The 11-day Navaratri festival at Erinjeri Karthyayini Temple, Thrissur, featured several leading Carnatic vocalists.

The Navaratri fete, which started in Erinjeri Karthyayini Temple, Thrissur, as a tribute to the deity Karthyayini, with musical offerings from local talent, has grown into a musical extravaganza over the past 25 years.

This year’s 11-day special silver jubilee fete featured prominent artistes.

Thrissur V. Ramachandran

The fete began with a concert by Thrissur V.Ramachandran. He started with an invocation by Muthuswami Dikshitar, ‘Sree Mahaganapathi ravathumam’ in raga Gowla, set to Misra Chapu tala. The GNB composition in raga Bahudari, ‘Unnai adiye gati yenne’ (Adi tala) and the comparatively rare ‘Sreehari vallabhe’ (Udayaravichandrika-Adi-Mysore Vasudevacharya) were well-received. M.A. Surendran (violin), K.V. Prasad (mridangam) and Tripunithura Radhakrishnan (ghatam) contributed to the excellent start of the fete.

Suma Pisharody

The second day of the festival featured Suma Pisharody. She was accompanied by Vayala Rajendran on the violin, Palakkad Maheshkumar on the mridangam and Tripunithura Kannan on the ghatam. Opening the recital with a composition of Mysore Vasudevachar – ‘Girija Ramana nathajana sharana’ in Gambheeranatta and Adi, she straightaway delved into an alapana of Kamavardhani for the composition ‘Sivananda Kamavardhani’ set to Misra Chapu, for which Mahesh deftly accompanied for the sangathis.

She chose ‘Parvathi nayakane sharanam’ in Shanmukhapriya, Adi tala, for a detailed elaboration in which the alapana was focussed more on essential phrases. Rajendran came out with occasional flashes of varjyas (phrases omitting swaras in order). The main item was in raga Saveri – Syama Sastri’s ‘Sankari Sankuru Chandragiri’ in Adi (tisra nada). As usual, the niraval was rendered at ‘Syamakrishna sodhari Syamale saaddhodhari’. Mahesh performed a good tani with Kannan.

Suma concluded her concert after adding some lighter compositions in the ragas Vrindavana Saaranga, Desh and Kamas. She stuck often to mid-octave in her improvisations, as her voice lacked freshness and the highs were not always comfortable or sufficiently held, and the lower range was somewhat detached in quality from her voice.

Malladi duo

Steeped in classicism, the performance of the Malladi duo – Sriram Prasad and Ravikumar, on the third day, was boundary-pushing. T.H. Subramanian, K.V. Prasad and Perukavu Sudheer accompanied on the violin, mridangam and ghatam respectively. Their repertoire included not-so-oft-repeated compositions on the concert circuit of Kerala. The brothers began their recital with a varnam of Thiruvottiyur Thayagayya in Sahana, Adi.

The choice of a composition on the deity Karthyayani wasn’t inappropriate as the temple ambience demanded it. A down-to-earth approach was adopted for Dikshitar’s ‘Paradevatha brihadkuchamba’ in Dhanyasi, Adi (two kala). This was the major attraction of the evening and it had a detailed elaboration of the raga. Niraval was at ‘Kalamalini Karthyayani Kanchalochani’.

The mukthayippus, a tough exercise in half rhythmic cycles, deserve special mention.

A sloka of Sankaracharya was taken for a ragamalika viruttam comprising Sourashtram, Abheri, Shanmukhapriya and Mukhari, which converged to ‘Sivakamasundari’, a composition of the Tamil composer Papanasam Sivan in Adi. They also included a composition of Bhadrachala Ramadas – ‘Balira Vairaghyamendho,’ also in Adi, which was set to tune in a rare raga Kalavathi, by Ravikumar’s father, Malladi Suri Babu.

Mathangi Sathyamurthi

The third day witnessed the concert of Mathangi Sathyamurthi. She was accompanied by Edappally Ajithkumar on the violin, Palakkad Maheshkumar on the mridangam and Elankulam Deepu on the ghatam. She started with a varnam in Kedaragoula, Adi.

Kambhoji found a profundity for the composition (‘Karunai pozhiyum vadanothodamarnthirikkum…’) in Adi tala, a kriti of T.A.R. Chandran, the nonagenarian, who himself is the organiser of the fete since its inception.

Keeravani was the main raga which was dealt in detail for the composition ‘Ambavani Nannu’, set to Adi tala. The taniavarthanam was well-co-ordinated and the vigorous strokes of Mahesh were in contrast with the soft touches of Deepu.

Dr. Mini and Priyadarshini

Daughters of the veteran teacher Mangad Natesan were on the concert platform on the fifth day. Dr. Mini and Priyadarshini launched their concert with a Dharu Varnam in Khamas – ‘Mathe Malayadwaja’, in Adi.

The highlight of the ensemble was ‘Bhajare rejitha’ of Syama Sastri in Kalyani and Misra Chapu. They lacked synchronisation here and there.

Though N.K. Madhusoodanan’s accompaniment on the mridangam lacked ample density in his fingers, it was made up on the ganjira by Thrikkakara Y.N. Santharam. The performance in whole lacked artistry as it felt like a clichéd narration of a textbook exercise.

