Kalyani invariably sounds busy, with an innate tendency to run amok. Equally, its restrained treatment invariably results in beauty. S. Mahathi chose to take the bull by the horns, packing her centrepiece with immense power. The approach prompted one to yearn for the reposeful punctuations that can make Carnatic music still beautiful.
In her hour-long concert at Madras Music Academy, the young vocalist sought to showcase bustle as her forte. Her consistent rendering of kritis at a frenzied pace curbed the possibilities of enhancing the listening experience, even though the selection of ragas carried variety. In fact, her Kalyani alapana even resorted to a modal shift, conjuring up a streak of Suddhadhanyasi. Apparently not satisfied with the bhedam exercise, Mahathi hummed the opening line of ‘Himagiri tanaye’ famously set in the pentatonic scale.
Elements of classicism
The 14-minute Kalyani alapana, did have some elements of classicism embellished by some of her gurus such as T.N. Seshagopalan, O.S. Thyagaran and Mangad K. Natesan. Yet, a feverish speed refined the upper registers, which had its loud phrases repeatedly punctuated by oscillations that sounded like bell-metal tolls. At this stage, violinist Shreya Devnath was practically edged out from her bids to reproduce the tail-ends of Mahathi’s high-speed forays. The vocalist’s round-off happened to bear a slip. Shreya, in her solo turn, played another stray note. That apart, Shreya’s poise lent the kutcheri a fair degree of peace.
‘Talli ninnu nera’ by Syama Sastri was a kriti, with a much mellowed down niraval. The swaraprastara was briefly rendered at different speeds during the solfas passages, but not acrobatically. The tala, being misra chapu, ensured a swaying quality to Rohit Prasad’s sober tani avartanam on the mridangam.
Mahathi began her presentation with Bilahari. The crisp alapana was predictable, already heralding a tendency to crowd the rendition with ideas. The swaraprastara was neat, suiting the tempo of Tyagaraja’s ‘Inta kannanandam’. Only the composer’s mudra met with a discordant utterance.
Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Marakatha lingam’ further lit up the course. Vasantha’s propensity to spread freshness further established the mood of the kutcheri that was anyway sprinting towards the pivotal suite. The pre-main ditty in adi tala wasn’t impressive per se , but the four minutes worked as a sprightly filler.
Mahathi owns a polished voice that has enabled her to make a mark as a Carnatic musician and playback singer, and to render with ease songs in different genres. This skill was displayed in ‘Sothanai sumaikkam’ (Papanasam Sivan) in Kapi that followed the tani avartanam. A thillana in Sindhubhairavi, another raga with a Hindustani slant, sustained the vivacity till the end.
The Kerala-based reviewer
focuses on music and dance.