Music

Fitting tribute to the Guru

Musical homage ‘Guru-Sishya’ mridangam maestro Karaikudi Mani with Kunnakudi M. Balamuralikrishna (vocal), B.V. Balasai (flute) and Shree Sundar Kumar (ganjira).

Musical homage ‘Guru-Sishya’ mridangam maestro Karaikudi Mani with Kunnakudi M. Balamuralikrishna (vocal), B.V. Balasai (flute) and Shree Sundar Kumar (ganjira).  

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Conceived with a difference, the concert gained from the acumen of Karaikkudi Mani, who was a source of inspiration for the young vidwans

The Lancor Bharat Sangeet Utsav, jointly organised by Parthasarathy Swami Sabha and Carnatica, featured a concert themed on the Guru-Sishya concept. Led by guru Karaikudi Mani on the mridangam, the artistes included his disciples — Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna (vocal), B.V. Balasai (flute), Shree Sundar Kumar (ganjira) and L. Ramakrishnan (violin, disciple of Kanyakumari).

Vocalist Balamuralikrishna began his musical journey under the tutelage of his father R. Meenakshisundaram and later, gurus V. Sundaresan, Neyveli Santhanagopalan and P.S. Narayanaswami, simultaneously honing his percussive skills as a sishya of Karaikudi Mani. Among the aspects that made the kutcheri unique was the choice of kritis that formed a fitting, collective tribute to all gurus. Interestingly, although the compositions presented extolled the primacy and virtues of the guru, with some referring to a specific guru, none of them was composed by a direct disciple of the guru referenced in the composition.

A welcome addition to the conventional kutcheri ensemble, the flute established an appreciable synergy with voice and violin. Opening with ragamalika prelude sketches, Balasai, through robust, gamaka-rich sancharas, proved that he was at home in the solid classical vocabulary of Bilahari, Dhanyasi and Madhyamavathi. These ragas segued into the virutham ‘Poyyuril Pirandha Yenakku’ composed by guru Surajananda and sung by Balamuralikrishna with flair and verve, particularly in the musical choreography of the lines ‘Thaazhvilum Uyarvilum.’ The concluding Ritigowla segment merged seamlessly with the Oothukadu Venkata Kavi kriti ‘Yenna Punniyam Seidheno Sadgurunatha.’

Wafting in an unexpected aroma, the haunting vivadi notes of Sucharitra (mela raga 67) generated its characteristic now-pensive, now-desolate ambience. Elusive at best, its sillage lingered for longer than expected, thanks to a clutch of meaningful trysts with bhava by voice, wind and strings, that travelled beyond scale-based excursions.

Standing out for features such as the use of srotovaha yati in the charanam, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna’s ode to Muthuswami Dikshitar, ‘Chintayami Santatam,’ yielded golden moments cached in sangatis that reflected the vocalist’s creativity while staying true to the composer’s vision.

Usually viewed as a ‘filler’ kriti, Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s ‘Sri Sankara Guruvaram’ (Nagaswaravali) assumed a different avatar by virtue of the vocalist’s treatment. The sangati line-up and niraval at ‘Agnyana Thimira Tharanim’ braided with quicksilver phrases, threw up fresh perspectives as did Balamuralikrishna’s highlighting of the chittaswaram, in which shifting points of emphasis in permutation-combinations made the most of the vibrant audava-audava matrix.

Darbar, the main raga, registered its identity with punch and power. Balasai embarked on the first segment, devising vadi-samvadi lined routes to dwelling points at the madhya sthayi rishabha and dhaivata. In his turn, Balamuralikrishna fortified the tara sthayi shadja with time-tested pidis, gathered steam at the rishabha and forged ahead with alternating madhyamakala and ravai prayogas, aiming for greater fluidity with chain-linked passages.

Ramakrishnan’s was a weighty essay, well-grounded in grammatical strength. Tyagaraja’s ‘Narada Guruswami’ was rendered with authority. Kizhkala kalpanaswaras explored raga bhava at leisure, spotlighting catchy poruttams, before gliding into melkala.

Complicated korvai

The icing on the cake was a korvai composed by guru Karaikudi Mani. Bearing the maestro’ s stamp and in the tradition of all distinctive creations, this was a deceptively simple permutation, but in actuality, one that demanded undivided attention to detail. Building on the essential construct of 3 (7+15) + 3 (5+5); 3 (7+10) +3 (5+10); 3 (7+5) +3 (5+15), the artistes added texture by alternating chatusra and tisra — a tricky undertaking, pulled off with poise and precision. The tani avartanam was a delight — Sundar Kumar’s resonant ganjira conversing with the depth and remarkable timbre of Karaikudi Mani’s mridangam — their exchanges echoing with the ace vidwan’s hallmark sollus and capped with the above korvai.

The tukkada segment showcased ‘Suranara’ (Kamalesa Vittaladasa) tuned in Shuddh Sarang by the vocalist.

Buoyed up by the active participation and encouragement of guru Karaikudi Mani, whose presence on stage was a source of inspiration, the team of young vidwans proved its mettle in a presentation that aced both form and content.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 2:55:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/fitting-tribute-to-the-guru/article29971743.ece

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