Rithvik Raja’s concert: An experiment that worked in parts

Rithvik Raja presented a concert that didn’t follow the conventional format

January 19, 2023 04:43 pm | Updated 04:43 pm IST

Rithvik Raja performing at Mylapore Fine Arts Club in December 2022. He is accompanied by M. Rajeev on the violin, N.C. Bharadwaj on the mridangam, and Chandrasekhara Sharma on the ghatam.

Rithvik Raja performing at Mylapore Fine Arts Club in December 2022. He is accompanied by M. Rajeev on the violin, N.C. Bharadwaj on the mridangam, and Chandrasekhara Sharma on the ghatam. | Photo Credit: RAGHUNATHAN S.R.

Rithvik Raja concluded his two-hour vocal concert with Gopalakrishna Bharati’s ‘Eppo varuvaro’ in Jhonpuri. This was preceded by a vibrant tani avartanam by N.C. Bharadwaj on the mridangam and Chandrasekhara Sharma on the ghatam. There’s a reason I begin thus.

The major piece, Ragam Tanam Pallavi for a Navaragamalika varnam (Patnam Subramania Iyer), which led to this tani was a medley of ragas with just the tanam, and a string of swaras in each raga that came either alternatively or sequentially. A brief tanam in the nine ragas — Sri, Mohanam, Bilahari, Yadukulakamboji, Kamboji, Begada, Kalyani, Sankarabharanam and Kedaram — was followed by swaraprastaras in ascending and descending order.

Rithvik Raja performing at Mylapore Fine Arts Club in December 2022.

Rithvik Raja performing at Mylapore Fine Arts Club in December 2022. | Photo Credit: RAGHUNATHAN S.R.

Had Rithvik planned his tanam segment well, he could have painted a rich portrait of the ragas. But the way the ragas and swaras were juxtaposed and rendered gave little scope for the rasikas to enjoy them.

I was reminded of the elaborate raga exposition of Bhairavi followed by tanam for the Ata tala varnam, ‘Viriboni’, presented by Rithvik’s mentor (T.M. Krishna) at a December Season concert a few years ago.

The seating arrangement on the stage needs to be mentioned. The musicians, including the upa-pakkavadyam artistes, were seated in a semi-circle.

Rithvik rendered ‘Nyayama meenakshi’ in Ahiri, before singing the reverence-filled ‘Mayamma’ by Syama Sastri. Before this, there were smartly-framed swara sallies centred on dhaivatam that added lustre to the niraval at ‘Premajoochi naapai’ in Tyagaraja’s ‘Seethapathi’(Khamas), prefixed with a crisp alapana shared by Rithvik Raja and violinist M. Rajeev.

The concert started with a tanam in Nattai leading to ‘Jagadanandakaraka’, again with swara-sahitya exchanges between sections, with Vijay, playing the swaras, and Rithvik singing the sahitya. Rithvik chose to sing the last charanams that bear the mudra of the saint composer. Fortunately, no swarakalpana was added.

This was a highly democratic, inclusive, modern-day concert, if one can term it so. However, one cannot but appreciate the way Rithvik Raja’s musical acumen and voice have gained depth and range. So was Rajeev’s versatility on the violin and precision in the percussion by Bharadhwaj and Chandrasekara Sharma.

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