Walking the known path

Saketharaman. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

Listening to the varna in a Carnatic kutcheri these days is a stimulating experience. Most musicians, young as well as accomplished, have more or less done away with it, and one feels charged when a musician begins his/her concert with one. Saketharaman, at the recent Kanchanotsava, gave an exciting start to his recital with the Saveri varna “Sarasuda”. An outstanding composition by Kotthavaasal Venkatrama Iyer, Saketharaman handled it with restraint. He rendered it in two speeds, and what was particularly interesting was the manner in which he and the accomplished violinist Charulatha Ramanujan handled the gamakas so differently from each other, and yet added to the overall intent of the composition.

One feels wearied by common sense notions such as, ‘Carnatic music is all about grammar’. How can any music be all about grammar, one is tempted to ask? Instead, if I urge that Madurai Mani Iyer’s rendition of the beautiful kriti in raga Saraswati “Anuragamule” has to be heard, and has to be indeed followed up with Chembai Vaidyanath Bhagavathar singing the same kriti? My surmise is that the matter of fact statement about Carnatic music, may not be abandoned, but will perhaps get a little more nuanced. Mani Iyer’s is brisk and intense, Chembai’s is soothing, his imagination gracing the introspective contours of the krithi. If the differentce is so stark and is related to a musician’s imaginative quotient, Carnatic music can hardly be about just grammar. Saketharaman sang “Anuragamule” bringing his own flavour to it; he packed it with pace and liveliness.

Saketharaman brings plenty of energy and enthusiasm into his concert. He took up Neelambari, a janya of Shankarabharanam for a brief exposition and showcased its characteristics beautifully – the seamless flow of swaras, the mellow nature of the raga, and its constant, gentle reference to the parent raga, Shankarabharana. The leisurely raga delineation was followed by the evergreen kriti “Brovavamma”. Kamach also came with a brief alapana, and “Santhanagopala Krishna”, a popular composition in this raga was rendered. The most striking part of the concert was raga Chandrajyoti. A raga that is rarely heard, it is said to be the janya of the melakarta Pavani. The raga, experts say, would have been out of circulation if not for Tyagaraja’s two compositions in this raga. Saketaraman presented a striking raga rendition constantly dwelling upon its complex progression. The energy that he gave to the very idea of this raga was fascinating. “Bageyanayya” is a lovely composition and Saketharaman did total justice to it. Charulata Ramanujam’s delineation was of equal competence.

Let me bring back Madurai Mani Iyer and Chembai Vaidyanath Bhagavathar here. While one has to admit that Saketharaman is undoubtedly a very talented musician and his presentation is good, his music, (like most musicians) more or less walked the usual path, the time-tested kutcheri formula. There is a certain self consciousness that has crept into our music, that one yearns for the simplicity of the past masters. Between experimentation and formula, can we find a new path?

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 2:49:38 PM |

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