Like father like son. Valayapatti Malarvannan is a gifted artist, a wizard in fact. His brainchild, the Naadhalaya Group Concert, was a harmonious unison – not fusion or confusion - of sruti and laya. What he did was literally ashtavadana, doing at least eight things simultaneously.

He conducted the sparkling concert. He played on the thavil. He had to plan the next sequence of the concert. He had to arrange the next programme as the organiser of the festival. And, he managed to do all this with a smile.

Malarvannan's thavil was so musical and soft that none missed the mridangam. It is a wonder how he manages to have the perfect match and harmony between the right and left heads of thavil.

Easy on the ear

The permutations and combinations that he produced were easy on the ear. The tisra patterns in Khandanadai bore testimony to his proficiency.

The concert commenced with the traditional Mallari, in Sankeerna Triputai. M.R. Gopinath on the violin and Sruthi Sagar on the flute presented it regally.

A left hander, Malarvannan used the stick sparingly. Though he had finger caps, he was extremely restrained while accompanying. He opened up only in arudis and of course, during the thani. N. Sundar on the tabla and Papanasam Sethuraman on the ganjira provided the rhythmic variety.

Though Valayapatti Malarvannan was the man behind the show, he did not occupy centre stage. He was where the percussion instrument is supposed to be. That speaks for his adherence to tradition.

The next piece was the Gowla Pancharatna of Saint Tyagaraja, ‘Dhudukoogala.' The thavil too sang the kriti, in a way. M.R. Gopinath etched a handsome Dwijavanti.

In the Pallavi of Dikshithar's ever-green Akhilandeswari, the Gumukis that Malarvannan produced on the right head was appropriate and musical. The tabla and ganjira combination too, gave a soothing impact. The flute and violin offered an attractive improvised refrain at the conclusion of the song.

While the violin initiated the Purvikalyani alapana, Sruthi Sagar, with total confidence, followed it up with a brilliant delineation. ‘Anandanadamaduvaar Thillai' of Neelakanta Sivan in Rupaka Tala was the kriti.

The swaraprastaras were at Atheetham, ‘Natamaduvar Thillai.' The swara exchanges between flute and violin were lively. In ‘Ganamurthe' of Tyagaraja, again the tavil was outstanding, in that it literally rendered the song in soft rhythmic patterns.

The Bhairavi alapana on the flute was extensive and pleasing. Gopinath on the violin also produced a few flashes.

‘Yaro Ivar Yaro' of Arunachala Kavi came off beautifully with all its grandeur. On the stage, Valayapatti Malarvannan was seen making some last minute gestures and made the violin and flute render a ragamalika that comprised Sahana, Kapi, Kanada, Varali, Sama and Behag.

In the thani, the majesty of Malarvannan's Thavil came out loud and clear. His second avarthanam was indeed the grammar for perfection. The three percussion experts formed a wonderful team.

The concert concluded with ‘Govardhana Giridhari' of Narayana Tirtha (Darbari Kanada).

(ramakrishnan.h@gmail.com)