Mylapore Fine Arts
Enjoyable in different ways
THE MORNING concert on December 17 attended by over 100, was piloted smoothly and actively through over two hours by Sangeetha Sivakumar in a standard format. There was a neat distribution of two ragas developed in alapana Poorvikalyani and Todi four or five kritis and minor prefaces. The overall impact was of pleasant fulfilment.
A golden formula in many human efforts to produce a telling effect is to desist from proceeding further after reaching a certain high level. It is left to every one to discover this point. Sangeetha could have lifted her performance by not overreaching herself in her sanchara towards the conclusion of her alapana of Todi, at the higher sthayis. In contrast, Sandhya Srinath on the violin, while being possessed of good bow and finger control over the instrument, displayed a pronounced propensity for extra caution that confined her conventional excursions and palpably hampered creativity. Sangeetha's rendering of Todi was serious and clearly marked by her dedication to projecting the image of the raga. She did this well for nearly fifteen minutes.
Tyagaraja's `Kaddanu vaariki" was sung with good feeling; Sangeetha extracted abundant musical value from different presentations of its various passages in pallavi, anupallavi, and charanam; some songs offer infinite potential for doing this; and it is here that a good singer gets fertile ground for giving her imagination free play. Sangeetha's care in `padachchedam' (splitting syllables of the lyric) came for pleasant noting during her niraval at the charanam, `Nidduranikara inchi'. Sangeetha was lucky with a very supportive team in Sandhya Srinath, Melakaveri Balaji and Papanasam Sethuram (Kanjira). .
The 90-minute concert of Gayathri Mahesh, who appeared after Sangeetha Sivakumar at noonwas as enjoyable as the former, although it differed in many details. Gayathri had a delectable recipe of Pantuvarali (Sambho Mahadeva, Roopakam), Dhanyasi (Kanaka Sabhapati Darisanam, Adi) Hamsanada (Bantureeti, Adi) and Keervani (Balaney mudi soodiya maindanae), the last one elaborated over some 25 minutes through extremely pleasant sancharas, in alapana, kriti and kalpanaswara, crowned by a tani avartanam.
V. Suresh Babu was a handsome help in melody and swaras, and Paiyur Gopalakrishnan competently looked after the percussive values. Going by the aphorism "Sruti maata, layam pita", one could see that the whole programme was well-parented, thanks to the dominance of a high order of melody, consonance with the base tone, adherence to the grammar of music, fidelity in the concert notes and the perfection in rhythm. What stood out was the all-round aural aesthetics, with Gayathri's voice spinning off brigas effortlessly.
Lives up to reputation
The packed hall was ample testimony to the popularity of the Priya Sisters at 6 p.m. on December 19.
The attendance was a tribute also to the rest of the team Akkarai Subbulakshmi (violin), Neyveli Skandasubramanian (mridangam) and Madipakkam Murali (ghatam). And the team lived up to it. With a conventional start through varnam `Vanajakshi' in Adi talam, the sisters made a departure in the `Vinayaka' song with `Sri Vatapi Ganapati Nin Thiruvadiye' in Sahana.
`Sobillu' expectedly set the pace for a tempo, with Akkarai maintaining her quality by matching the sisters' exquisite singing, while the mridangam let go a good deal of `reenkaaram' and the ghatam rang pleasantly.
