It is really a pity that the waxing musical knowledge of Neyveli R. Santhanagopalan seems to be directly proportional to the waning quality of his voice. The more you feel amazed by his knowledge the greater you feel sorry for the state of his refractory vocalisation. The supposedly saving grace of his concert was his soberness most of the time in rendering, but that also became damp after a stage as the tempo sagged into depths of monotony.

The unusual Asaveri varnam of Patnam Subramania Iyer at the beginning was appended with ‘extra swaras’ of Santhanagopalan. Sahana alapana and ‘Evasuda’ of Tyagaraja fared better. Varali was elaborated at length and ‘Eti Janamam’ again from Tyagaraja and an emotionally charged ‘Sagara Sayanu Nee’ and swaras added to this created a rather gloomy effect with his voice clearly started its vagaries.

‘Akshaya Linga Vibo’ of Dikshitar had a prelude of extensive alapana of Sankarabharanam. The kriti with its vilamba kala and a stretched out niraval at ‘Padari Vana Mula’ connected to endless arrays of swarakalpana ‘g m p-g m p-g m r’ with a surfeit of variations; these finally came to an end with a long swara chain and the space was left for thani avartanam. Immediately after that what was presented as Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Bhairavai was an apology for the exercise. The Pallavi ‘Kanakasabhai Natesan Kandal Kali Theerume’ was set to Tisra Jati Jampa talam in kanda nadai.

Delhi Sunderrajan infused some life into the proceedings but surprisingly his performance was also lukewarm. Neyveli B. Venkatesh and Udupi S. Sreedhar on mridangam and ghatam played their role sincerely and contended with a restrained thani.

How long one can overcome the distraction caused by a completely noncompliant vocal prowess and look for the content of the music in Santhanagopalan’s case? Sympathies apart and notwithstanding the respect for his musical knowledge, his repeated overtures with such intractable voice definitely cause collateral damage to the concert as a whole. If one believes that the raga devathas safeguard those who worship them in some form, we have to believe that Sahana, Bhairavi and Sankarabharanam are the guardian angels of this musician.

But for his Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi, Sikkil Gurucharan’s concert was a well planned, fully enjoyable one with right proportions of melody, harmony, tempo and choice. With his pliable and attractive voice in good control, Gurucharan mesmerised the audience with his delineation of a rare kriti, ‘Ikanaina Na’ in Pushpalathika. The raga and the kriti by Tirupathi Narayanaswami became popular because of the legendary singer M.S., especially the breathtaking niraval in ‘Akalanga Neeve.’ Gurucharan also chose that line for an exciting niraval and also appended it with a surge of swaras. Bearing strong resemblance to Manirangu, the raga’s haunting melody was fully exploited by Charan in the rendition, niraval and swaras. The treatment of Mukhari and the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Enta Ninne’ brought out the spirit of the contents with poignancy. It was significant because Charan used the niraval at ‘Kanulara Sevimchi’ showcasing many tender shades of the raga without the swaras.

The main raga Kalyani unfolded with grandeur and traversed the three segments with full focus on the elements of the raga bhava and range. Kalyani normally stimulates the artist to go for fast paced brigas and akaras than finer karvais and loaded pauses. But Gurucharan comprehending the potential of the great Kalyani utilised his vocal prowess to bring the best encompassing both bhava and brigas. ‘Nijadasa Varada’ of Patnam

Subramania Iyer is a vibrant and zesty number with surplus sangatis. There were sangatis in the anupallavi ‘Bhujagadipa Sayana’ which were simply superb putting forth some of the exotic hues of Kalyani. The niraval was taken on this line and this particular exercise that was followed by swarakalpana and the kuraippu swaras holding on nishadam turned out to be an excellent teamwork among Charan, Nagai Sriram, Umayalpuram Sivaraman and E.M. Subramaniam. The dynamism exhibited among the youngsters and veterans proved

that music could be the supreme bridge that could connect creative minds without bias.

Nagai Sriram’s violin was not just accompanying but on many places vying for equal importance. His responses to Charan’s musical challenges were equal and opposite and at times even more powerful.

Umaylapuram Sivaraman made his presence felt right from the start with varying rhythmic designs to bolster the level of the concert to greater heights and the thani avartanam he played with Subramaniam was packed with verve.

In most of the concerts the RTP which almost appears as an extended tukkada was no exception here. The time factor forced Charan to make a quickset ragam and tanam in Dhanyasi with a ragamalika flavour and a short pallavi ‘Varda Venkatasaila Vihara’. ‘Harihara Putram’ in Vasantha by Diksitar, ‘Neelayadakshi’ in Paras by Syama Sastri and ‘Sevikka Vendum Ayya’ in Andolika by Gopalakrishna Bharati served as good fillers in endearing

concert.