Ashwath Narayanan’s concert combines musical notes and narrative

In a pleasing exercise, Ashwath Narayanan presented crisp info about each kriti before singing them

January 06, 2022 07:50 pm | Updated 10:54 pm IST

Ashwath Narayanan .

Ashwath Narayanan .

Ashwath Narayanan’s concert titled ‘Vivaram’ (details) was a pleasant musical experience that also included interesting trivia about the compositions. But his intros were crisp, and it did not become a pedantic lec-dem.

He spoke about how Tyagaraja composed five to six songs on Tulasi before he presented ‘Tulasi dala mulache’ in Mayamalavagowla as the opening kriti. Niraval at ‘Saraseeruha punnaga’ and swaras centered on panchamam added lustre.

Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Annapoorne visalakshi’, the young vocalist explained, is a song in praise of the deity at Kuzhikkarai, a small town near Tiruvarur, and not the one in Kashi. Refering to the charanam of the kriti that has a mention of payasam, Ashwath pointed out that it is offered to the goddess even today.

The third piece turned out to be a very interesting one, a composition by Dr. S Ramanathan in raga Gopriya, a derivative of Rishabapriya. The raga’s unique feature is that it does not allow for any tonic shift because of the equidistant notes in the absence of panchamam. Ashwath demonstrated the raga before presenting the kriti ‘Na moravina rada’ with an intricately laced chittaswara by the composer. A classic pada varnam in raga Yadukulakamboji by Swati Tirunal came next. ‘Sami ninne nammithira’ was the composition. Ashwath spoke of learning this varnam from senior Bharatanatyam dancer Leela Samson, and presented it with élan. It was performed by Rukmani Devi for her maiden performance in 1935.

Shiva kriti

Talking about Muthuswami Dikshitar composing the kriti ‘Ardhanareeswaram’ in Kumudakriya, Ashwath said that it may be because kumudam is a bisexual flower that has both stamen and pistil, just as the Ardhanareeswara concept embraces both male and female.

Ashwath presented a majestic tanam in Thodi without the raga treatise and sang Maharaja Kumara Ettendra’s ‘Gajavadana sammodita’ with its masterly chittaswaram. The singer spoke of how its speciality is the note ‘gandharam’ embedded in 18 different styles. The grandeur of the composition was elevated by the vocalist’s prowess and his extensive niraval and swaras at ‘Vaag vilasa karthikeya’.

When Silappadigaram was written there were five pentatonic ragas including Hindolam, Suddha Saveri, Mohanam, etc. The song ‘Vadavarayai maththakki’, popularised by M.S. Subbulakshmi, was set in Suddha Saveri during the Sangam era with the five stanzas in different pentatonic ragas. Later, S.V. Venkatraman set the verses to tune differently, later popularised by MS. Ashwath presented this ragamalika.

The concert ended with Bharati’s ‘Oozhi koothu’ set in Mohanam by the poet himself.

B. Ananthakrishnan on the violin, Delhi Sairam on the mridangam, and K.V. Gopalakrishnan on the kanjira shared perfect camaraderie throughout the concert, with Sairam and Gopalakrishnan exchanging sharp patterns in the tani.

The Chennai-based writer reviews Carnatic music.

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