A good blend of technique, style and co-ordination enhanced the melodic appeal of Naada Tarangini, a veena ensemble

Naada Tarangini, a fifty veena ensemble led by Dr. Suma Sudhindra performed recently as part of the Bengaluru International Arts Festival, an initiative of AIM, Bangalore that staged diverse performances spread over nine days at nine different venues in the city. The array of percussion instruments accompanying Naada Tarangini included mridanga, kanjira, ghata, tabla and rhythm pads and was led by mridangist Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma.

The concert began with a two-speed rendition of ‘Vanajakshi’, the adi thala varna in Kalyani. Muthuswami Deekshithar’s krithi ‘Maha Ganapathim Manasa Smarami’ in Natta was prefixed with a raga sketch and ornamented with kalpana swaras played in turn by the lead artiste and three others, the entire ensemble coming together for the crowning rhythmic sequence, a technique that was followed in subsequent items as well. Better coordination and cohesion among the large number of musicians on stage was discernible as the concert progressed, and judicious use of percussion, at times alternating between the many instruments and at others combining impeccably, created a rousing impact.

A short elaboration encapsulating the evocative beauty of Kalyanavasantham led to the Thyagaraja krithi ‘Nadaloludai’ in rupaka thala, also adorned with kalpana swaras, to which a brisk and melodious ‘Manavyalakincharadate’ in Nalinakanthi raga and adi thala provided a vivid contrast. A compact, yet complete alapana of Hamsanadam, and thana in Hamsanadam, Malayamarutham, and Madhyamavathi was followed by the Thyagaraja krithi ‘Bantureethi’ in adi thala. Fluent kalpana swaras at the charana line beginning ‘Rama Nama’ ended with a spate of diminishing thala cycles around the thara sthayi shadja.

The main focus of the evening was on ‘Priya Tarangini’ a ragamalika in Kharaharapriya, Gayakapriya, Ratipatipriya, Bhaktapriya and Rasikapriya composed by Suma Sudhindra. The item was a complex, well-rehearsed and riveting exposition of the five ragas, replete with captivating melodic patterns and refrains. The sweet classicism of Kharaharapriya yielded to the sombre hues of the vivadi raga Gayakapriya, while the plaintive core of Ratipatipriya gave way to the lilting essence of Bhaktapriya. The unearthly appeal of Rasikapriya, another vivadi raga, completed the colourful mosaic of divergent tones and textures. Absorbing percussion interludes bridged the raga segments which were couched in multiple rhythms and gaits, and culminated in a thani avarthana that highlighted the individual and collective expertise of the participants. Better sound quality would have augmented the overall effect of the performance, which was well conceived and presented with commendable synchronisation.