MUSIC The nonagenarian R.K. Srikantan's music was rich with emotion
Avocal concert by R.K. Srikantan followed a ceremony organised recently by Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira, Bangalore, during which the title of ‘Sangeetha Vedanta Dhurina' was conferred on him in memory of its founder the late G. Vedanta Iyengar. Srikantan was accompanied by R.S. Ramakantha (vocal support), H.K. Venkatram (violin), Srimushnam Raja Rao and H.S. Sudhindra (mridanga).
The concert began with a short sketch of Shahana and “Karunimpa”, the aditala varna sung in a medium tempo. A swift raga outline also prefixed Muthuswami Deekshithar's “Karikalabha Mukham” in Saveri, which found evocative expression in the master vocalist's leisurely rendition, accentuated with kalpana swaras in two speeds affixed to the pallavi. While “Sharade Pahimam”, an exquisite composition by Mysore Vasudevacharya set to Yadukulakamboji raga and aditala, embodied the essence of the raga, the alluring cadence of the sahitya was enhanced by meaningful articulation. An energetic, yet lilting Nagaswaravali, as enshrined in Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer's “Sri Sankara Guruvaram” set to rupakatala, followed.
Panthuvarali was taken up for a detailed alapana that was completely traditional, gamaka-oriented and in conformity with the weighty classicism of the Carnatic idiom. The lead artiste expanded the raga in methodical fashion with great strength and clarity of voice up to the tarasthayi shadja. Imaginative forays into the upper octave by the supporting vocalist, notably around the gandhara, were rounded off with a plethora of brigas in the descending and concluding phases.
The magnificence of Muthuswami Deekshithar's “Ramanatham Bhajaeham” was effectively illumined and underscored with a neraval at the madhyamakala sahithya “Kumara Guruguha Mahitham”, which began in mellow fashion at the panchama, progressed in stages to the higher notes, and included a hauntingly beautiful phase around the tarasthayi rishabha. Copious kalpana swaras in two speeds wound up with a stint of diminishing ala cycles around the tara sthayi shadja, incorporating spontaneous rhythmic combinations and culminating in an elaborate and superbly coordinated tani avarthana.
Among the pieces in the subsequent session of the performance were “Bala Kanakamaya Chela”, the Thyagaraja krithi in Athana raga and aditala, and the Deekshithar masterpiece in Vrindavanasaranga, “Rangapuravihara”, each of which acquired the luminescence of a polished jewel. Though better sound and volume adjustments would have augmented listening pleasure considerably, inspired violin and percussion accompaniment in absolute conformity with the vocalists' intent was a notable feature of the concert, and contributed to the supremacy of bhava, devotion and dedication that pervaded the concert.