EVENT A coming together of melodious music, whether Carnatic or Bulgarian folk, at The Hindu Friday Review November Fest, was a treat for the enthusiastic audience

T he Hindu Friday Review November Fest 2011 got off to a scintillating start with Sapta Shabda, a concert conceived by Chitravina N. Ravikiran, and presented by him along with prominent vocalist Unnikrishnan and tavil ace Haridwaramangalam A.K. Palanivel, and outstanding instrumentalists Charumathi Raghuraman (violin), Chaitanya Kumar (flute), Bangalore Amrit (kanjira) and Giridhar Udupa (ghata).

The performance encompassed seven items and seven melodic and rhythmic sounds including the voice, reiterating the significance of the title. An auspicious beginning was made with “Mahaganapathim Manasa Smarami”, the Deekshithar composition in Natta raga and chaturasra jathi eka thala. The Thyagaraja krithi “Appa Ramabhakthi” in Panthuvarali raga and rupaka thala, supplemented with a neraval and kalpana swaras at “Trippatalanu Nilpi”, concluded with a rousing convergence of all instruments overlaid with vocalisation. The extended percussion solo on the tavil that followed, was a mesmerizing exploration of the infinite scope for permutations within a basic time span of nine counts. A torrent of complex and logical rhythmic calculations and patterns, accentuated at times by appropriately structured yet spontaneous melodies on the chitraveena, confirmed the mastery of both artistes concerned.

Ravikiran's concept of ‘Melharmony', explained as ‘harmony with emphasis on the melodic rules of the raga system', found expression in an original composition by him. Set to Bilahari and following a basic time count of fifteen, the beauty of the raga and the consonance and interplay of instruments in tandem, were set off to telling effect by an invigorating tempo, and culminated in a short percussion passage on the kanjira and thavil.

In contrast, the alapana of Saveri that followed, reflected the serene sweetness and pathos of the raga, embellished with the subtle nuances so critical to its identity. A compact thana was followed by a pallavi beginning “Narayana Narothama” set to the elongated cycle of the sankeerna jathi triputa thala and enriched by the improvisational inputs of each of the participants. The timeless quality of “Krishna Nee Begane Baro” was explicit in the rendition by Ravikiran and Unnikrishnan, while the percussion, shadowing the compelling and variegated interpretation of “Jagadoddharaka Namma Udupi Sri Krishna”, had the gentle insistence and regularity of a heartbeat. The artistes came together with gusto to present the grand finale of the programme, an exquisite tillana in Kalyanavasantham set to khanda chapu thala, another composition of Ravikiran. While the entire presentation was a display of extraordinary technical expertise and aesthetic sensibility it was also an exploration of new horizons in innovative and collaborative endeavour within the dictates of classicism. Underlying the exercise was a firm adherence to the core values of Carnatic music, and a fine balance between the pre-eminence of individual manodharma and the rigours of a joint effort entailing perfect coordination, understanding and synchronisation.


*** Sailing with the jazz

T he Chowdiah Memorial Hall was on fire this Saturday. Boriana Dimitrova and her jazz quartet started it. The Western European jazz quartet with elements of Bulgarian folk music took the stage by storm and impressed the Bangalore audience that had turned up to hear them. The Boriana Dimitrova Jazz Quartet led by saxophonist and flautist Boriana Dimitrova opened the evening with a jazz tune that did exactly what it was meant to, warm up the audience. It took all of fifteen seconds till Boriana proved to the audience her expertise on the saxophone.

The band comprises of Jakob Dreyer on the bass, Lars Dahlke on the guitar and Niels-Henrik Heinsohn on the drums, all of whom are accomplished musicians by themselves. They performed songs from their new album “Balkan Blues” and it was with obvious flair that they combined jazz, calypso rhythms, and other folk elements. The new compositions showcased from their album “Balkan Blues”, are based on asymmetrical rhythms, similar to the wide spectrum in Indian music.

Boriana also dedicated a song to her daughter, replacing the sax with a flute for this one. The song started slow and beautiful, like the whisper of the winds; you could just close your eyes and drift with the music. They also performed a famous Bulgarian dance number. With quick beats and an upbeat rhythm the song had the crowd tapping their feet and earned themselves exclamations of “Bravo!” when they were done. The Ballad, a song that was a homage to the Bulgarian mountains, was a fitting tribute. You actually believed you could be on a snow-capped mountain, with frost settling on your toes and the tips of your nose.

The band fuses great musical traditions and brings it together in a melting pot of classical jazz and peppy folk. Also, one cannot help but stare dumbstruck at the powerful panache with which Boriana handles her instruments. She broke the accepted norm of the brass section being restricted to a male territory, and has proven to be an indomitable force.