A carefully navigated concert by Sudha Ragunathan

Sudha Ragunathan with Patri Sathishkumar, Embar Kannan and Raman .   | Photo Credit: Photo: Special Arrangement

Sudha Ragunathan’s concert for the Music Academy relied on her famed presentation mantra and delivery style. The voice vibrancy that she is known for eluded her at times, but Sudha brought all her stage experience to bear for a satisfactory concert.

What can be better for a high octane start than a varnam in Kadhakuthuhalam? ‘Kuvalayakshi’, a GNB composition, kicked off the presentation in a positive mood. A short viruttam followed by ‘Mangala Vinayakane’ (Ramapriya, Periasamy Thooran, misra chapu) was embellished with keen swaras coasting on the chapu outlines. The concert picked up pace as ‘Manasuloni’ in Hindolam was presented. The swaras at ‘Manasuloni’ with improvisations at ‘ni’ and ‘ga’ were engaging. The familiar brisk course was established with Patri’s active metronomic collaboration.

The Mukhari alapana brought in a different articulation. It was more mellow with a higher proportion of bhava than briga, as one may expect from Sudha. ‘Enraikku siva kripai varumo’ (Neelakanta Sivan) in misra chapu and a dominant upper octave structure served as the booster to recoup her voice fluency. Sudha sang more pensive sangatis to align with the kriti’s emotive theme.

Focus on melody

The choice of Harikamboji for the main piece was as surprising as the kriti that followed. The raga alapana was built with good characteristic phrases. Embar Kannan kept it short and sweet, with melody as the principal focus. Mysore Sadasiva Rao’s ‘Saketha nagaranatha’ in rupakam is a unique kriti with a vibrant madhyama kala course and even a durita sprint at the end. Its chittaswara structure is also beautiful – it is as if the composer poured all his imagination into one prize-worthy kriti. Sudha gave it a slightly slower treatment with compensating action provided by Patri’s mel-kalam strokes.

Niraval at ‘Rajitha amara pala’ was attractive and by this time, Sudha was singing fluently in the upper octave. Aesthetic swaras laced with laya brought out Sudha’s trademark finishing touches. Patri Satish Kumar moved seamlessly from a simple thani beat to a complex one, pairing well with Raman on morsing.

A sanguine viruttam in melancholic ragas like Hamirkalyani and Kalyanavasantham led to the kriti in the latter raga, ‘Innudaya bharade’ (Purandaradasa, ata tala), from the MLV stable. One has not heard the ragamalika version of ‘Asai mukham marandhu poche’, and it left a warm sentiment at the end of a concert that was reshaped well to mitigate the early voice strains.

Sudha understands the importance of a good outcome and carefully navigated the programme and the style to suit the cards that she had to play with. Embar Kannan’s role in giving a soothing effect at every stage earned him special kudos, even if it is his staple. Patri was in familiar territory and his rapport with Sudha’s style was evident in his special exuberance.

The reviewer specialises in Carnatic music.

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An earlier version incorrectly mentioned ‘Manasuloni’ in Varamu raga. It is Hindolam.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 2:49:01 AM |

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