He is known for his experiments with compositions and now he has come out with another experiment from within rigid contours of classical music.

Working within the structure of classical music is challenge in itself. But Sreevalsan J. Menon does not stop with exploring the realms of Carnatic music in his signature style, long after he has established as a leading exponent of the genre. He is known for his experiments with compositions and now he has come out with another experiment from within rigid contours of classical music.

His new album ‘Navaratna Thillana’ is an attempt, as he calls it, to interpret already popular Carnatic thillanas using the panorama of nava rasas or nine emotions. “I realise this is near impossible to capture the essence of different emotions using compositions, but this is an attempt,” says the composer.

Thillanas, originally derived from dance, are rhythmic structures that the singer often employs to wind up the concert on a pleasant note. What Sreevalsan has done here is to explore the potential of thillanas using orchestrations. He has drawn widely from folk music, Hindustani notes and other music genres like Latin, Jazz and Rock to bring out this effect.

He starts the collection with a thillana by Lalgudi Jayaraman in Raageshree raga to capture Sringaram (love). This is followed by a thillana in Chenjuritti raga by Veena Sheshanna for depict Hasyam (laughter or mirth). “I have treated Hasyam not in the literal sense, but as a sense of well-being and a pleasant feeling.”

Thillanas by Tirugokarnam Vaidyanatha Iyer (in Poorvi raga), M.D. Ramanathan (in Kaapi raga), Oothukadi Venkata Kavi (in Gambhira Natta raga) and Swathi Thirunal (in Dhanasree raga) follow to depict Roudram (fury), Karunam (compassion), Veeram (valour) and Adbutam (wonder) respectively. He then uses a composition done jointly by him and Ajithkumar to depict Bhayanakam (terror) and a short instrumental piece to depict Beebhalsam (revulsion or disgust).

“Again, it is not possible to depict disgust through music, as it goes against the entire spirit of music. So I have tried to do it with a short piece that can generate a mild sense of irritation, when heard along with other compositions.” The collection ends with a thillana, again by Lalgudi Jayaraman in Brindaavani raga to express the sense of Santham (tranquil).

Sreevalsan J. Menon had earlier ventured out of the comfortable realms of structured music, while he worked on a musical interpretation of a short story – that too a famous work like Vaanaprasatham by none other than M.T. Vasudevan Nair. “There were complaints that experiments like these do not provide the pleasure that rendering of original compositions in their real form, as I have done in other collections. But that is the spirit of the attempt, to break that limitation and step out.”

The strength to break the rules comes from his training under Neyyatinkara Vasudevan, as it does to adhere to the basics. As it is with his other out-of-the-box compositions, Sreevalsan tries to find a balance between experimenting and retaining the original flavour of compositions.

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