The Veena Festival, held in Chicago, U.S., had brilliant veterans and talented students performing.

The fifth Veena festival, held in Chicago recently curated by SAPNA, was dedicated to the late Sripada Pinakapani and Lalgudi Jayaraman.

The three-day event began with Chitravina Ravikiran, who in his inimitable style, displayed consummate artistry, aesthetics and rare sparkling ‘sancharas’ reflecting technical virtuosity and mastery over the ragas.

Ravikiran set the pace with his own composition, ‘Adi Vinayakam’ (Ritigowla) followed by a graceful Shanmukhapriya for Annamacharya’s ‘Paramapurusha.’ ‘Nenendu Vedakudura’ (Karnataka Behag) of Tyagaraja was portrayed in all its grandeur – the intricate flourishes on the sangatis brought out their essence. Being an open, receptive and inventive artist, Ravikiran introduced the concept of ‘Melharmony’ to the music world.

Matching repartees

Connoisseurs can tell how embellished a concert can be with Tiruchi Sankaran at the helm of a delightfully soulful percussive recital. K.V. Gopalakrishnan (ganjira) came up with matching repartees in Khanda nadai and their tani avartanam was brilliant. Akkarai Subhalakshmi (violin) was a picture of refinement and elegance.

Earlier in the day, Rajeswari Pariti with son Ravi and grandchildren, Divya and Nitya, presented a melodious veena concert.

‘Strings in Fusion’, featured compositions of Chitravina Ravikiran, Kalyani-Kiravani Suite and Behaag Tillana. Ravikiran was joined by Saraswathi Ranganathan (veena), Carlo Basile (guiter) and Greg Nergaard (bass). Saraswathi’s playing was replete with refreshing artistic nuances, while the ‘Melharmony’-inspired strums-slides of Carlo and Greg perfectly complemented the ambience.

This endeavour is part of SAPNA’s goal to keep up tradition while presenting innovation, and providing a platform for deserving local (Chicago) artists.

The second day opened with veena presentations by students from Dr. Jaishri Prasad’s school of music. Dr. Jaishri Prasad’s concert showcased the Mysore Bani. Saraswathi Rajagopalan gave a pleasing veena recital. Young Ahtrey Nadhan, disciple of Srimushnam Raja Rao, accompanied the veena artists with a refined touch on the mridangam.

The highlight of the day was the conferring of ‘Srikala Purna’ title on Malladi Suri Babu, father of the Malladi Brothers, Sri Rama Prasad and Ravi Kumar.

The Malladi Brothers captivated the audience with their singing, beginning the concert with Jalajaksha, a composition of Lalgudi Jayaraman. Tumkur Ravi Shankar (mridangam) and R.K. Shriram Kumar (violin) added a different dimension.

The concluding day began with a Hindolam raga and tillana presentation by Neeladevi, a student of Veena Srinivas. Students from Vasanthi Iyer’s School of Music in an excellent exhibit of team work sang and played Swati Thirunal’s ‘Dhanasree Thillana’. Young Saatvik Gurupalli played Thilang Thillana on the veena with ease. Ensemble of Ragas’ students showcased a sublime vocal and veena arrangement by presenting Dr. Balamuralikrishna’s thillana, ‘Jaya Raga Malika,’ a composition with sruti and Graha Bhedam.

The enjoyable sitar-veena jugalbandhi between Saraswathi Ranganathan (veena) and Indrajit Banerjee (sitar), had Dhananjay Kunte on the tabla and Ganapathi Ranganathan on the mridangam.

Up-and-coming veena artist Arthi Nadhan commendably adhered to classicism. Vikram Sundara Raman rendered a good vocal concert with veena as the accompaniment. Rajeswari Pariti on the veena sketched out Kaapi in a typical Andhra Bani to the competent accompaniment of Ethirajan Ramanujan, while Rama Gurupalli laid out a melodious Mishra Shiva Ranjani Thillana. Another talented youngster, Sanjay Subramaniam, student of Guruvayoor Dorai, ably accompanied her on the mridangam.

SAPNA honoured Dr. Balamuralikrishna (BMK) with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Balamuralikrishna’s outstanding performance was the event’s grand finale.