Chennai Cultural Academy Trust Music

Creativity in full flow: on Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna

Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna performing at Ramrao Kala Mantapam

Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna performing at Ramrao Kala Mantapam   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna never lost hold on the grammar

Taking in their stride a recalcitrant sound system that alternated between banshee screeching and sullen silence for a full fifteen minutes, vocalist Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna and his team of accompanists R. Raghul (violin), Kumbakonam Swaminathan (mridangam) and S. Venkataramanan (ganjira) presented a recital that sparkled with several highlights.

Breaking the ice with the Ata tala varnam ‘Nera Nammithi’ (Kanada, Poochi S. Iyengar) that headed towards janta and jaru-embellished kalpanaswara after the chittaswaras, Balamuralikrishna further flexed his voice in a standalone ‘Kanchadalayadakshi’ (Kamalamanohari, Muthuswami Dikshitar) at a comfortable pace that allowed for clear sahitya enunciation. ‘Kanukonu Sowkhyamu’ (Tyagaraja) and its appended swarakalpana explored the subtleness of Nayaki at leisure.

Characteristic double gamakas threw into stark relief the spartanness of the madhyama note in the Varali alapana. While the free-wheeling chains of nagaswaram-inspired sancharas at the tara sthayi shadja were underscored by virtuosity, a slew of panchama-varja prayogas in tara and madhya sthayis contributed towards deepening the raga’s mystique. Brisk kalapramana underscored an interesting sangathi line up in the pallavi of ‘Mamava Meenakshi’ (Muthuswami Dikshitar).

Melodic permutations

In an extended niraval session that effortlessly traversed the tara sthayi, shadja-varja phrasing birthed some melodic permutations. The silken links of kizhkala kalpanaswaras and a vibrant melkala outing topped with a crisp korvai clinched the anything but pedestrian deal. ‘Rama Neeve’ (Tyagaraja, Narayani) preceded an RTP set to Sarasangi. Shadja-varja prayogas grouped and regrouped around the tara sthayi shadja, capturing the raga’s bitter-sweet flavour. Yes, virtuosity did surface but did not overwhelm.

The tonally full-throated tanam was explorative, coloured by rare tints. Complementing Sarasangi’s delicately nuanced attributes, a simple pallavi ‘Kumara Guruparane’ (Adi 2-kalai, with eduppu at one-fourth idam) held sway, with anuloma and pratiloma.

The kutcheri’s appeal stemmed from its alfresco vibe — relaxed and free-flowing. At the same time, Balamuralikrishna kept a watchful eye on that fine balance between creativity and accountability — the kind that entails adherence to grammar while soaring high within the framework of tradition.

Caught slightly off guard by Balamuralikrishna’s unplugged avatar in Sarasangi, Raghul made a brave attempt to tune in to the same wavelength, rallying with spirited ripostes in other segments and in the earlier Varali. With definitive strokes , Swaminathan extended valuable percussive support and constructed an absorbing tani along with Venkataramanan.

One situation that could definitely have been avoided by the sabha through diligent prep was the mike fiasco at the start. Unless sound personnel are made to realise that it is imperative for artistes to hear themselves and each other on stage, the issue of defective or non-functioning feedback monitors will keep recurring.

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Printable version | May 23, 2020 10:15:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/review-of-kunnakudi-balamuralikrishnas-concert-season-2017/article22296292.ece

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