Friday Review

In conversation with his music

T.M. Krishna in concert. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Rasikapriya, a new sabha set up by a young team of music lovers on the OMR, has become the latest hallmark of new spaces that takes Carnatic music beyond its familiar prosceniums. As T.M. Krishna took this stage, the atmosphere was suffused with excitement. And yet, Krishna’s performance was anything but a ‘performance.’

When Krishna began with a deliberate Bhairavi followed by Upacharamu, it was clear that he was only proceeding to have a deep conversation with his music. No gimmicks, no frills, no frolic and no playing to the gallery. And it was a conversation to which we were welcome to be happy listeners.

Bhairavi was followed by Thodi. Unexpectedly, Krishna lapsed into a meditative Thanam, gently cajoling and exploring some traditional turn of phrases with renewed interpretation, giving Thodi the complete attention that it commands.

And then again, Krishna’s musical conversation took an unexpected turn, to the varnam Eranapai in Thodi! Although the varnam has played the role of a structured, introductory, warm-up piece of a concert, Krishna demonstrated that through his capacity to transcend the grammar of music, he can embrace the raga bhava of the varnam and honour it at the heart of a concert.

Living up to his iconoclastic approach, Krishna gave way to a violin solo in Keeravani by B. U. Ganesh Prasad. Interestingly, Krishna and the violinist were seated at par beside each other, and the mridangam and ghatam artists, Ganapathi Ram and N. Guruprasad, were prominent on either side. All the artists were facing the audience. An unusual positioning, it was! The violin solo unfolded into a thevaram as Krishna articulated an evocative ‘Kunitha Puruvamum’. As the audience absorbed this, he had already glided into the piece de resistance, ‘Guruleka Yaduvanti’ in Gowri Manohari. As Krishna captured the raga’s dimensions and nuances in the composition and the elegant kalpanaswara, his manodharma shone through in pensive equanimity.

Krishna’s presentation of Gowlai was satiating. He ascended and descended the ladder of octaves with ease, pushing the envelope to a two-and-a-half-octave reach. And when he touched the peak of the highest note, it was as if the music was driving him to that note.

In his rendition of Dikshitar’s ‘Thyagaraja Palayasumam,’ Krishna stayed true to the grandeur and gravity of the composition. The simple Mohanam was far from simplistic even as Krishna’s conversation had now turned somewhat playful. He traversed the tectonic scale through a linear, yet multi-rhythmic dialogue that is quintessentially Mohanam. Krishna kept this upbeat momentum with a lively rendition of Tyagaraja’s ‘Pavanutha’. Following a pleasant thani avarthanam, Krishna rendered ‘Brochevarevare’ after a brief albeit rich slokam in Sriranjini.

And before the listener could get too comfortable in this playful mood, Krishna broke into a varnam yet again! Singing ‘Karunimpa’ in Sahana, this time, Krishna improvised in the charanam, embellishing it like a full-fledged core item of the concert.

Krishna closed the concert with ‘Amar Janma Bhoomi’ written by Dwijendralal Roy and popularised by M. S. Subbulakshmi.

And he was back to where he had started, meditating on the profound beauty of soulful melody.

Krishna’s conversation with his music gushes forth like a stream of consciousness, where content refuses to be interrupted by form; where the dynamism of tradition takes precedence over the code of convention.

The jury is still out as to whether Krishna’s defiance of a time-tested performance format will itself stand the test of time.

Or whether he will indeed be an integral catalyst in changing the terms of musical dialogue.

Either way, T.M. Krishna’s musical discourse cannot be underestimated.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 2:20:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/in-conversation-with-his-music/article7011354.ece

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