Bharat Veenalaya’s series of concerts highlighting the veena is a laudable venture.

Under the aegis of Bharat Veenalaya, a number of veena concerts were organised in the Capital recently, each belonging to a different school. One got to hear two such veena recitals at the Azad Bhavan, one by Rugmini Gopalakrishnan of Thiruvananthapuram and another by Suma Sudhindra of Bangalore. At a time when concerts of the veena, considered to be the queen of all the musical instruments in India, are on the decline, the efforts of the organisation to promote veena concerts simultaneously in the Capital and other places are laudable.

Both the concerts were for a short duration of about an hour or so. In Rugmini Gopalakrishnan’s recital the emphasis was more on bringing out the beauty and the subtle aspects of the compositions through the instrument, rather than on the improvisation techniques, which were very limited. The opening piece itself, an Adi tala varnam in raga Sahana, was very delightful. Her invocation song to Ganesha was Purandara Dasa’s “Sharanu Siddhi Vinayaka” in raga Sourashtram. After the pleasing rendering of Swati Tirunal’s “Mamava Jagadeeswara” in raga Saraswati Manohari and G.N. Balasubramanian’s “Saraswati Namostute” in raga Saraswati, Rugmini took up the main item, which was Harikesanallur Muthiah Baghavatar’s “Ratna kanchuka dharini” in raga Kamboji. It was here that Rugmini took to the improvisation techniques (raga alapana, taanam and kalpana swaras). Kumbakonam N. Padmanabhan on the mridangam and K. Ramamurthy on the ghatam provided good support.

In contrast, the emphasis in Suma Sudhindra’s recital was on speed and her creative skills. She even had a violin accompaniment, the need for which one did not understand, more so when she was playing the ragamalika taanams and did not provide the space for the violin accompanist to follow suit. Veena artistes do play taanam in the same raga after the alapana and before taking up the main composition. Again, what was the need for the ragamalika taanams? If Suma’s intention was to display her creative skills, one felt she could have played a complex ragam-taanam-pallavi in as many ragas as she presented the taanams.

Earlier, Suma started her recital with the raga Kalyani Adi tala varnam in four speeds, besides the Tisra gati. This was followed by the fast paced composition of Tyagaraja, “Manavinalakincha” in raga Nalinakanti. The main item in Suma’s recital was Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s “Marivere” in raga Shanmukhapriya. After the delightful raga alapana, taanams followed in ragas Varamu, Varali and Revati, besides Shanmukhapriya. The recital ended with a tillana in raga Hamsanandi. VSK Chakrapani on the violin, Kumbakonam N. Padmanabhan on the mridangam and K. Ramamurthy on the ghatam provided support.

Meddling mikes

Elsewhere, at the Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai-based T.M. Krishna’s Carnatic vocal concert on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was not quite enjoyable. The disturbing mike system had to be switched off midway at the insistence of Krishna. Krishna took up two compositions of Tyagaraja, namely, “Etavunara” in raga Kalyani and “Pakkala nilabadi” in raga Kharaharapriya, for detailed rendition. Chennai-based R. Hemalatha on the violin and K. Arun Prakash on the mridangam accompanied Krishna.