The ninth edition of the Sacred Music Festival in association with INTACH and Marabu Foundation was interesting in many aspects. The three-day annual event has become increasingly popular over the years and is looked forward to by both foreign and local audiences. Three beautiful and historically significant locations on the banks of the Cauvery in Tiruvaiyaru act as venues — Diwanwada, the old Maratha Palace, the Pushya Mandapa bathing ghat constructed by the most revered Nayak period Prime Minister Govinda Dikshitar and the magnificent Panchanadeeswarar Temple on days one, two and three respectively.
The first evening of the Sacred Music Festival saw the Maratha palace in the back drop of the Cauvery sands with a gentle breeze wafting across. Exquisitely drawn kolams welcomed the visitors at the entrance. The pigeon tower and the trees in the palace glowed with subtle light providing the ambience for a mesmerising musical experience.
The festival opened with the Hindustani vocal-English Bandish performance by Kiran Pathak of the Gwalior gharana, who has been writing English lyrics for Indian classical ragas. His exposition of Raag Maru Bihag, with two compositions in fast and slow tempos each, set to Ek and Teen taals respectively, was absolutely moving. This, followed by his English lyric was interesting. He was accompanied by Pratik Joshi (vocal), Shreyas Govitrikar (harmonium) and Kedar Pathak (tabla).
The second performance was something we don't get to witness often — a whistle concert. A self-taught whistle wizard, K. Sivaprasad turned into a complete musician under the guidance of flute expert N.S Srinivasan and the legendary M. Balamuralikrishna. Sivaprasad had the audience literally at the edge of their seats right from his racy ‘Vatapiganapatim’ to a soothing ‘Endaromahanubhavulu’ to ‘Manasaetulo’ to magical Magudi in the end. His exceptional talent was of a high order, so much so that it seemed like a flute concert. Violin by V.V. Srinivasa Rao, veena by Lakshmi Padmavathi, mridangam by Kapa Srinivasa Rao, ghatam by V.B.V Prasad, morsing by Gotta Mukkala Venkatesh had their concert strike a powerful chord with the audience.
With a strong Carnatic music base, an artist can do justice to any type of music. This was proved by Karthick Iyer, vocalist and violinist, and his wonderful band of musicians — Vikram Vivekanand, guitarist, Reshwin Nishid, bass Guitarist, Sumesh Narayanan, mridangist and percussionist and Ramkumar Kanakarajan, drummer. The group offered fresh insights into ragas such as Nalinikanthi (Manavyalakinchara), Saveri (Muruga Muruga) and Abheri (Nagumomu). An emotional rendition of Aasai Mugam Marandu Poche left the audience spellbound. Here was an instance when fusion blossomed without hurting tradition.
Chitravina Ravikiran did not disappoint the gathering at the sprawling Panchanadiswarar temple (the courtyard near the Amman shrine). Vittal Rangan (violin), Patri Sathish Kumar (mridangam) and Karthick (ghatam) did not lag behind as Ravikiran opened the concert with a majestic Srivighnarajam Bhaje (Nattai), which was followed by a beautiful exposition of Pantuvarali (Siva siva enaradha). After a moving Evaru Unnaru (Malavashri), Kalyani was taken up as the main raga (Birana Brova) and handled in a very scholarly and appealing manner. The lilting Eppo Varuvaro (Jonpuri) came as a fitting end to the concert, but not before Patri and Karthik presented a short and crisp thani avartanam.
Victor Paulraj needs to be applauded for his brilliance, which takes the festival to a different plane. The decor and use of lights (Mohan and Venlatesh) created a surreal effect. Magesh and Prasad completed the picture by setting up an excellent acoustic system.
A brain child of Ranvir Shah (Prakriti Foundation), reviving music in the land of Tyagaraja is only one of the aims of the Sacred Festival. The other is to restore the past glory of Tiruvaiyaru.