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A grand tradition

S. Vinaya Kumar

Although the Kalpathy music festival had to be cut short this year, for three days it was a musical feast for Palakkad.

VIRTUOSITY: T.N. Seshagopalan

This year's Kalpathy music festival got off to a grand start on November 7 when Srividya, actress and daughter of the late M.L. Vasanthakumari inaugurated the function by singing a song in raga Sriranjini. However, the festival, which was to go on for the rest of the week, came to an abrupt end on Wednesday, owing to the demise of K.R. Narayanan.

In the intervening three days, the music lovers of Palakkad were treated to a sumptuous feast of what they love best. The first day's concert featured the sisters Haripriya and Shanmughapriya, popularly known as the Priya sisters, who are well-known Carnatic vocalists. These young but experienced musicians carry forward the GNB baani that they have acquired through their teachers Radha-Jayalekshmi who were pupils of the late G.N. Balasubramaniam.

In their performance, the two Priyas exuded an air of confidence, which gave them a dignified stage presence, something that is so essential to making an impact on the audience. Indeed their harmonious and well-synchronised rendering of kritis seemed to be appreciated by the discerning audience of Kalpathy. Particularly appealing were Koteshwara Iyer's composition `Vaarana Mukha,' in raga Hamsadhwani, set to Rupaka tala and Thyagaraja's `Yethaunna nerchidivo' in the raga Yadukula Kamboji set to Adi tala.

The next day's concert featured the inimitable T.M. Krishna who performed with his usual verve and aplomb.

His concert began with the varnam Intachasalama, a composition by Veena Kuppaiyar set to raga Begada.

With hardly a pause, and after all too brief an alapana, Krishna started on Thyagaraja's famous composition `Raamani samaamanamevaro' in Kharaharapriya, which was rendered with such classical elegance that one was left wishing, in vain, that the raga alapana had been more elaborate.

In this as in the songs that were to follow, the influence of the Semmangudi school was pleasingly evident: and no wonder, since Krishna himself had been fortunate to have been instructed by that great master for many years. The main raga of the evening was Sankaraabharanam, which was very well received by the audience. Krishna also sang `Vachaamamgocharame manasa' in the rarely heard raga Kaikavasi, and also gave a melting rendition of Annamacharya's famous `Bhaavayami gopalabaalam' in raga Yamunaa kalyaani. Krishna was accompanied on the violin by M.A. Sundareswaran, on the mridangam by K.V. Prasad and on the ghatom by V. Suresh.

T.M. Krishna

Masterly performance

On the third day, Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan performed before a packed audience. A pupil of Ramanathapuram C.S. Sankarasivam who was himself a pupil of the famed Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, Seshagopalan is known for his glamorous and often flamboyant style of music.

After a brief eclipse, his popularity seemed to on the ascendant once again if one is to judge by the crowd that thronged to listen to him. And he certainly did not disappoint them. The day's festivities had been dedicated to Muthuswamy Deekshitar and Seshagopalan began with a Deekshitar kriti, `Vaathapi ganapathim bhaje' in raga Hamsadhwani.

There followed a string of songs, all compositions by Deekshitar: Manasaguruguharupam in raga `Anandabhairavi,' `Meenakshi me mudam dehi' in raga Poorvikalyani, the rarely heard `Sandanamanjari' in raga Sucharitra, and `Sandanagopala' in raga Khamas. Seshagopalan sang with ease and elegance, his voice travelling flawlessly through the high octaves with never a tremor or falter. It was a masterly performance and one which the crowd acknowledged with resounding applause time and again. He also demonstrated another rare raga Natakapriya, much to the delight of the audience.

The main raga chosen for elaboration was Kamboji. Immediately after the exquisite alapana, the organisers announced that the programmes of subsequent days were being cancelled owing to the death on K.R. Narayanan. Thereupon Seshagopalan appealed to the audience to observe a few minutes of silence.

V.V. Ravi accompanied him on the violin, Guruvayur Dorai on the mridangam and Vaikom R. Gopalakrishnan on the ghatom. To connoisseurs of classical music, Krishna's and Seshagopalan's concerts, each excellent in its own way, offered a study in contrast between two distinct styles. Krishna did not affect the flamboyance of the senior musician, but restricted himself to the bhava-laden music of the Semmangudi baani. Seshagopalan on the other hand, with his brigaas, which, it must be added, were sparingly used in this day's programme, captivated the audience by his sheer virtuosity.

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