Chennai Cultural Academy: Veterans K.R. Saranathan and Seetha Narayanan impressed with their stamp of commitment. There were many highlights despite occasional lapses in Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan’s concert. With a young team of accompanists, B. Kannan offered a high-quality performance.
Enthusiastic veteran K. R. Saranathan presented a neat concert in the company of violinist M.A. Krishnaswamy and mridangam artist Manakkal Sriram. The warm atmosphere on the stage, that forced Krishnaswamy to keep mopping his forehead, did nothing to dampen the singer’s zest for music, (although it did elicit a frustrated ‘Ammah’, a couple of times.) Early on, he presented a fine alapana of Valaji followed by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar’s ‘Jalanthara.’ Saranathan sang a few rounds of swaras at the traditional point, ‘Bhavaroga Nivarini.’
This piece was followed by an alapana of Kharaharapriya. As in the preceding Valaji, the alapana contained no flights of imagination or exploratory forays, but was satisfying.
At the end of the raga essay, Saranathan surprised the audience with his choice of the kriti. ‘Appan Avadharitha’ of Sivan (on Lord Ayappa) is not one that is frequently heard in the halls, but is indeed a charmer. The composition begins one beat before the start of the Adi tala cycle. A no-frills niraval and swara sequence appeared at ‘Triloka’, also a ‘minus one’ point, where the clap of the hand falls at ‘loka’ rather than ‘tri’ in the tala play. It was funny to observe the singer’s posture — he often sat leaning back, arms anchored on the rear ground for support. An endearing elder!
The talented veteran accompanist, Krishnaswamy, played as though he was bored with the proceedings, apparently due to physical discomfort—the warmth on the stage was accentuated by some sweeping activity in the vicinity, as the stage was being readied for the following theatrical performance. This made the violinist sneeze and cough a number of times. A little attention to details by the organisers could have lifted the concert higher.
Manakkal Sriram’s zestful tani earned him a hand-shake and a ‘pramadam’ from the vocalist. Saranathan ended the concert with a viruttam that ran through Pantuvarali, Mohanam and Sunaadavinodini and another Sivan piece, ‘Enna Kavi Paadinaalum’ in the raga Neelamani.
If veteran vocalist Seetha Narayanan never fails to impress, it is because she tethers her concert to the raison d’etre of Carnatic music — bhakti. The emphasis on bhava is something that one finds in all her concerts and the one under review was yet another illustration of this.
The ‘first main’ piece was a soul-soothing Kapi. Seetha developed the alapana with the leisure the raga demands. Thankfully, despite her advanced years, her voice is still clear as a bell and therefore, was amenable to emote. Since the lady has a marked preference for Swati Tirunal’s compositions, one expected ‘Vihara Manasa,’ but the chosen composition was Tyagaraja’s ‘Entha Sowkhyam.’ Niraval and swaras appeared at ‘Swara Raga.’
Earlier, opening the concert with the Vasantha varnam, Seetha sketched a brief alapana of Hamsadhwani and sang Sivan’s ‘Karunai Seivai.’ This was followed by ‘Anupama Gunaambudhi’ of Tyagaraja in Atana. The slow pace was disappointing because Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar has kind of set a convention that this piece should be sung fast.
The central piece was Kalyani. Well, there is only so much that one can do with a well-milked raga such as Kalyani, and Seetha could do little more than sing it neatly. Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s ‘Nijadasa Varada’ rent the air for the next half-an-hour. The singer wound up with a Purandaradasa suladhi and a kirtana (‘Tare Bindigeya’) in Tilang.
Violinist Pakkala Ramadas couldn’t arrive in time, and Delhi Sridhar, who had performed at the same hall in an earlier concert, was asked to accompany Seetha. Sridhar did an admirable job on the violin. Clearly, the man has a bright future. Manikudy Chandrasekhar provided adequate support on the mridangam.