Sandeep Narayan is beginning to take decisive steps towards establishing his own identity. His concert for MadRasana, warmly applauded by an enthusiastic audience, demonstrated this. In the process, he has somewhat moved away from gimmickry and mimicking.
The concert list reflected the expanding repertoire that Sandeep has been bringing to the table. If ‘Vara vallabha ramana’ (Hamsadhwani, GNB) was sung with plenty of gusto and a breathless volley of swaras, ‘Gnana sabaiyil’ (Saranga, Papanasam Sivan) was more contemplative with a relaxed kalapramana. This ability to switch gears is key to enhancing concert appeal.
Among the sparkling phases of the concert was an elegant raga alapana of Karnaranjani that had two parts — the aesthetic one provided full scope to the grammar of the raga while in the other, he exhibited a natural flair for undertaking a flamboyant ride. Violinist Murari also packed a lot of ‘sukham’ in his raga alapana. ‘Vancha thonuna’ by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar that launched the raga was rendered competently. The kriti, with a pulsating tisra nadai, is an outstanding contribution of the modern era. It has an attractive chittaswaram and Sandeep lapped up the opportunity to win huge appreciation.
Tyagaraja’s ‘Niravathi sukha’ in Ravichandrika is a staple in a concert before the expansive phases. Sandeep’s swaras, as expected, were quick-fire and edge-of-the-seat stuff. As long as such manufactured moments attract loud cheers from the audience they will continue to be part of the concert architecture.
The Kapi alapana was handled with maturity — mostly gentle glides and pregnant pauses. There were folk and Hindustani tinges to enrich the feel. There was an equally sublime and melody-soaked alapana from Murari that proved he is an evolving musician. Sandeep sang a pallavi, ‘Neethu mahima teliya naa tarama’ in Adi 2 kalai. The Trikalam and the ragamalika swara segment had some fine elements — Madhuvanti, Atana, Durga, Sama, Ragesri, Nilambari and Arabhi — that pumped up the adrenalin on stage. A ninda stuti in Kuntalavarali and Ashtapadi in Darbari Kanada were good tailpieces that brought back ‘sowkhyam’.
Sandeep Narayan has an easy voice — it is soft and comes with range and clarity. One feels he should just exploit it and not get into decibel bursts, especially while culminating the muthaippus.
Violinist Murari is a natural with melody, and even in fast-paced swaras, he shows his respect for raga lakshana. Mridangist K.V. Prasad was equally impressive, showing restraint when he had to. K.V. Gopalakrishnan on the kanjira provided good support and vibrancy.
The Chennai music scene has benefitted from newer outfits bringing some differences in programming and, more importantly, youthful energy and sharper understanding of new audiences. MadRasana is one such.