Vidushi Vedavalli's raga alapanas were scholarly, while Geetha Rajasekar's singing had emotive appeal. Charukesi
The senior-most vidushi Vedavalli is arguably one of the best women musicians amongst us today. She is hailed as not only an expert in Pallavi, but also a concert artist of high calibre, who does not make any compromise on patantharam.
Vedavalli, however, chose to begin straightaway with a Tyagaraja kriti ‘Endhuku Nirdaya’ in Harikhambodi and not the traditional warming up opener, varnam. The second piece was also Tyagaraja's — ‘Palukuvemi Na Daivama’ in Poornachandrika. The lively chittaswarams added charm to the rendition of the kriti.
For Patnam Subramania Iyer's Ramapriya kriti ‘Korinavaramu’, Vedavalli took up a detailed niraval for the line ‘Varijasthra Janaki’ and then followed it up with swift swarakalpanas.
The focus seemed to be on Kanada, Sankarabaranam and Kharaharapriya. Especially, Kanada was given a royal treatment throughout, be it the alapana or swaraprastara. While the vidushi sang the raga exhaustively, her prime disciple Sumithra too contributed some of the finer points.
The evocative piece of Tyagaraja, ‘Sukhi Evaro’ was the highlight of the recital. Vedavalli's voice is neither thin nor rich in tonal expression. It has, however, a mellow appeal that the vidushi exploits to the maximum to bring about a kind of sublime quality to her rendition. It suits her best for her bhava-laden music. Her ease at all the three sthayis is her added strength and she just caresses the sahitya with her soft voice. There was another surprise. ‘Aadena Ma’, the Pharaz raga padam, normally sung post-thani, found the place next. Perhaps the vidushi wanted to launch the heavy raga alapana of Sankarabaranam, after putting the rasikas at ease. The detailed exposition of the raga was a joyful journey for both the guru and the sishya. In unfolding the nuances, Vedavalli offered Sumithra a few chances to showcase her manodharma in alapana and they sure were the delight of the rasikas.
‘Akshyalinga Vibho’ of Muthuswamy Dikshitar kept Vedavalli and her group engaged for another half an hour with niraval for the anupallavi line, ‘Akshara swarupa Amitapratapa’ (instead of the routine ‘Badarivana Moola Nayika’) and the swarakalpanas that naturally followed.
Arun Prakash, on the mridangam, was an asset to the concert and encouraged his upa-pakkavadya artist, Anirudh Athreya (ganjira) by keeping the tala for him, whenever the latter played. The thani was short but had the stamp of Arun Prakash.
Before launching the Kharaharapriya alapana for RTP, Vedavalli paid her respects to the deity of Mannargudi through the Dikshitar kriti, ‘Srividya Rajagopalam’ in Jaganmohini. The disciple seemed to have alerted her guru about the time constraint that led to her avoiding elaboration of pallavi ‘Sri Ranga Rangayya’ with extensive niraval and swaras. They may have been quantitatively short but were, qualitatively sound, to complete the sequence, so as to end the recital with ‘Oruthi Maganai Piranthu’, the Andal pasuram in Behag, in time.
Geetha Rajasekar has a pleasant voice, which has both melody and weight. The vocalist, belonging to the D.K. Pattammal school, gave importance to diction. The sahitya suddham was notable in her rendition of kritis.
The Thodi varnam ‘Era Na Pai’ served as the opener. Next in the line up was Dikshitar’s Nata kriti, ‘Swaminatha Paripalaya’ and the vocalist rendered brisk chittaswarams to set the concert on a fast tempo.
In the Pantuvarali kriti, ‘Aparama Bhakti’ of Tyagaraja, Geetha’s niraval for ‘Lakshmidevi Valasuna’ and the fluent flow of swarakalpanas that followed reflected her manodharma. Dikshitar’s Kannada Bangala kriti, ‘Renukadevi Samrakshitoham’ was sober and when it was rendered in madyamakala, had an emotive appeal. The vocalist presented a variety of sangatis for the pallavi line.
Geetha took up a detailed alapana of Sankarabaranam, giving it more prominence. Thus, the raga got all the sanchara phrases for greater emphasis. Since Geetha’s voice was in fine fettle, she could explore the raga in right earnest, traversing the three octaves smoothly.
Violinist M.A. Krishnaswamy had the opportunity to use his manodharma to present the raga in his own style. The Tyagaraja kriti, ‘Enduku Peddala’ was the chosen one. As usual, the passage of ‘Veda Sastra Thathvartha’ was taken up for niraval and swaraprastara.
GNB's ‘Un Adiye Gati’ was a lighter interlude in Bahudari, before the vocalist embarked on Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi. It was set in Kanda Jati Jampa Tala and the pallavi was ‘Nee Padamule Gadtiyeni Nammithi, Srirama Ramachandra’.
Shanmukhapriya, the main raga for alapana, received all the focus it needed and the lilt and the gaiety of the raga surfaced in good measure in her rendition. While the vocalist's swaraprastara had the ragamalika chain, Hindolam stood out as a special link.
If Thanjavur Subramaniam's mridangam accompaniment was an asset to the concert, Bangalore Rajasekar's morsing was another attraction. The sound variations he produced during the thani with Subramaniam were exciting.
Purandaradasar's Devarnama, ‘Ranga Baro, Panduranga Baro’ was succeeded by a moving Arutpa ‘Petra Thai Thanai Maga Marandaalum’ of Ramalinga Swamigal in ragamalika viruttam. This served as a perfect prefix for Papanasam Sivan's ‘Sivaperuman Krupai Vendum’ in Surutti, as a concluding piece.