Event: Anil Srinivasan and Jayanthi Kumaresh with their consummate artistry pushed the very boundaries of musical imagination

They were at once story tellers, interpreters, performers. Yet, through all this, it was not so much an articulation of the self, but of other selves, of whatever comprises the colossal body of music – Thyagaraja, Bach, and all. Parallel Strings, a veena-piano concert by Jayanthi Kumaresh and Anil Srinivasan in the city recently, was a movement towards the same musical destination though they represented two diverse traditions. Both these consummate artistes, through their profound music, stressed on the desire to go back to the roots — affirmation of individual identity seemed an insignificant matter.

If not for such a deep yearning, how could “Sujana Jeevana Rama”, Thyagaraja’s kriti in Khamaj unfold with such intense resonances? Listen to this story narrated by Anil before they embarked on their most soulful rendition of Khamaj. Valmiki was so proud about the Ramayana he had written that gloating in conceit, he began to unleash himself on the hapless lesser gods and goddesses. Narada had to fix this. “You haven’t read Hanuman’s Ramayana, have you? It’s unparalleled!” he tells Valmiki. A heart-broken Valmiki goes in search to find Hanuman deep in the forest, sitting amidst his Ramayana written on plantain leaves. On reading it, Valmiki at once realizes that his work is not half as beautiful as Hanuman’s and begins to weep uncontrollably. Hanuman, pained by Valmiki sadness, gobbles up all the banana leaves and asks the Maharishi to leave in peace. Valmiki is aghast. “You wrote it for name and fame. But I wrote it to tell the story of great Rama itself,” is Hanuman’s reply. Narrating this story which captures the very essence of Indian Aesthetics of art being greater than the artiste, Anil and Jayanthi rendered a spiritual Khamaj. One could see musical imaginations of the two artistes crossing the boundaries of the self and the raga entered new thresholds.

It’s hard to capture the experience of music in words. Just like emotion is the most elusive substance in music, it’s true about words as well. Jayanthi narrated a beautiful story about illusion and what followed was a piece in raga Nasikabhushini, composed by violinists Ganesh and Kumaresh. Moving from harmony to dissonance, the piece revealed the unfathomable mystery of music. Jayanthi’s chaste gamakas were paralleled with mellifluously progressive phrases by Anil. The progression, however, emphasized the evolution of musical expression in its cyclical nature, and not so much a moving forward.

It’s remarkable to behold how these two virtuous artistes never sway into each other’s idiom or at any point give up their thoughtful restraint. The ragamalika piece in which they essayed into Vasanta, Pantuvarali, Shuddha Dhanyasi, Sindhu Bhairavi and Shankarabharana flowed seamlessly. Jayanthi brought in the most poignant moments with her superlative manodharma.

Pramath Kiran who accompanied the duo on percussion is a very talented musician. He can take on the face and character of any percussion instrument that he touches. For the solemn, yet grand, and unhurried Poorvikalyani, Pramath worked out a lovely texture on the tabla.