Exuberant devotion

Aruna Sairam performing at The Hindu Friday Review November Fest held at Jnana Jyothi Convention Centre in Bangalore on Sunday, 28 November 2010. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar   | Photo Credit: G_P_Sampath Kumar

Carnatic vocalist Aruna Sairam, who presented ‘The Wisdom of Vitthala' as part of the Friday Review November Fest in Bangalore, invited the audience, at the very outset, to be part of an ‘experience', rather than a ‘concert'. And indeed the evening turned to be an experience to savour for a long time to come. Supported by a phalanx of instrumentalists, the succession of abhangs, interspersed with a few other devotionals rendered by the artiste had the rasikas clapping and on occasion singing along with the vocalist.

Beginning with a serene “Namo Ganaraya Mangalamurthy”, she followed it up with Sant Namdev's “Teertha Vitthala Kshetra Vitthala”, remarkable for the bhava charged and repeated accent on “Mata Vitthala Pita Vitthala” and ending with the mesmerizing refrain “Vitthala Vitthala”. Abhangs by Sants Gyandev, Eknath, and Tukaram followed in quick succession. A swift detour to the Namasankeertana tradition of the south was made with the Todayamangalam, comprising representative selections from Bhadrachala Ramadas and other great preceptors.

While Samartha Ramdas's paean to Goddess Saraswathi alternated between a slow, evocative progression and the ebullience of gondhali folk strains, “Pachai Mamalai Pol Meni” was aptly suffixed with Sant Tukaram's “Savale Sundar”. Purandaradasa's “Pillangoviya”, Namdev's “Bhaktajana Vatsale” and a Meera Bhajan were succeeded by several pieces requested by the audience, including the Bengali “Jago Tumi Jago”, “Pandhari Nivasa” and “Maadu Mekkum”, with “Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma” being among the concluding items.

Excellent orchestral support was provided by Raghavendra Rao (violin) and Niranjan Lele (harmonium), J. Vaidyanathan (mridanga), S. Karthik (ghata), Sai Bankar (tabla), Prakash Shejwal (pakhawaj) and Pratap Rath (additional percussion). Cues were picked up from the lead artiste, with melody and percussion rising to a crescendo on occasion and dwindling down to a mere whisper, or a meaningful pause, at times. The variety in tempo and tunes was accentuated by the superlative use of multiple rhythms, enhancing the overall impact considerably.

Palpable emotional integration, underscored by an exuberant vocal style, was certainly the highlight of the recital, infusing it with an intensity and devotional fervour from beginning to end. Lucid explanations and introductions to the varkari sampradaya, and narration of interesting anecdotes from the lives of the great saints, provided valuable insights into the origin and development of the movement. Above all, her rapport with the audience, encouraging them to participate in, and respond to, the entire proceedings, acceding graciously to multiple requests, left the listeners literally clamouring for more.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 9:33:07 PM |

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