Harmonising flavours

The jugalbandi between Carnatic vocal and Kathakali music proved to be a fine coming together

The International Centre for Performing Arts, Bangalore, hosted a jugalbandi by Carnatic vocalist Sankaran Namboothiri and Kathakali singer Kottakal Madhu, each in turn presenting the ragas chosen for the evening. The accompanying artistes for the first were Mathur Srinidhi (violin) and M.T. Rajakesari (mridanga) while the Kathakali music ensemble comprised Kalamandalm Babu Namboothiri (vocal support), Kalamandalam Krishnadas (chenda), Kalamandalam Rajnarayanan (maddalam) and Kalamandalam Aneesh (edakka).

The performance began with Hamsadhwani raga as enshrined in the Muthuswami Deekshithar krithi “Vathapi Ganapathim”, followed by the invocatory thodayam “Hariharavidhinuta” of Kathakali. An evocative rendition of the sloka beginning ‘Peethambaram Karavirajitham’ in Sri Ragam by both singers in turn led to ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’, the Pancharatna krithi in adi thala. The immortal padam ‘Ajitha Hare’ from Muringur Sankaran Potti’s ‘Kuchelavrittam’, which constituted the Kathakali component, was suffused with devotional fervour, the slightly elongated gandhara endowing it with a distinct melodic flavour.

Sankaran Namboothiri’s alapana of Panthuvrali was a display of tremendous virtuosity, replete with brighas and flourishes. The Thyagaraja krithi ‘Siva Siva Sivayana Raada’ was ornamented with kalpana swaras which ended with a spate of diminishing thala cycles at the thara shadja. Kottakkal Madhu responded with the sloka ‘Chinthayanthamithi’ and the padam ‘Avalethoru Kamini’ from Unnayi Warrier’s ‘Nalacharitham’ in muri atantha tala, akin to mishra chapu, a splendid elucidation of the musicality and rhythmic beauties inherent in the sahithya.

A vibrant and variegated articulation of ‘Sharada Rajani Varunnu’ from Vaikom Rajasekhar’s ‘Arjuna Vishada Vrittam’, was set off by the Swathi Thirunal krithi ‘Pahi Parvatha Nandini’, which incorporated the rarely heard charanam beginning ‘Kanjadalanibha Lochane’ and a few rounds of kalpana swaras.

A brisk ‘Samajavara Gamana’ in Hindolam was ornamented with kalpana swaras at ‘Yadavakula’. In direct contrast was the padam ‘Enthiha Manmanase’, in chempata thala which corresponds to adi thala, from V. Madhavan Nair Mali’s ‘Karnashapatham’, a haunting portrayal of Karna’s anguish, sung with great emotional intensity and raga bhava by both Kathakali singers.

‘Yochana Kamala Lochana’ and ‘Poomathinotha’ exemplified the use of Darbar raga, while Abheri found articulation in ‘Nagumomu’ and ‘Angane Njanangu’, though the original raga of the last is Madhyamavathi. The ability of the supremely talented violinist to reflect the style of the lead artiste was amply evident during the course of the performance. Outstanding mridangam support was complemented by the exceptional quality of the reverberating Kathakali percussion.

A more compact concert structure, and a mention of the thalas employed in the Kathakali padams and their parallels in the Carnatic idiom would have enhanced appreciation and enjoyment levels. Brief introductions to the context and characters relevant to, and to the import of, the padams would also have proved beneficial. However, the performance was a fine exposition of the innate classicism, underlying similarities, and some divergences, of two closely allied modes of expression.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 12:50:03 AM |

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