Nagaswaram In Injikkudi Subramaniam’s hands, the instrument dripped honey.

If listening to music is soothing, the nagaswaram actually rejuvenates the system. More so if it is on a Saturday evening. The family members of the late L.S. Mani, a devout rasika who had frequented Raga Sudha hall for concerts, had organised the music concert series in his memory. Injikkudi Subramaniam (nagaswaram) had to take a late night flight to Canada after the concert. Yet his was an unhurried approach - cool and comfortable.

Nagaswaram, also known as Mangala Vadyam featured in temples during the daliy pooja kaalams and festival days and in marriages, is a loud instrument, period. Playing it an air conditioned hall is really a challenge and Injikkudi seems to have mastered it carefully manipulating the blowing by a judicious use of his lung and abdominal power. A formidable team of accompanists - Embar S. Kannan (violin), Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam) and Anirudh Athreya (ganjira) ensured a veritable treat. Mallari generally played at the commencement of the procession of the presiding deity of a temple served as a warm up number. It was a well-orchestrated effort with the accompanists following him like a shadow.

Vishranthi marked the Ritigowola essay. It made one wonder if he had poured honey into the 90-cm karungali wooden pipe for each phrase emanated with such softness (kuzhaivu).

The seasoned youngster Embar Kannan’s reply was apt. Sivan’s ‘Thathwamariya Tharama’ with a crisp swara segment enlivened the proceedings.

Guess the raga

The next raga exposition kept every one guessing with the members of the audience indulging in a debate. Shades of Kalyani and Hamsadhwani teased the listener. The artist played with aplomb a composition of Thanjavur Sankara Iyer - a swift interpretation with a free flow of swaras, putting to use his unique viraladi technique, the spread of his fingers’ web helping him achieve this.

Patri Satish Kumar kept pace throughout with interesting patterns and arudhis sans any theatrics so often seen in concerts these days. Obliging a rasika, a generally shy Subramaniam revealed the raga as Hamsakalyani.

Injikkudi had problems with his seevaalis as was evident by his relentless efforts in mending them right till the end. Nevertheless it did not mar his playing.

Bhairavi started flowing right from the word go. The long pauses helped the rasika soak in the melody. Step by step he increased the pace with spuritams dominating. The smooth landings in the mandhara sthayi ( lower octave) panchamam created a soporific effect. Mesmerising were his forays in that range akin to a dexterous spider weaving its web. Lengthy sancharas embellished it further. When was Bhairavi rendered so beautifully in mandhara sthayi.

Rakhsha Bettaray one of the several gems Tyagaraja had composed in Bhaiaravi was treated with respect. One amazing thing was the perfect tempo of Subramaniam.

The tani of Patri Satish Kumar and Anirudh Athreya was a display of controlled aggression. He commenced with tisra keezh kalam and increased the tempo slowly to tisra mel kaalam. Intermittent phrases came with a lilt.

Young Anirudh Athreya was a perfect foil. The climax a well etched mohra korvai in Chathusram was thrilling.

Injikkudi had more to offer. Desh seemed to flow from a shehnai. Mellifluous and meaningful phrases enhanced the emotional richness of the raga and the kriti was ‘Rama Namamay Thudhi Manamay,’ yet another beauty of Thanjavur Sankara Iyer. Special mention must be made of Patri’s deft touches and gumkis for this song.