Classical strains in Singapore

Abhishek Raghura. Photo: Special Arrangement  

The ingredients comprised 13 senior and junior classical musicians, one theatre expert, a strong waft of the Chennai winds, food and fashion camaraderie and the ubiquitous ‘December’ fervour. The product – three evenings of classical music and narration that captured hearts. And all this in Singapore!

Madhuradhwani’s festival saw artists go beyond the standard contours. Abhishek was in his element with esoteric forays in raga alapana of Thodi, Kannada and Sri. Karthikeya Gangeya, Ninnada and Sri Varalakshmi were thus feeder vehicles to the manodharma voyage.

Abhishek’s hurricane was averaged out by the bhavam-tinted, slow-medium tempo of T.M. Krishna’s concert, pregnant with ruminative journeys. The opening ‘Varugalamo’ in Manji set the tone for the concert and the expectation of the unexpected. Yamuna Kalyani (‘Krishna Nee Begane Baro’) garnished generously with Krishna’s own relish and trance effects, was a stirring experience. Ace violinist H. N. Bhaskar took the lead in ‘Brova barama’ (Bahudari) and almost completed the full piece by himself – as if giving meaning to the co-artist tag versus the ‘accompanist’ tag for which Krishna voiced his dislike. ‘Viribhoni’ varnam was by now whispered loudly among the audience, once the grand canvas of Bhairavi was painted. Krishna rounded off with ‘Tyagarajaya namaste’ in Begada. There is no denying Krishna’s hypnotic spell over the audience. In both concerts, co-artists H N Bhaskar, Thanjavur Murugabhoopathy and Anirudh Athreya were fully in sync with the respective artists and their contrasting approaches. The tani in ata tala was a rhythmic treat. Anirudh’s precision and ‘faran’ ideas stood out.

V. Sankaranarayanan’s versatility is his forte. Without dominating the co-vocalist Sanjeev Abhyankar, Sankar added lustre to both the blended segments and to the individual segment (‘Ninnu Sevinchina’, Yadukulakhambodi). The format allowed for each vocalist to plough his furrow to some extent and to combine where the effect was wholesome. Pantuvarali (Poorvi) and Binna Shadja (whose closest Carnatic equivalent is Hamsavinodhini) would have mightily entertained the jugalbandhi fans. Sanjeev’s vocal timbre and controlled sancharas were pleasing and flawlessly executed. His Kalavathi offered many sterling moments. One felt the balance among the supporting instruments and their interventions could have been scoped better.

The most curious programme was the one offered by Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan, along with Bharthi Ramasubban as the lead vocalist. ‘Mitra’ was a manifesto that sought to extol the virtues of friendship, pump the message through celebrated poetry and writing, historical anecdotes and songs and present it in a Carnatic format. It was a genuine attempt to bridge theatre, Indian heritage and classical music. Its foremost appeal was in the way the theme of friendship was anchored, encircled and kept in the frame. Dr Gowri’s narration excelled in brevity and poignancy while Bharathi and her co-artists (H. N. Bhaskar and Skanda Subramaniam) had to ensure that the music did not become a parallel track or the cornerstone. Their emphasis on simple musical values provided the right accent.

There were many bright spots and something for everyone’s palette ini Gayathri Venkataraghavan’s concert. ‘O Rangasayee’ soaked in ‘Kambojirasa’ was the highlight of the concert that was crowned with a khanda-triputa pallavi in Brindavana Saranga. ‘Janani Ninnuvina’ (Ritigowla) as the prefacing segment was the perfect choice for the rakthi strides that followed. Charumathi Raghuraman played with honeyed hum (Madhuradhwani) and her nonchalant but intellectual style complemented well. Skanda Subramaniam and Anirudh Athreya kept good company.

That the whole festival was the handiwork of an amateur volunteer brigade, mostly youngsters belonging to the Facebook generation, should be an observation that sabhas in Chennai may not want to ignore.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 8:59:53 PM |

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