Concert Mambalam sisters give yet another pleasing performance, but something was amiss.
Amusic concert has to be marked by vibrancy, if you expect the audience to sit and listen for nothing less than two hours at a stretch, day after day! For most part, the framework of any recital is set to a pattern- a varnam, followed by an invocatory kriti to lord Ganesha, followed by kritis in different ragas set to varied pace, with improvisations and alapana that are hallmarks of individual prowess. What is it that makes each recital interesting? It is the treatment by each musician, the choice of compositions to be rendered and so on.
We had Mambalam Sisters, Chitra and Vijayalakshmi give us a few fine kritis in their sedate tones, within the limits of classicality, proper adherence to tala, sruti too for larger part (despite mild fluctuations by one of them), popular ragas, manodharma in place and what not. Yet, no connect was established with the audience.
The saving grace, so to say, was the Kalyani ( Enduko nee manasu… ) where one of the sisters gave a meandering alapana tracing the finer aspects of the raga, elaborating its facets before they launched into the kriti proper. They chose ‘ Raga rahitha Sri Rama… ’ which was an apt spot for niraval which tossed across between them in brilliant exposition.
The swarakalpana brought out their virtuosity to the fore. The emotive element in this particular piece was intact though one felt it to be tightly reined in by the adherence to classicality. But for the rest of the concert, there was hardly any scope for ‘feeling’ or ‘bhava’ that usually touches the heart-strings of the listeners. We all had to sit tight-lipped taking in the correct diction, grammar and mode of rendition that worked clock-like.
The pada varnam in Natakurinji ‘ Chelamela ra… ’ is such an evocative one among all the varnams in the Carnatic lexicon; the raga itself is melodic to the core; all we got was a straight rendition with desired, dry oscillations.
The Thodi kriti that followed was insipid while the Vasantha ( Vaade Venkatadri…) oozed some amount of warmth and pepped up the audience. The vibrantly beautiful Anandabhairavi opened well with a dulcet alapana by one of the sisters. ‘ Mari vere gati evaramma… ’ is a soul-stirring kriti. Though the duo held on well to the steady, serene sangathees, with the chittaswaram hedging it like crouton surrounding a rose garden, we wished at the end of it, for a livelier rendition. Not to underestimate the Mambalam Sisters grip over their medium.
They are perfectionists but passivity keeps peeping into their rendition. The violin by Hemalathawho was introduced as a doctorate in music was pathetic to say the least. Her accompaniment was hardly audible and her replay of the Anandabhairavi was mechanical. The ‘ Soundara rajam… ’ another vilamba kalai kriti, in beatific Brindavana Saranga meandered through with its inherent melody.
This was offset with a drutha kalai one rendered in their typical style in Poornachandrika ‘ Telisi Ramachandra.. ’ preceding the lovely centerpiece in Kalyani. The taniavarthanam by Ganapathiraman on the mridangam and K.S. Rangachari on the kanjira complemented the artists. The recital was part of the Kalasagaram annual fest at Keyes High School.