Ramana Balachandran brought alive the veena-vocal link

Vibrant sancharas, swaras with interesting rhythmic patterns, bhava-rich renditions, Ramana Balachandran’s recital had it all

Updated - November 22, 2018 05:23 pm IST

Published - November 22, 2018 03:59 pm IST

Ramana Balachandran veena recital at Crossroads in Chennai

Ramana Balachandran veena recital at Crossroads in Chennai

To experience Ramana Balachandran’s veena music is to reconnect with the age-old veena-vocal link that has made the instrument an extension of voice. At his recital for the Crossroads concert series, curated by First Edition Arts, at the R.R. Sabha mini hall, the artiste, accompanied by mridanga vidwan Patri Satish Kumar, set out to prove that this inherited tradition was alive and well.

The main body of the concert held a select line up of three ragas — Saurashtram, Ranjani and Sankarabharanam.

Singing along as he played the opening lines of kriti, Ramana began with ‘Ennado Rakshinchithe’ Tyagaraja (Saurashtram), deeply oscillated gamakas lent weight to the sangatis. Swarakalpana gained texture from odukkal permutations.

Creative expressions

The conventional opening strains of Ranjani gave little inkling of the rain of creative expression that was to follow. This was not the standard essay built brick by brick in phased blocks. Rather, instinct led the way as the artiste surrendered to the moment. Vibrant sancharas looped across a 2-octave gamut, illuminated by flashes of insight and finessed by kuzhaivus from and to the madhya sthayi dhaivatam. Cached around almost every bend were surprises — welcome ones. ‘Dattatreya Trimurti Roopa’ (Ganapathy Sachinanda Swamigal) touched several highs in melodic sangati mapping.

An interestingly structured chittaiswaram and kalpanaswara rounds that guided the concluding exchange to touch home plate with a spot-on porutham, opened up avenues of discovery for artiste and rasikas alike. En route, reflective alfresco clusters gave way to deep, resonant undertones generated in the mandra sthayi.

Consistently on display, Patri’s sensitive response was evident in his foray into melkala sollus tapering off to subtle tints that gradually swelled in volume during the vistara phase of the charanam’s opening line.

The inherent tranquillity of Sankarabharanam spread its balm in the wake of mandra and madhya sthayi passages. Meditative at the gandhara, springboarding at the panchama and softening to a muted glow at the tara sthayi shadja, the main alapana’s trajectory rode the wave of a predominantly madhyamakala exposition. At the tara sthayi gandhara, you listened to magic unfurl.

A seamless segue into a gradually accelerating tanam wove together a homogeneous entity brimming with bhava, crowned by a lustrous ‘Emi Neramu’ (Tyagaraja) that dove deep into the raga to emerge with precious nuggets. After a few organically evolving rounds of melkala and kizhkala swaras, the action was centred at the kuraippu at the gandhara that threw up a slew of challenging rhythmic patterns.

Alternately coaxing and commanding, the thani showcased traits characteristic of Patri’s artistry.

A resonant reflective Bagesri composition that echoed through halls of memory and recall was followed by the refrain ‘Arunachala Siva’ from Ramana Maharshi’s ‘Aksharamanaialai’ that wound up the recital.

Rooted in substance, the gravitas and bhava in Ramana’s playing was expressive to the point of being vocal with an emotive intensity that captivated cognoscenti and lay listeners alike.

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