Thrissur V.R. Dileep Kumar

On the day of Panchami, Thrissur V.R. Dileep Kumar began his concert with an Adi tala varnam in Natta. Pattanam Subrahmania Iyer’s ‘Ikanainana moravina’ in Pushpalathika came with a flurry of swaras.

Palladam Ravi on the mridangam and Udupi Sreedhar on the ghatam elevated the concert to a different level with excellent tonal quality.

Dileep showcased his prowess in delineating Mohanam for the composition of Thiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai – ‘Jagadeeswari kripaye puri’ – Adi (two kala). Tygaraja’s ‘Vinaradana’ was followed by a Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in Hamirkalyani. The Hindustani raga, which was elaborated magnificently, was dexterously handled by Thiruvizha Viju S. Anand, the violinist. For tanam in two degrees, the Travancore tradition was followed, keeping the percussion accompaniment with the vocalist. The pallavi ‘Narayani sadananda Roopini Sree Ramani Kalyani’ was in Khanda Triputa. Ragamalika swaras were in Hindolam and Nalinakanthi. Tani displayed a good rapport among Ravi, Sreedhar and Kalamandalam Shaiju on the morsing who joined them with verve.

The vocalist’s all-time favourites ‘Eppavaruvaro’ in Jonpuri and ‘Bhagyadha Lakshmi baramma’ – Madhyamavathi, both set to Adi tala, brought the concert to an end.

Trichy Ganesh

Trichy Ganesh began his recital with ‘Pavanatmaja’ (Nata-Ghanta Chapu-Dikshitar) and went on to sing ‘Devadeva’ (Mayamalavagowla-Roopakam-Swati Tirunal), ‘Dinamani vamsa tilaka’ (Harikamboji-Adi-Tyagaraja), and ‘Maraje vadana’ (Kedaram-Adi-Tyagaraja), ‘Jalandhara supithaste’ (Valaji-Roopakam-Harikesanellur Bhagavathar) and ‘Ekambresha nayaki’ (Shanmughapriya-Adi-Dikshitar). The recital stood out for a powerful and full-throated alapana of the main raga Shanmughapriya, complemented by an excellent violin piece by C. Rajendran. Thrissur B. Jayaram (ghatam) and Manoharan (ghatam) put up a good tani avartanam.

Mahadevan Sankaranarayanan

Mahadevan Sankaranarayanan is quite independent of the lineage that he will inevitably be compared with and it was indeed a refreshing experience to listen to his detailed alapana in the ragas Kalyani, Kapi and Kamboji. He was ably accompanied by Vayala Rajendran (violin), Alappuzha Chandrasekharan Nair (mridangam) and Kuruchithanam Ananthakrishnan (ghatam). The concert was remarkable for the tremendous Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in raga Brindavan Sarang. His alapanam, as well as the violin accompaniment (Vayala Rajendran), was technically perfect and expressive.

Chertala Ranganatha Sarma

Chertala Ranganatha Sarma, a name to reckon with on today’s musical circuit, started with a varnam in raga Ranjini (Adi tala-GNB). He went on to praise the Goddess Balambika of Vytheeswarar temple in Kumbakonam in raga Natakurinji (Khanda Chapu- Dikshitar). He presented a Muthaiah Bhagavathar kriti in raga Mandari, ‘Ennalu Tirugudunu’, set to Khanda Chapu. He concluded with a thillana of delicate beauty in raga Pahadi. C.S. Anuroop (violin), K. Jayakrishnan (mridangam) and Payyanur Govindaprasad (morsing) ably matched the maestro.

O.S. Thyagarajan

O.S.Thyagarajan, arguably one of the finest performing artistes today, began his recital with a varnam in raga Sree. He too chose a number of kritis in praise of the goddess. Dikshitar’s favourite kriti ‘Meenakshi memudam’ in Poorvikalyani, Adi, was the most impressive item in his repertoire. In the very elaborate alapanam, he began with the lower sthayi and worked his way to the upper notes effortlessly. Niraval and manodharma swaras sung at ‘Madhurapuri nilaye’ were so melodious that the audience wished for more. , T.H. Subramaniam thrilled the audience with his superb notes on the violin. Kovai Prakash (mridangam) and Tripunithura Kannan (ghatam) played skilfully.

Shenkottai Harihara Subramanian

The last day of the concert featured Shenkottai Harihara Subramanian, with bhakti bhava being the major attribute of the recital. He settled down well with an invocation to Vighneswara in ‘Gajanana yutam’ in Vegavahini. The alapanam of Hindolam was slow and unhurried. In direct contrast, ‘Sarasamukhi sakala’ (Gowda Malhar-Roopakam-Muthaiah Bhagavathar) was quick and sprightly.

The highlight was a delightful Ragamalika, set to Khandachapu talam, and composed by Madurai T.Krishnaswami. Beginning with the line, ‘Nalinakantimatim namamyaham’, the kriti names all the ragas that appear in it. Being the last day, he sang Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in raga Madhyamavati. Trivandrum Sampath dazzled with his violin accompaniment. K.M.S. Mani (mridangam)and Udupi Sreekanth (ganjira) were impressive in the tani segment.