BHAKTI N.C. Soundaravalli had chosen ragas apt for the content and mood. Suganthy Krishnamachari

N .C. Soundaravalli began her Divya Prabandham concert for Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, with Periyazhvar's ‘Pallandu' in the raga Nattai. Periyazhvar's ‘Mudi ondril,' which bears the immortal M.S. stamp, was presented in the same ragas in which M.S. used to sing the verses. A sensible choice, for the verses struck a chord of familiarity in the minds of the audience.

Verses from Divya Prabandham do not find a prominent place in kutcheris. They might be heard as a viruttam towards the end of the concert. And yet, tradition has it that Nathamuni, whose musical genius equalled his scholarship, taught the verses with music and tala to his nephews.

A problem

However, when one is trying to revive a musical presentation of the verses, a problem presents itself - the sheer vastness of the subject matter, with its philosophical undercurrents, its verses in naichiya bhava, ninda stuthi, verses full of sringara rasa and even those that see the Lord not as a nayaka, but as a child, thereby bringing yet another dimension to bhakti - maternal love towards the Lord!

To sort out what the verses mean in philosophical terms, and then to choose suitable ragas for them is not easy. Fortunately, except for a verse in Sohini, for all other verses presented in her concert, Soundaravalli had chosen familiar ragas such as Thodi, Kharaharapriya, Dhanyasi, Ritigowla, Ananda Bhairavi, Hindolam, Mohanam and so on. For the Thiruvallikeni Narasimha pasuram, Soundaravalli had chosen Kapi. Narasimha might have torn into Hiranyakasipu, but the purpose of His avatara was the saving of Prahlada. So a gentle Kapi seemed suitable for Narasimha, the Lord who came hurrying to the rescue of His devotee.

A word about the ambience. Divya Prabandha pasurams need contemplation on the part of the listener, even when presented musically. Unfortunately, in Soundaravalli's concert, there was too much amplification for the mridangam and the ghatam, resulting in a morning of noise, rather than a morning of cogitation on the Azhwars' verses. Also when Divya Prabandha verses are presented, the vocalist should ensure that the percussion instruments don't proclaim their presence so loudly.