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. M. RAMESH

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.

T.N. Seshagopalan made up for arriving a quarter of an hour late by treating his audience with a splendid Aarabhi.

It was the kind of alapana that might be expected of Seshagopalan — briga-heavy, long phrases delivered in a single breath and brilliant in imagination. The choice of the Pancharatna kriti, ‘Saadhinchine,’ was a bit of a surprise, as the alapana had spawned expectations of a nice niraval-swara centric rendition. With such a long composition in hand, Seshagopalan could only rush through — he actually switched to a faster gait at ‘Samayaaniki’ — so fast that the concert turned cacophonous. The vocalist squandered the goodwill he earned with the brilliant alapana.

The concert began with the Mohanam varnam following which were two Tyagaraja pieces, ‘Sri Ganapathe’ (Sowrashtram) and ‘Evarani’ (Devamritavarshini). Despite occasional sruti lapses, both were enjoyable. The peak of the performance came after the Aarabhi piece. Seshagopalan sang a stunningly brilliant Ranjini. The identity of the raga rang out clearly in the opening phrase and the raga essay bore the stamp of the maestro. Tyagaraja’s ‘Durmargachara’ was rendered with zest, with swirling sangatis at ‘Dora Nevanajaala Ra.’ The anupallavi line, ‘Dharmatmaka,’ was taken up for niraval and swaras. As the swaras tapered they landed alternately on one or the other of the upper notes and the corresponding lower note and in the end, the ‘Dharmatmaka’ popped up without notice — another Seshagopalan trait.

Regrettably, the concert lost steam after the Ranjini piece. ‘Banturiti Kolu’ (Hamsanadam, Tyagaraja) came as filler. The swaras at ‘Rama Namamane’ were nice but while ending the piece Seshagopalan soared to the upper notes, eventually making a hoarse ending. The main piece was Thodi. Too many acrobatics stole the raga’s beauty. Swati Tirunal’s ‘Sarasija Nambha’ came low and distant, as though the stage had been moved away. Despite flashes of brilliance, the niraval came across as go-through-motions and the swaras meandered on and on. The audience gave their verdict instantly—there was not a single clap of hands when the notes ended.

Violinist V.V. Ravi played neat, but to the point. K.V. Prasad (mridangam) and Vaikom Gopalakrishnan (ghatam) proved their mettle by their nourishing support.

That B. Kannan plays for the art, and not for the gallery, is something that the consummate veena player has proved time and again by being unyielding in his choice of the off-the-beaten track. His concert for Chennai Cultural Academy had two noteworthy offerings — Nasika Bhushani (‘Maara Vairi’ of Tyagaraja) and an RTP in Simhendramadhyaman.

Though the RTP appeared last, it was the Nasika Bhushani piece that had a lingering effect even after it was over. It was a gem of an alapana, delivered at a leisurely pace. Unhindered by the natural limitations of a human voice, the instrument produces sounds that vocalists cannot (at least for this reason, rasikas should flock to instrumental music). The notes of the second upper octave thundered across the hall with pleasing effect.

The Simhendramadhyaman alapana, again, was a thing of joy. The tanam that followed, however, was not as good, perhaps because of the hurried pace. The pallavi was set in plain Adi talam and there were no multi-raga swara sequences.

Kannan started the concert with the Gowla piece, ‘Pranamamyaham’ followed by an enthralling Amrithavarshini for the kriti

‘Anandamrutakarshini’ of Dikshithar and a Ritigowla piece ‘Janani,’ by Subbaraya Sastri.

Rahul (disciple of M. Chandrasekhar) on the violin provided admirable support, especially for the Simhendramadhyamam piece. The most remarkable accompanist was the mridangam player. Teenager and T.K. Murthy’s disciple, Ashwini, has dared to invade the male-dominated world of percussionists and her presence on the stage, (boy-cut and ear rings) brought smile on everyone’s lips and she did play well.

Ashwini’s co-accompanist on the ghatam was another teenager, Sri Sainath, a disciple of ‘none other than Vikku Vinayakaram’ as Kannan described him.

“Ashwini and Sainath,” Kannan said, “were groomed by ‘Abhaswaram’ Ramji, who identifies young talent and nurtures them.” With another up-and-coming percussionist, Nerkundram Shankar, on the ganjira, Kannan was well supported, and the result was high-quality Carnatic music.