Shanmukhapriya developed Hamsanandi, while Akkarai gave an expert rendering of it, almost entirely confined to the mantara sthayi. ``Pahi Jagat Janani" came after this. The niraval and kalpanaswaras at the charanam "Sarasa Nipune" were catchy, with the violin and percussion instruments joining in jubilant orchestration. The sisters shared not only the rendition of alapana but also the composition of the kalpanaswaras within the same sequences. The switch from the near-festive mood of the Hamsanandi piece to the stately and resonant ethos of Muthuswamy Dikshithar's ``Sri Akhilandendeswari" in Dwijavanti was apt and pleasant for the sharp contrast. Haripriya's alapana in Todi charmed the listeners with its profusion of vakra sancharas in duritam, gamaka and briga. The pallavi was sung after a short ragam and talam of 12 minutes. Both its metre and its sahityam "Namamyaham Hemavatim Haripriyam Navayuvatim Gunavatim sumatim Satim" had a good degree of novelty. There was also an additional appeal in the ragamalika swaras which included ragas Revati and Madhumati, with corresponding alterations in the sahityam, which went down well with the audience. The 15-minute tani, following the pattern of returning to the rhythmic format of the pallavi after every set of avartanas, was quite arresting, both for its precise arithmetic and for the manobhavas of Skandasubramanian and Madipakkam Murali, both of whom gave handsome support to the vocalists during the rest of the concert as well.
The unpredictability that often dogs a music concert accounts for the widely divergent views of rasikas, who have the same perception and judge the same artistes, but have heard them on different platforms or at different times.
Shortly after attending an extremely satisfying concert of the Malladi Brothers in MFA on December 23, this listener was initially taken aback by the comment of a discerning lover of music that what she had heard of them was pretty disappointing! The brothers Sriram Prasad and Ravikumar capitalise, among their other assets on their deep, bassy, briga-friendly voices, which mostly match each other. Besides, one found their pathaantara sound and manobhava appealing. The repartees of Mysore M. Nagaraj on the violin to the various posers of the singers, fast or slow, subtle or explicit, were admirably in tune, be it in structuring, power, crispness or firmness. Competent accompanying indeed! At the same time, Nagaraj, going on his own course, is able to bring original essays, without upsetting the ambience produced by the main artistes. An instance was Reetigowlai, introduced brilliantly by Sriram Prasad over just four minutes.
Nagaraj produced, in half as much time and keeping to the same ethos, his own equally charming version. The kriti, "Chera-Rama-deya-mira" in Desadi came in with the solemnity befitting it, with only the violin accompanying the voice. The dramatic entry of the mridangam at the end of the first avartana; the long sarvalaghu allowed by the singers between pallavi and anupallavi and the total harmony of the voices of the brothers, the strings of Nagaraj, and the soft strokes of Umayalpuram Sivaraman on the mridangam and V. Suresh on the ghatam all made for true music. If the earlier part of the concert, commencing with "Eranapai", varnam in Todi and the cute "Narasimha, maamava, Bhagawan nityam" in Arabi, Khanda chapu, were tempo builders the later ones over gradually depicted the weight of the concert.
A kutcheri gets delightful as the artistes on stage tune to the same wavelength with such effect that their resonance can produce enough force to draw the entire audience into their circle. At the same time such a situation poses a slight problem to a commentator who cannot indulge in forgetting himself-while being aware of the mood but must observe every one of the contributions. Sivaraman was generous in sprinkling his Reenkarams. The rush of clusters of swaras, the rolling tones of the mridangam, the volley of shots from the ghatam and the firm, sharp-cutting strokes of the violin bow, all to the same rhythm, were a picture of a delicious musical rain, as delightful to the ear as to the mind, witness the listeners filling over 70 per cent capacity of the Hall. The dialogue between violin (Ni-ni-sa-ni -ni-sa,) and the mrdangam and ghatam (takita-ta-ka-dheem) rose to a crescendo to trigger a korvai. Here was the epitome of rhythm built by voice, string, drum and pot, -a composite slice of sumptuous music. Pantuvarali (Ramanaatham Bhajare), Mukhari (Saraseeruha Ramaiyya) and Sankarabharanam (Entuku peddala) underscored the same message. The alapana in Sankarabharanam (by Sriram Prasad) was quite elaborate, with Nagaraj going more for `izhaippu'.
In the kriti, Sivaraman' s meticulous attention to varying his phrases, intensity of strike, the choice of tonal effect to blend with the different moods as the passages unfolded themselves, spoke of his focus on aesthetics. There was never a wayward or jarring shot. Every sound was well-conceived and inspired by a high level of sangeetha jnana. His 20-minute tani with Suresh was a beautiful mosaic of sollus and formations extending to well over a century of avartanas between the two.
