Carnatic music, which is primarily melody driven, does not altogether eschew harmony. Nagaswaram concerts revel in this form, showcased in celluloid in Tillana Mohanambal, in the English notes played by the MPN Brothers. The young and talented Trichur, Brothers Srikrishna and Raam Kumar Mohan who pepped their music with vocal harmony throughout, were accompanied by Jyotsana Srikanth (violin), Trichur Mohan (mridangam) and H. Sivaramakrishnan (ghatam) at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club on Thursday.
The brothers began with the varnam ‘Entoprema’ (Suruti) and moved on to ‘Panchamatanga’ (Malahari) — both delivered sedately. In singing the next kriti, Tyagaraja’s ‘Enduku nirdaya’, with structured sangatis, they showed a good grip of the Harikambhoji raga.
The Shuddhadhanyasi alapana had good gamaka-laden development and the kriti rendered was Subrahmanyena (Dikshitar) in Adi tala. Next up, Shyama Shastri’s, Rave himagirikumari (todi) was delivered with poise, peppered with harmonies combining all three octaves in pairs.
The main raga alapana in Kalyani had a definite Semmangudi influence in its long sententious structure. There was a particular breathtaking (breath holding!) passage that elicited applause. In the tanam that followed Ramkumar Mohan’s voice opened, constructing sweeping akaram patterns that were rapturous. The pallavi, set in Adi tala, was also sung in a ragamalika that included Bhupalam, Hindolam, Shuddha Saarang and Kapi.
A short and apt tani — with nadai-s and kuraippu-s exchanged between the mridangam and ghatam — followed. Swara exchanges by the violinist were adequate but the same cannot be said about her alapana-s in this concert.
The concert ended with a Tukaram bhajan set in Mishra Shivaranjani, followed by a recital of a few shloka-s set in Madhyamavati.
The Trichur Brothers have a capricious skill-set that keeps their concert interesting. Here are a few observations from this concert they should consider while honing for concert significance:—
Harmonising during a fast section, as in the pacemaker for today, ‘Vidajaladura’ (Janaranjani), is mesmerising and during a tanam, is still appealing; but it is distracting during alapana-s. The brothers already have the voice, mettle and manodharma necessary to preserve the classicism of the raga during an alapana, as it emerged during the Shuddhadhanyasi alapana.
That, and singing a swarajati in a concert set for two hours — particularly when it made them sing the pallavi line only twice. The entire concert did not include one of the challenging creative elements of Carnatic music, the neraval.
(Arunn Narasimhan is a faculty member at IIT Madras and writes about Science and music on the internet.)