Amritha Murali is one youngster who has made a mark as a vocalist and violinist. This studious artiste, a disciple of stalwarts such as the Kedaranathans and vidushis Rama Ravi (vocal) and T. Rukmini (violin), is also mentored by P.S. Narayanaswamy. With such impeccable credentials and a meticulous work ethic, she has become one of the brighter talents of the young brigade that gives much hope and optimism for the future of Carnatic music. Her approach during a concert for Brahma Gana Sabha in the 2.15 p.m. slot on Saturday, in the company of Ranjani Ramakrishnan (violin) and Arjun Ganesh (mridangam) served to reinforce that optimism.
An ability to at once sketch the core character of a raga was displayed in the opening phrases of Mayamalavagaula preceding Inta paraaka (Anai-Ayya), a piece that is usually associated with Semmangudi. Neraval and swaras at santatamu followed. It was a solid yet sedate start to the afternoon's proceedings. An alapana of Bahudari followed as a preface to Brova bharama (Tyagaraja), with Ranjani Ramakrishnan's non-intrusive support matching the overall mood. After swara exercises at the pallavi, she moved on to a leisurely rendition of Soundararajam ashraye (Brindavana Saranga, Muthuswami Dikshitar). Krupajuchutaku (Chayatarangini, Tyagaraja) followed in a fast tempo. In the larger interest of brightening the afternoon, the two pieces could probably have been swapped. The choice of Kalyani as the main item was appropriate and the raga was developed serenely with conventional pidis. Talli ninnu nera (Shyama Shastri) was the choice of kriti and was rounded off with swaras at the pallavi. Arjun Ganesh performed a three-minute mridangam cameo before the concert concluded with a shlokam and Kreedati vanamali.
It was a performance that relied on Amritha's traditional upbringing, faith in time-tested concert patterns, a refusal to be cowed by populist impulses and an awareness of the state of one's vocal chords on a particular day. Having heard her on several previous occasions, this rasika is confident that the refinement of ideas that comes with more concert experience, both as vocalist and violinist, will help her overcome the temporary hurdles of daily form and showcase the permanence of her talent. Amritha tends to turn away from the microphone, especially when exploring the higher octaves and the resultant dip in sound levels tends to take away some of the punch from her effort. It is a tendency that needs to be curbed without affecting her musical thought process. There have been attempts by some artistes to use headset-like microphones of the transparent type favoured by TV show hosts that would compensate for the head movement. Is that a possible solution for Amritha and some of her more vigorous male counterparts? Considering her talent and concert experience, one also felt that she deserved a better positioning, especially in a sabha such as this where there are two afternoon slots during the December season. The auditorium's air conditioning system seemed to have only one setting – deep freeze!
(Ramanathan N. Iyer is a wireless communications engineer, writer, photographer and Carnatic music buff)