The Ragam (Ravikumar), Tanam (Sriramprasad) and Pallavi was in Keeravani. The high points were the violin's lilting tunes and Sivaraman's superb rhythm in the tanam, which demonstrated that this was no mean lip service to tanam. The Pallavi, "Ananda bhooto" in misra-jati triputa in a double-beat was competently executed. Yadukulakambodi and Khamas Tillana brought the concert to a finish around 9.30 p.m.
A popular singer in the Mylapore music scene, judging from the 100-strong audience in the tin shed of MFA on the trying hot afternoon of December 7, Saketharaman displayed great confidence, engendered by his vocal attributes and musical sensitivity. His alapana in Varali had impressive force stemming not only from lungpower and the resonance in the vocal chord but also form his depth of his sangeetha jnana. His effortless sancharas were faithfully followed by Padma Sankar on the violin. "Eti Janma midi" in Misrachapu, taking off at a high pitch and slow pace was full of the devotion of the composer. The succeeding number "Niravathi sukhama" was in the contrasting raga (Ravichandrika) at a contrasting fast pace (Adi), at a contrasting pitch (low). The variations in the different interpretations in charanam were not overdone and thus made for a very acceptable presentation. The lively atmosphere built up in the first 40 minutes of the 90-minute concert got considerably retarded in Madhyamavati, which dragged on through vocal alapana and then on the violin. Though neither Saketharaman nor Padma could have given more imaginative essays than they did, the raga particularly at that time of the day, did not appear to take off. The kriti "Rama kathaa sudha," admittedly an inspired and popular piece, failed to lift the mood. Trivandrum Balajee made good contribution through a short tani avartana. The ragamalika sloka "Sri Raghavam Dasarathaatmajam" at the end stood out in soulful appeal through Mohanam, Hindolam, and Desh. Saketharaman is a young singer with considerable potential and should be able to explore the avenues of Carnatic music effectively in the years to come.
A flexible voice, mellifluous, resonant and consonant with sruti and fine grounding in Carnatic music training are the priceless assets of S. Ramya, who gave a 90-minute recital for MFA in the early afternoon hours of Christmas 2003. That she had excellent accompaniment in Kandagiri Vijayaraghavan on the violin, together with B. Sivaraman on the mridangam was her good fortune on the occasion. Ramya drew instant approval from the 50-odd listeners at the Hall with her lively opening varnam in Hamsadhwani.
The succeeding `Seethamma Ma' in Vasanta sung at an equally refreshing madhyama kaala, went well with the native ravai in her voice. The two underscored the ambience an artiste would have to take special pains to generate, particularly at this hour of the day. Aided by the aesthetic sense of both singer and violinist, the number breezed comfortably through short kalpanaswaras. Portrayal of Bilahari in alapana was replete with pleasant briga-sancharas, fitting well with the piece `Paritaanaminchitey' in Khandachapu, which was sung at a slow pace. Muthaiah Bhagavathar's composition ``Om Namo Narayana" was a short diversion into bhakti-laden melody. The preface to this in Bhagavathar's own raga Karnaranjani, through a short humming, was a good appetiser. The Simhendramadhyam kriti ``Ninne naamiti nayya Rama" in Misrachapu and the niraval and kalpanaswara at ``Pannagendra Sayana" on a half-beat start were both scholarly and melodious.
Short as it was, Sivaraman's tani was well devised. While Ramya is a young artiste of promise, it may be relevant to point out that a balanced recital calls for the stimulation of a variety of styles. One felt that the predominance of brigas in all sancharas deprived gamaka a chance to put in an appearance and add its embellishments. Slow, measured development, dwelling on some swaras and flavouring their taste is an essential ingredient; the briga has necessarily to adopt the contrasting technique of fast movement to exercise its own charm. A wholesome blending of the two will lift the quality.
P. S. KRISHNAMURTHI
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