Twin treat by Ragavan Manian

Ragavan Manian made his concert unique by singing and also playing the saxophone

Published - December 16, 2021 06:26 pm IST

Ragavan Manian.

Ragavan Manian.

Ragavan Manian presented a rather unique concert where he was both vocalist and saxophone player. He was accompanied by Shradda Ravindran on the violin, Neyveli Skandasubramaniam on the mridangam, and H. Sivaramakrishnan on the ghatam.

Ragavan’s raga choices, kriti selections and presentation were all unusual. Given his supple but strong voice, Ragavan was able to present the kritis at varying speeds, some slow and unhurried, some at medium pace, and a few very fast.

Surfeit of swaras

He opened the concert with a varnam in raga Sarasangi, his own composition, influenced by Adi Sankara’s shlokam ‘Parabrahma lingam bhaje pandurangam’. As expected of the varnam, it had several swara passages, chitta and muktayi swaras. The next piece ‘Gam ganapathim’ was created by his guru Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, in raga Ganapathi, consisting of just three notes ‘sa ga pa’. Ragavan added a few rounds of swarakalpana to this as he juggled with the three notes.

A precise Purvikalyani raga essay was followed by the Syama Sastri kriti ‘Enneramum un namam’. This leisurely rendition was pepped up with ‘Edaari sancharinthura’ in the raga Sruthiranjani, a rare kriti by Tyagaraja.

The main offering was Kamboji, which was sung in the normal fashion, with all the signature phrases of the raga intact. But Ragavan decided to add a different flavour to it by adding a tanam to the raga alapana on the saxophone. And then, just as everyone expected him to continue playing the instrument, Ragavan switched over to singing. His choice of kriti was Papanasam Sivan’s popular ‘Adum deivam arulvai’ with a complex swarakalpana segment with different nadais. The singer centred the penultimate swaras with ‘p d s r g s’ and ‘m g p d s p’ combination leading to a grand finale.

Towards the end, Ragavan again forayed into saxophone territory with Dikshitar’s ‘Rangapura vihara’. Then, he switched to vocals to render a zesty thillana at breakneck speed in Brindavanasaranga, composed again by Balamuralikrishna.

Shradda Ravindran stuck to her methodical approach to raga, tanam or swaras. Skandasubramaniam and Sivaramakrishnan underplayed their roles, but gave their best in supporting Ragavan’s performance.

The Chennai-based writer reviews Carnatic music.

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