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At ease in the octaves

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VAST REPERTOIRE: Mambalam Sisters
VAST REPERTOIRE: Mambalam Sisters

V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

Mambalam Sisters did ample justice to the compositions of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar.

Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall was packed to capacity, with rasikas standing on the aisles trying to get a glimpse of the slide show on Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar. It was presented by historian V. Sriram. The programme was held under the auspices of Narada Gana Sabha in association with Harikesanjali Trust to celebrate Muthiah Bhagavathar Day.

Sriram regaled the audience with plenty of facts and witty one-liners. It was an emotional moment when he spoke about the passing away of Muthiah Bhagavathar on June 30, and there was a hint of humour when he added that Bhagavathar, who always wanted to have a coterie around him, had for company Thanjavur Ponniah Pillai, who died an hour later on the same day!

In two speeds

Mambalam Sisters Vijayalakshmi and Chithra are the most sought after these days for thematic concerts; their vast repertoire lending that status. That evening it was a treat of Muthiah Bhagavathar’s compositions. They began with the beauty of a varnam, ‘Mathe’ in Khamas in two speeds. The sisters were not in perfect unison in this phase. ‘Tappulanniyu’ (Bauli-Rupakam), a kriti in praise of Chamundeswari, found them singing kalpanaswaras, covering all the octaves with ease. A weary Chithra took up Sahana and it was indeed a painstaking effort. Dr. R.Hemalatha (violin) impressed with a spirited reply. Wonder why this talented violinist is not found often on concert platforms?

‘Manamu Kavalaynu’ (Rupakam) at a slower pace taking into account the raga under question was complemented with swaras that had sowkhyam in it. A clever change of pace for the ever popular ‘Sarasamukhi’ (Gaudamalhar-Rupakam) enlivened the atmosphere. It was briga-oriented. A not oft-heard ‘Sarasadhala Nayanay’ (Saramati-Adi) preceded the day’s main raga, Kalyani. It was a dazzling display of superb voice control by Vijayalakshmi. Hemalatha who was in fine form that evening did not lag behind. ‘Lambodhara Sodara’ (Sankirna Chapu) was the kriti. It was announced that Kolkata K.S. Krishnamurthy had composed the chittaswaram for it.

The hard work put in by the Sisters did bear fruit, for they came out unscathed in the niraval and swara segment, what with a difficult talam to be handled.

Kallidaikurichi Sivakumar (mridangam) and veteran and father of the three sisters on stage, K.S. Rangachari (kanjira) combined well to present a regulated tani.

‘Mavoor Valar Maharani’, a Tamil kriti in Jonpuri, a thillana (Hamsanandi) and mangalam (Vasantha), all composed by Bhagavathar, marked the end of the evening’s programme.

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