The annual Swathi Sangeethotsavam in Thiruvananthapuram is dedicated to the genius of King-composer Swati Tirunal.
This year’s Swathi Sangeethotsavam offered music buffs of Thiruvananthapuram a series of musical evenings that were filled with melody, rhythm and delight. The fete, solely and soulfully dedicated to the royal composer Swati Tirunal, was held at the Kuthiramalika Palace.
Sanjay Subrahmanyan opened his concert and the fete with an Ada tala varnam that was delivered with spontaneity. ‘Paripalayama’ in soothing Reethigowla was presented with a strikingly different appearance of the scale, especially during the last phrase of the pallavi when the singer skimmed through the surface of the notes rather than embellishing it. Although this revealed a slightly lighter texture of the raga, the expressive swara section was rich in classicism.
Chakravakam raga was elaborated vividly through long melodic phrases covering the nuances of the scale. The kriti ‘Sarojanabha daya’ was presented gracefully. The touching Kapi raga delineation had the feel and the details of the raga connected aesthetically. The main kriti ‘Vihara manasa’ was sung from the heart. Sanjay was accompanied by S.R. Mahadeva Sarma (violin), B. Harikumar (mridangam) and P.L. Sudheer (ghatam).
Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma
The concert on the second day by Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma was a testimony to the fact that he sees musical possibilities beyond conventions in Carnatic music. He began with a Behag soaked ‘Smarajanaka’, set to Misra chapu. The singer’s mellow swaras caressed the contours of the raga. Avaneeswaram S.R. Vinu on the violin showcased his finesse when he chose both madhyamams while negotiating the soft corners of the raga.
‘Sadu thada’, a kriti in Vakulabharanam, was rich in swaraksharams. It had a swara section with due emphasis on the character of the raga. Rama Varma’s improvised swara patterns had interesting variants from the usual format. One of them was the chord progressions sung in the form of sequential swaras, which was a treat to listen.
The ragamalika padam ‘Panagendra shayana’ and ‘Bhogeendrasayinam’, a racy Khanda chapu kriti in Kunthalavarali, were a delightful treat. The main piece was ‘Rama Rama’ in Simhendra madhyamam.
The success of the concert was a result of the splendid team work by the singer and accompanying artistes. B. Harikumar (mridangam), S. Karthick (ghatam) and T. Govindaprasad (morsing) made the rhythm section lively.
Amrutha Venkatesh’s concert on the third day began with a varnam in Saveri. A good raga introduction to Keeravani was tagged to the kriti ‘Bhavaye sarasanabham’. A pleasing visthara of Bilahari was followed by the kriti ‘Aradhayami’, set to Khanda chapu.
It was decorated with niraval and swaras. A bhava-laden laboration of Vasanta raga preceded ‘Paramapurusha’. After an aesthetic delineation of Devagandhari, she took up the ‘Shri rama rama pahi’. The main raga was Ramapriya and the kriti was ‘Samodayam Paripalayamam’. It was rendered with the traditional features adorning it. Bombay Madhavan (violin), Nanjil Arul (mridangam), S. Karthick (ghatam) and T. Govindaprasad (morsing) gave commendable support to the singer.
Parassala B. Ponnammal
Veteran Parassala B. Ponnammal’s recital unfolded in the traditional style. ‘Narasimhamamava bhagavan’ in Arabhi and ‘Pahi thara’ in Ananthabhairavi were sung with clear diction. Attukal Balasubramaniam on (violin) played an excellent impromptu essay in Anandabhairavi. The taniavarthanam by Palakkad Maheshkumar (mridangam) and S. Karthick (ghatam) was praiseworthy. The konnakol by S. Karthik was a special treat as he impressed the audience with his tongue twister jathis. The post-taniavarthanam songs included a soft number in Neelambari.
Venkataramanan, on the fifth day, presented popular and rare kritis of Swati Tirunal. Due to poor health, the singer could not showcase his virtuosity completely. A Poorvikalyani raga visthara tagged to ‘Panchabana’ had an extensive niraval and swara portion. The main kriti was ‘Charupanjaka’ in Kamboji. Unblemished delineation of Poorvikalyani, Thodi and Kamboji ragas by Sampath (violin) was fabulous. G. Babu (mridangam) and Manjoor Unnikrishnan (ghatam) were the accompanists.
Veteran musician T.V. Gopalakrishnan began with a varnam in Shankarabharanam. ‘Paripahi’ in Saveri and ‘Jaya Jaya padmanabha’ in Sarasangi were sung after lengthy elaboration of the ragas. The madhyama sruti brought out a perceptible serenity during Varamu raga visthara and the kriti ‘Sambho’. The main kriti was ‘Mohanam thava’ in Mohanam. The accompanying artistes S. Varadarajan (violin), Palakkad Maheshkumar (mridangam) and Tripunithura Radhakrishnan (ghatam) were impressive.
S. Varadarajan’s solo violin was a musical feast for the rasikas. He created an ethereal experience.
‘Anantha’ in Kedaram and the popular ‘Padmanabha pahi’ in Hindolam were well-received. Begada raga visthara with innovative glides showcased the raga’s features from a different angle. The kriti ‘Karunakara’ was constructed with a flawless swara portion. The sweetest was the idyllic Hamirkalyani raga delineation. The lovely composition ‘Gangeya’ with swaras set to thishra was a class apart. The main kriti was ‘Sathatham thavaka’ in Kharaharapriya.
Accompanists were T.V. Gopalakrishnan (mridangam) and Tripunithura Radhakrishnan(ghatam).
The best concert of the fete was perhaps by young Hindustani vocalist Saurabh Kadgaohkar. His exuberant style created some mind-blowing music. The imaginative improvisations in Pooriya Dhanashree with impeccable alignment with sruti and laya began with slow phrases that revolved around nishadam. The rendition of entrancing swaras and long akaarams at extreme speeds was an amazing feat.
Flawless flow of notes and aalaps in Bhoop raag culminated in the composition ‘Karuna nidhanu’. Mature delineations of Malkauns and Bageshri raags were immersed in profound melody. The singer’s manodharma was well utilised during the scintillating Bhairav raag that was tagged to the concluding bhajan.
Arvind Kadgaohkar (tabla) and Rohan Mahekar (harmonium) were wonderful.
Seetha Rajan and disciples co.
The Bala Brundam by Carnatic vocalist Seetha Rajan and her disciples included several interesting compositions by Swati Tirunal. Some of the kritis were ‘Narasimha’ in Arabhi, ‘Shri kumara’ in Atana and ‘Shankara’ in Hamsanandi. The highlights of the concert were the choice of the kritis and the synergy in the rendition. The team was accompanied by Embar Kannan (violin) and Arjun Ganesh (mridangam).
The final concert of the fete was by O.S. Arun. His signature style with Carnatic constructions painted with hues of Hindustani in all the songs evoked a pleasant mood. ‘Sarasaksha’ in Panthuvarali and ‘Samodham’ in Thodi (main) contained effective niraval and swara sections enriching it. The singer was accompanied by M.R. Gopinath (violin), J. Vaidhyanathan (mridangam), Karthick (ghatam) and Ganapathy (tabla).