Sai Prarthana and Kashyap Mahesh highlight the richness of Tamil literature in Carnatic music

The two vocalists, who performed at Mudhra’s Chitirai Isai Vizha - 2024, sang both ancient and contemporary Tamil works.

Updated - May 10, 2024 03:08 pm IST

Published - May 06, 2024 01:58 pm IST

Sai Prarthana Narasimhan at Mudhra’s Chithira Isai Vizha 2024.

Sai Prarthana Narasimhan at Mudhra’s Chithira Isai Vizha 2024. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Put together, Prarthana Sai Narasimhan and R. Kashyap Mahesh presented 21 compositions in their concerts spanning two hours each. It highlighted the richness of Tamil literature in Carnatic music, yet did not explore its deeper musical possibilities. Never serving dull moments, but neither keen to push the envelope, both the vocalists sought to showcase the charm of orthodoxy, regaling audiences at the ongoing Chitirai Isai Vizha 2024 under the aegis of Mudhra in association with Nalli.

At successive weekends of the month-long festival of Tamil compositions, Prarthana and Kashyap did, however, chip in refreshing elements. By including works from the fifth-eighth centuries to those who lived as recently as till the last decade, their kutcheris underscored the continued contribution of the ancient language to south Indian classical music. Be it the Divya Prabandham by the Azhwars, whose verses are one-and-a-half millennium old, or a varnam by scholar T.K. Govinda Rao (1929-2011), the pieces reinforced a constant Tamil flow into the stream.

In fact, Prarthana began her presentation with TKG’s ‘Aanai mugane’ in Kanakangi. While this first Melakarta raga rarely functions as a starter, the singer wound up the piece with her own solfa sequences beyond the set chittaswaras. Violinist Shertalai Sivakumar couldn’t tune in easily to this extemporaneous presentation, even as K. Arun Prakash (mridangam) and Sai Subramaniam (morsing) laid the track fairly well.

As if in a hangover of TKG’s unhurried Musiri school, the ensuing Saveri composition assumed a pace that was lesser than usual. ‘Muruga muruga’ (Periasamy Thooran), too, concluded with kalpanaswaras, which straightaway stemmed from the second speed. Papanasam Sivan’s songs were rendered back-to-back — ‘Kumarantazh’ (Yadukulakamboji) and ‘Senthil andavan’ (Karaharapriya). The second was the sub-main, bracketed by a frills-fuelled alapana and post-niraval swaraprastara that culminated with zigzags encapsulating the spirit of the melakarta raga.

Sai Prarathana with Prarthana Sai Narasimhan - Sherthalai Sivakumar (violin), K. Arun Prakash (mridangam) and Sai Subramaniam (morsing).

Sai Prarathana with Prarthana Sai Narasimhan - Sherthalai Sivakumar (violin), K. Arun Prakash (mridangam) and Sai Subramaniam (morsing). | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Gopalakrishna Bharatiyar’s ‘Enneramum’ (Devagandhari) was the filler ahead of the 50-minute main package in Mohanam. Sivakumar’s solo response was proportionate to the vocalist’s five-minute alapana, while Arun Prakash’s measured beats escorted ‘Kapali’ (Papanasam) into the anupallavi, guiding an amused Sai Subramaniam. The swara sequences revelled in the raga’s typical bubbliness, capped by a kanakku-laden finish. The following tani avartanam, too, bore geometry.

Suriya, next, came up with a welcome raga, with ‘Narahari vesha’ (Rukmini Ramani). Tarangambadi Panchanada Iyer’s ‘Arabhimanam malika’ spelt out a dozen ragas before Papanasam’s ‘Ennatavam’ in Kapi. ‘Vandinam muralum’ in Thodi (Thondaradippodi Azhwar) was the swansong.

Common threads

Prarthana, trained by Mani Krishnaswami and Chingleput Ranganathan, resorts to sounding sweet without being all that sturdy. The resultant non-aggression is, coincidentally, a trait she shares with Kashyap, moulded chiefly under the legendary T.V. Gopalakrishnan. Both the vocalists showed a penchant for patterned kalpanaswara, never going overboard with it all the same.

Kashyap Mahesh.

Kashyap Mahesh. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kashyap spun kalpanaswara in all the first four compositions of his recital. Starting with a shlokam in Nattai, the vocalist opened with Bharatiyar’s ‘Ganapati thaalai’ in adi tala. K.R. Ganesh on the mridangam initially played beats and rolls that didn’t synchronise too well with the song, prompting Madipakkam Murali (ghatam) to be cautious in his interventions. Suitably subdued was V.V. Srinivasa Rao on the violin, seldom trying to score a point.

If Nattai helps a concert to take off early, building on the momentum was Hamasanadam. Danadapani Desikar’s ‘Paadavendume’ travels mostly along the upper ranges of the pentatonic raga, going well with the musician’s overall sprightliness. Geometric progressions went off well in the Roopaka tala swaraprastara — as also in the succeeding mishra chapu during the singing of ‘Kadaikan’ by Ramaswami Sivan.

Kashyap Mahesh with V.V. Srinivasa Rao (violin), K.R. Ganesh (mridangam) and Madipakkam Murali (ghatam).

Kashyap Mahesh with V.V. Srinivasa Rao (violin), K.R. Ganesh (mridangam) and Madipakkam Murali (ghatam). | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The first detailed alapana came in Purvikalyani, with warm assistance from the violinist. The evening melody was sketched along conventional lines, after which came ‘Marukkulaviya’, a Tiruppugazh by Arunagirinathar. The piece also ushered in a niraval, around ‘Tirukuravadi nizhal’. It was steeped in devotional fervour; so was the swaraprastara. Not so orderly was a brief percussive gig that followed.

Marimutha Pillai’s ‘Thillai chidambarame’ (Kapinarayani) heralded the onset of the piece de resistance — in Madhyamavati. The alapanas, spanning 10 minutes, carried the sobriety of the kriti: ‘Saravanabhava mukhane’ (Papanasam Sivan). The swaraprastara was reposeful, too, and so was much of the tani avartanam in the eight-beat Adi.

A viruttam, starting ‘Kodayile’, surfed along Pantuvarali, Bilahari, Kapi, Nilambari and Shri before settling for Jhonpuri to course along ‘Andavan darisaname’ (Muthaiah Bhagavatar). The fag end featured Guru Surajananda’s ‘Muruganin marupeyar’ (Bihag) and Maharajapuram Santhanam’s thillana in Misra Sivaranjani and ‘Mannupugazh’ (ragamalika by Kulasekhara Azhwar from Divya Prabandham).

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