Ambalappuzha Vijayakumar's concert of Sopana Sangeetham was a rare treat for the audience in Kochi.
‘Sopana Sangeetham,' Kerala's indigenous musical legacy, was confined to temples for a long time. This genre of music in praise of the deities is known as ‘Sopana sangeetham' as it sung at the ‘Sopanam,' the steps of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Popularly known as ‘Kottipadi seva,' Sopana Sangeetham is recited as a ritual while various rituals are performed inside the sanctum sanctorum. It was legendary singer Njeralathu Rama Poduval who took the lead to popularise this art form outside the temple. Accomplished ‘sopanam' singers of the present day have developed concerts devoted to ‘Sopana Sangeetham.' A Sopana Sangeetham concert in Ernakulam, featuring Ambalappuzha Vijayakumar, was a rare treat for music connoisseurs.
Style of singing
Vijayakumar was initiated into music by his father Ambalappuzha Parameswsara Kurup, who was the Sopanam singer of Ambalappuzha Sreekrishna Temple. Vijayakumar's debut was at Puthumana Mudampadi Temple at the age of 10. He learned the basics of Carnatic music as well as the different styles of Sopanam singing prevalent in central and northern parts of Kerala. His improvised style of rendering is largely influenced by the lessons he learned from Aaliparambil Sivarama Poduval, an exponent of the ‘Vatakan' (Northern) style. The most significant feature of Vijayakumar's rendition is soulful singing, and clear enunciation of lyrics in his resonant voice.
Except for Jayadeva's Ashtapadi, all the songs were in Malayalam and so the audience were able to tune in to the lyrics of the songs as well.
Vijayakaumar began his recital with a traditional ‘Thyani' in Samantha Malahari. The rendition was in the ‘Vatakan' style and embedded with gamakas. It was followed by a Ganapathi sthuthi in Saurashtra and a Siva sthuthi in Ahiri.
The singer came up with an excellent rendition of ‘Vasudevatmajam' in Suruti. A memorable rendering of popular kriti ‘Valiya Kesadi padam,' written by Poonthanam, describing the Goddess, delighted the listeners. Jayadeva's masterpiece Alankara ashtapadi ‘Sreeta kamalakucha…' was sung soulfully in ragamalika.
‘Sabarigeerisham,' based on Sankarabharanam, and a hymn in praise of Ardhanareeswara – ‘Purujadaketty….' – which Vijayakumar sang next was in the Thiruvattar (Thekkan) style of Sopana sangeetham. A few Dhandakams of Kalamezhuthu pattu were in the Vatakan style. Vijayakumar wound up the concert with the kriti ‘Sailaraja thanaye' in Madhyamavathi.
The concert was organised by Beame.