There's a striking resemblance between Prapancham Sitaram's playing and that of his guru Mali. That Prapancham Mukhyaprana is as talented as his sibling was evident in his recital.
Perhaps enthused by the accomplished accompanists around him – M. Chandrasekharan on the violin, Yella Venkateswara Rao on the mridangam and Vaikkom Gopalakrishnan on the ghatam -- veteran flautist Dr. Prapancham Sitaram showcased his class. A disciple of the great Flute Mali, Sitaram's style is marked by short clipped phrases where the notes burst forth in bunches. The style also is recognised for its ability to produce deep bass sounds on the short flute, as opposed to the long 'bansuri' that Hindustani musicians use.
Early in the concert, Dr Sitaram took up Gowlai, a veritable service to Carnatic music, because the raga seems to be fading into oblivion. The ‘bass effect' was evident here and the alapana had the melodic appeal that the raga is renowned for. Dikshitar's ‘Sri Mahaganapathim' appeared in due course and the piece appeared to be a harbinger of good things to follow.
The central piece was a heady Vachaspathi. Dr. Sitaram had originally planned to play Kalyani but took up the previous Melakartha raga upon a rasika's counselling that Kalyani was hackneyed by overuse and Vachaspathi might be a better bet. It was a lovely alapana in which the distinctive feature of the Mali style, viz., the delivering notes in bursts, came to the fore. Tyagaraja's ‘Kantajudumi' appeared after violinist Chandrasekharan's sweet raga essay.
Among the clutch of items that came between Gowlai and Vachaspati was a pleasing Bilahari. Patnam Subramanya Iyer's ‘Parithanamichithe' seems to be in the air – many artists took it up this season. Again Dr. Sitaram's ‘Mali-ish' alapana was thoroughly enjoyable. Right through the concert a trait that was obvious was the artist's rich manodharma. It is a reflection of the rasikas' apathy towards instrumental music that an artist as senior as Prapancham Sitaram does not get his due share of concert opportunities. Yella Venkateswara Rao, with his golden kurta and a drooping chain of rudraksha beads, combined his imposing presence with amazing talent. The highlight of his thani was the exhilarating gummikis.
In another concert, Prapancham Sitaram's brother, Prapancham Mukhyaprana, showed that he was yet another example of an artist with talent but deficient patronage. Mukhyaprana, who learnt the art from his brother, played a superb Thodi (‘Koluvamaragada' of Tyagaraja). All the major elements of his concert - Hindolam (‘Deva Devam Bhaje of Annamacharya), Begada (‘Anudinamunu Kavamayya' of Patnam Subramanya Iyer), and Thodi – were neat. He was accompanied by S. P. Ananthapadmanabha on the violin, who played remarkably well.
On the mridangam was R. Sankaranarayan and H. Prasanna played ghatam.