kritis.
The singer began with Arabhi raga, which was sung with delicate touches. The off-beat rhythmic punctuations on the tabla to the Carnatic kriti ‘Pahi parvatha’ during the charanam was a creative exercise. A harmonious outline of Bilahari with long glides inscribing its melodic routes in the visthara became an unforgettable experience thanks to the vocalist and the violinist.
Moments of bliss for the musicians and the audience came in the form of ‘Bhavayami’, the ragamalika kriti based on the Ramayana. It began with the interesting Saveri raga alapanam in three-fourths tala. Further, during the song each raga's character was accentuated by the niravel that was sung from the heart.
Sarasangi raga (main) was explored at length.
The main kriti ‘Jaya Jaya Padmanabha’ had improvisations in swaras with a unique flavour. The pakkamelam was handled by M.R Gopinath (violin), J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam), S. Karthick (ghatam) and Ganapathi (tabla). The bhajans, which is Arun’s forte, were a befitting conclusion to the festival.