Supple voice, uniform timbre and perfect sruti alignment were the hallmarks of Sashwathi Prabhu’s concert.
The essence of Saint Tyagaraja’s music was bhakti, which encompasses all other virtues of life such as truth, piety, love and humility, to name a few. None of his kritis were a deliberate attempt but his heart’s outpouring. The seamless sewing of his verses into music is to be experienced to be believed. The meter is just apt. Crossing language barriers, his kritis have been sung for ages now and has stood the test of time, rather have become immortal, a gift of the divine. His kritis immerse a keen listener into a stage of emotional ecstasy, even without knowing the meaning of the kriti. One is bound to be transported to a different plane if only he/she gets a deeper understanding of the saint’s kritis. In this perspective Sri Tyagaraja Rasanubhava series helps ardent devotees of Tyagaraja to soak themselves in his musical verses and one such concert was presented by Sashwathi Prabhu, disciple of Lalgudi Jayaraman, recently at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.
Gifted with a silky yet powerful voice, Sashwathi Prabhu earnestly attempted to approach the Saint’s kritis more from a devotional aspect keeping the raga and swara content to a minimum. And she was successful too. It was also heartening to spot a few rasikas carrying the book of kritis by Saint Tyagaraja written by T.S. Parthasarathy and keenly referring to it as each kriti was presented. This was despite the organisers giving a gist of the meaning of each kriti over the PA system.
In the company of Muthukumar (flute), Arulanandam (thavil), Kumbakonam Swaminathan (mridangam) and Nagarathinam (effects), Sashwathi started with ‘Sobillu Saptaswara’ (Jaganmohini). Understanding his role in a vocal concert Arulanandam’s efforts were commendable. He displayed hismaster stroke play without being aggressive. ‘Sri Rama Paadama’ (Amritavahini) where Tyagaraja prays to his Ishta Deivam - Sri Rama for his Blessings similar to the ones he bestowed upon Ahalya and many rishis of his time.
‘Teliyaleru Rama’ was a photocopy rendition of Lalgudi’s style, nevertheless Sashwathi captured the mood where the Saint laments about how difficult it will be to lead oneself into the path of devotion, if the worldly pleasures occupy the mind. A brief but neat Sriranjani raga alapana followed by an equally effective reply in his flute by Muthukumar paved way for a facile rendering of ‘Sogasuga.’
Sashwathi’s supple voice, with a uniform timber over all the octaves is a natural advantage which she capitalised. The sruthi alignment was just perfect. Keeping pace with thavil, young Swaminathan (mridangam) did well throughout the concert embellishing the kriti. The mohana raga essay displayed her alapana skills and it did suggest that she was inching towards the kriti, ‘Mohana Rama,’ which was followed by a spellbinding tani avarthanam by Arulanandam and Kumbakonam Swaminathan.
Sashwathi should consider including the saint’s Utsava Sampradaya kritis with multi charanams oozing with bhakti. This concept of approaching the Saint’s kritis is a worthy attempt that will bear fruit as more devotees start thronging to such concerts sans any arithmetical gimmicks and cheap dramatisation.