Lakshmi Rangarajan was a picture of refinement whereas Maharajapuram Ramachandran laid stress on velocity.
What Lakshmi Rangarajan’s concert for the Krishna Gana Sabha revealed was her concern for highly refined quality of exposition. Her style based on her natural ability called for respect. In the highly compelling competitive situation her music culture reflected her faith that traditional values could still stir and inspire – a characteristic feature of T.M. Thiagarajan lineage.
In the alapanas of Pantuvarali (Ramanatham-Bhajeham) and Khambodi (‘Evarimata’) the creative process in guiding the sancharas featured them with nuanced musical insights. The Pantuvarali format sliced open many facets of the raga. In the classically elevating Kambhodi vinyasa her confidence spoke of the discipline of a demanding sadhaka ethics that strengthened her basic skills. The willing submission of her sweet voice to her manodharma enabled her to maintain the momentum. She dwelt on the beauties of both Pantuvarali and Khambodi.
Hemalatha’s solo session of the ragas on the violin was a measured response to Lakshmi’s restrained approach. Her accompanying style was smooth and smart. The shift of some sancharas from the Madhyama sthayi to the mandhara sthayi lent substantial depth, particularly in Khambodi.
That the vocalist and violinist were moving closely to each other in negotiating passages was a welcome aspect. As the kirtana sahityas were well articulated with clarity it echoed their strength, strong and bold.
The brisk start of the recital with the Ata tala Kanada varnam “Nera-Nammiti” anchored the solidity of the items to come. “Samayamithe” in kedaram provided the poise. “Ramanatham-Bhajeham” was rendered with musical intensity. Lakshmi sang in such a way as to highlight the stately classicism of the composition. The main item “Evarimata” was a clear indication of Lakshmi Rangarajan’s music built on patience and perseverance. The listening impact was stupendous. She conveyed the exceptional beauty of the song. At this stage her voice was in full flow with depth and self-assurance.
Beyond the technical intricacies of mridangam play, Mannarkoil Balaji brought to the accompanying method his understanding of the close relationship between sangatis of songs and relevant beats on the mridangam. That was the way he designed his laya contribution.
The tani with N. Rajaratnam (ghatam) represented his varied patterns of self-expression.
The driving force in Maharajapuram Ramachandran’s performing technique was to give free rein to relentless overpowering tonal pressure sans musical niceties. Delicate sensitivities of expression did not seem to be his objective. However, the exposition was meticulous to the letter of the sastra — his raga expansion and rendering of the kirtanas in his Krishna Gana Sabha concert.
Two ragas were the major time — Varali and Harikhambodi. Both were elaborated with sustained interest endowing them with distinctive vitality. Ramachandran etched the ragas in a frenzied style, a commanding place given to vocal velocity.
He sang enthusiastically, exhaustively and aggressively, especially so with the kriti “Salagallala” (Aarabhi).
Compellingly and rhetorically designed Varali (Seshachala-Nayakam) was a discursive picture of the raga. The alapana wanderings covered an extensive terrain with a maze of sancharas.
The vocalist was passionate in tapping his manodharma to make Varali a mega edifice. There was enormity in the effort but very little of perceptive aesthetic touches.
The Harikhambodi was a wide-ranging, all-embracing overview with wild embellishments and vocal thrusts. Followed by the song “Dinamani-Vamsa” the effort was a provocative approach to interpretative preference. The variety of sancharas was pacy with involved intensity. He succeeded in his objective to dazzle the rasikas.
In the rendering of the song it lost much of its glow in the absence of subtleties in reeling off the sangatis. But then in all fairness to Ramachandran, he preserved the swaroopa of both Varali and Harikhambodi.
The role of the violinist Nagai Muralidharan was significant. He tellingly revealed how mellowness had to be imparted to music.
He was responsive to the finest, and aesthetically rich intimations of rakti – a ripe mind nourished on reflective sangita. He loved every moment he put the bow on the strings to produce sancharas of superior concept and refined expression.
Varali and Harikhambodi journeyed with their characteristic fascinating features. Mellifluity splashed from every twist and turn of the phrases of the ragas.
Guruvayur Dorai maintained throughout a zig-zag accompanying pattern with emphatic sound. The same was the process in his tani with N. Amrit on the kanjira.