With every note in place

The Bharat Sangeet Utsav 2017 regaled the audience with a medley of classical, devotional and cinema music

November 20, 2017 04:38 pm | Updated 04:38 pm IST

The hold of film music (from left) Venkat, Hariharan Ravi, Santhosh Subramaniam, Subhashree Thanikachalam, Saindhavi Prakash and Raghavasimhan

The hold of film music (from left) Venkat, Hariharan Ravi, Santhosh Subramaniam, Subhashree Thanikachalam, Saindhavi Prakash and Raghavasimhan

There was an air of expectancy at the Kikani school auditorium as the audience waited for the inaugural concert of the Coimbatore Bharat Sangeet Utsav 2017. The programme simply said, “Rajhesh Vaidya with children from Rhapsody partner schools (GNS Advaith; Chandrakanthi Public School, Suguna RIPS, Gopal Naidu and Samskara Academy) and Vidya Vanam, curated by Dr Sudha Raja”.

In sync with the music Rajhesh Vaidya and his team with the children from city schools

In sync with the music Rajhesh Vaidya and his team with the children from city schools

Even as a couple of elderly men discussed the merits of making school children sing with a seasoned artiste, the strains of ‘Neeradum Kadalodutha’ floated out into the hall. The children sang just three more songs — ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram’, ‘Maithreem Bhajata’, and ‘Vande Mataram’ — but it was evident that they had been well trained. They picked up their cues without faltering and kept pace with Vaidya and his team. When they finished, the vainika paid the kids a gracious compliment (“Their performance is all the more stunning because they didn’t have a single rehearsal with me”), as the audience applauded furiously.

The fact that the hall remained full after the concert ended was testimony to the power cinema wields over the public. Illaiyaraja Salutes Thyagaraja was the brainchild of the well-known television personality Subhashree Thanikachalam. With her on stage were singers Saindhavi Prakash, Santhosh Subramaniam, Hariharan Ravi, P Ganesh on the chitraveena, Venkat on the tabla and percussion, Xavier on the keyboards, and Raghavasimhan on the violin. Thanikachalam’s hearty hail-fellow-well-met manner with her artistes extended to the audience. She kept them laughing at her quips and stories, as she showed how Carnatic ragas had been used in Tamil films.

The singers began with ‘Jagadananda Karaka’ in Nattai, touched upon ‘Thirumagane’ before Ravi finished with ‘Pani Vizhum Malar Vanam’ from Ninaivellam Nithya . They elaborated on ragas like Sriranjani (‘Nathamennum Kovilile’ and ‘Naanandri yaar varuvaar’), Bhairavi (‘Mayangathaperkalundo’), Huseini (‘Rajan Maharajan’) and much more.

It was a good 20 minutes into the programme before the audience realised that Illaiyaraja songs were rather few in number. Thanikachalam then took a sly dig at Illaiyaraja’s famous proclamation of not allowing others to sing his compositions without royalty and rather pointedly said, “All inspiration comes from the seven swaras. They belong to everyone, not to any one individual.” This was greeted with laughter and applause.

The older people in the audience sighed nostalgically when Subramaniam and Prakash broke into ‘Vadamalare Thamizhthene’ from Ambikapathy after Chitraveena P Ganesh had sung a few notes of Bhairavi. ‘Aaha Inba Nilavinile’ ( Maya Bazaar /Mohanam) got a similar response. A demonstration of the pentatonic scale with the ragas Hindolam, Suddhasaveri, Sudhadhanyasi, Mohanam, and Madhyamavathi finished with ‘Muthukalo Kanngal’ sung by Ravi. At which point, Thanikachalam explained that the young man from the US actually didn’t understand the meaning of the lyrics he was singing with so much fervour.

The Varali kriti was Papanasam Sivan’s famous ‘Ka Va Va Kanda’ and Thanikachalam spoke of how Kamal Haasan used this kriti to explain what he wanted for the ‘Paartha Vizhi’ song from Guna . The Lathangi medley ended with the famous MGR song ‘Aadadha manamum undo’ ( Manadhi Mannan ). A little later, Subramaniam brought the house down with his rendition of the TM Sounderarajan classic ‘Yerikarayin Mele Poravale Penmazyile’ ( Mudhalali ). So taken was everyone with this Arabhi-based song that he was asked to sing it completely.

The finale was Shanmukhapriya; from ‘Saravana Bhava’ to ‘Marainthirunthu Paarkum Marumam Enna’ ( Thillana Mohanambal ). Interspersed with questions to the audience and information about composers and lyricists, the hyper-active Thanikachalam kept people in their seats well past the 8.30 pm mark that is usual at concerts.

The second day began with Kovai Sing Along, a Carnatic symphony in which the Carnatica Brothers KN Shashikiran and P Ganesh sang along with the children from the previous evening. Accompanied by Venkat on the table and percussion, Ambur Padmanabhan on the mridangam, K Sathyanarayanan on the keyboard and Raghavasimhan on the violin, the programme began with the welcoming ‘Swagatham Subhaswagatam’ composed by Pt Ravi Shankar.

The children’s repertoire included a few of Muthuswami Dikshitar’s nottuswarams, songs in Telugu, Tamil, Bengali and Malayalam. The infectious rhythm of ‘Kuttanadu Kunjayile’ had audience members clapping while those on stage were hard put not to jive along.

KN Shashikiran (left) and P Ganesh presented traditional kritis

KN Shashikiran (left) and P Ganesh presented traditional kritis

In between these songs, Shashikiran and Ganesh presented traditional Carnatic kritis. While they had been singing, some of the children had come off the stage. When the last song ‘Anumathiyo’, composed by MS Srinivasan, began, they suddenly realised that their teachers were signalling them to come back. And the audience was treated to the edifying sight of kids slipping back into their places and joining in at the point they came in.

The fact that this edition of Bharat Sangeet Utsav is in aid of the Chennai-based NGO Vidyasagar that works with differently abled children prompted Shashikiran to include the school kids in the programme. He also pointed out that while the children had learnt the songs in their respective schools, they had come on stage without once rehearsing with the accompanying artists. Yet they didn’t strike a false note at any point.

Classical notes on November 21, 2018

5.00 pm Gayathri Venkatraghavan accompanied by Charumathi Raghuraman on the violin, KV Prasad on the mridangam and BS Purushothaman on the kanjira

7.00 pm Priya Sisters (Shanmukhapriya and Haripriya) accompanied by MA Krishnaswamy on the violin, Sai Giridhar on the mridganam and BS Purushothaman on the kanjira

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