Perfect sruti alignment was the hallmark of Malladi Brothers’ concert. Manodharma and spontaneity were predominant in Sowmya’s concert.

The 39 Art Festival of Kartik Fine Arts commenced on December 1, at Narada Gana Sabha, with the vocal concert of Malladi Brothers. The formal inauguration and title conferment function was shifted to the morning session – a deviation from the usual practise – nevertheless advantageous for the concert began exactly at 4 p.m.

Actor Jaishankar during his career span was famous for his MG (Minimum Guarantee) films. Seldom has he failed his producers. Drawing a parallel, Malladi Brothers’ concerts could be equated to the actor’s feat. Without diluting any of the parameters of classical music this duo is slowly and steadily establishing as a strong force. Their fare includes both popular and rare kritis interspersed. Thus there is never a dull moment during their concerts be it any venue. That evening too they lived up to their reputation with their mother tongue Telugu coming in handy to interpret kritis better.

Mysore Vasudevachar’s ‘Lambhodhara’ (Khambodi-Rupakam), rarely heard in Chennai stages, was completed with niraval and swarams with a good tempo. Close on its heels came Dikshitar’s ‘Swaminatha Paripalaya’ (Nattai-Adi). Sriram Prasad’s crisp Saveri lead to Tygaraja’s beauty ‘Daridapuleka’ with kalpanaswaras highlighted the raga’s colours. The several vakra prayogams finally leading to the shadjam was thirst quenching. Ravikumar developed Anandabhairavi at a leisurely pace. Weighing each swaram of the raga in the right balance, he created thrilling symmetrical phrases. Embar Kannan’s reply was absolutely delightful. The apt pacing of Dikshitar’s ‘Anandeshwaraynna’ (Mishram) sans any swaras exhibited bhakti bhavam.

Thodi was next in line with Sriram Prasad taking the baton. Perfect sruti alignment was the hallmark of his essay, with rakti phrases forming its body. Normally the first charanam alone is being presented in concerts for the kriti ‘Koluvamaragada’ (Tyagaraja) whereas the duo chose to sing the first and third charanam. ‘Bhagavatulu Koodi Bagugagananaya’ (third charanam) describes how bhagavatas join together, sing the praise of Lord Rama, lull him to sleep and wake him up the next morning with Tirupalli ezhuchchi. It was emotional listening to these lines from them.

Neyveli Narayanan’s (mridangam) energy is at such a level that he could go on non-stop for hours, solo. His sollus during the kriti phase were attractive. It was only during the thani that he had some reprieve when B.S. Purushothaman (ganjira) proved a good foil. An RTP in Saraswathi ‘Sarawathy Vilasam Sangeethothsavam Rasikajana Modam Navarasamaya’ in khanda jati trupudai talam, specially composed by the duo dedicating it to the upcoming music season, musicians performing in it and the rasikas considering all as embodiments of Goddess Saraswathy, was captivating. The end pieces included Annamacharya’s ‘Nithyapuja’ (Dwijavanti) and Bhadrachalam Ramadas’s ‘Ramajyothi’ (Khamas).

Thanks to her guru Prof. S. Ramanathan’s training, S. Sowmya is one performer who is steadfast in keeping up the classical tradition intact. Manodharma and spontaneity ruled roost at her concert at Kartik Fine Arts.

Beginning with Purandaradasa’s ‘Gajavadana’ in Gambhiranattai she went on to render ‘Janakiramana’ (Suddha Semanthini-Adi-Tyagaraja) at a brisk speed with kalpanaswaras.

Suddha Saveri was the first raga essay of the evening. This pentatonic raga in its structure is more towards swara-oriented phrases than gamakas. Sowmya, despite this limitation in the raga, carefully formed phrases that sounded pleasing to the ears with dhaivatam and rishabam as root. Embar S. Kannan, displayed his mastery over the instrument with a reply that was as good as Sowmya’s. There were some amusing moments when she rendered ‘Teyaada Pugazh Mevum Tiruvanmiyur Valar Thenaarmozhivalli, the anupallavi line in the kriti ‘Thaye Tripurasundari’ (Khanda Chapu-Thooran). Sowmya’s sense of humour made her smile wryly at Kannan, who lives in Tiruvanmiyur. The others on stage joined her. The intervals during the lines where she allowed Kannan to improvise reminded of classical songs wafting through the air from a temple at a distance. So much into the raga she could not resist a detailed niraval in the charanam line ‘Kamadhenu Vanangum Karuna Roopini’ with bhakti bhavam. She chose vilmba kalam to present ‘Gnanasabayil’ (Saranga-Mishram-Sivan) adding value to the raga. The evening’s main, Saveri, was interpreted at an exalted level. The spuritams, the phrases she created around daivatam and the top octave rishabham were already suggesting Syama Sastri’s ‘Durusugaa Krupa Joochi.’ Kannan maintained the same tenor in his sketch.

Poongulam Subramaniam (mridangam) acted as a catalyst in maintaining the tempo throughout imaginative tekkas and arudis. Guruprasad’s (ghatam) rendition, dot on the sruti, enhanced it. Her brief but effective Behag (‘Sri Madhava’-Sivan) with chromatic phrases and Chenjurutti (‘Enakkum Unakkum’-Vallalaar) were beauties.