Music

This percussion fusion was different

Valayyapatti S. Malarvannan. Photo: M. Karunakaran

Valayyapatti S. Malarvannan. Photo: M. Karunakaran   | Photo Credit: M. Karunakaran

Valayapatti Malarvannan and his team set out to present what he called a distinct percussion jugalbandi on the occasion of Valayapatti Nada Laya’s 20th anniversary. One may dispute the claim, but there is no denying that the experience was different from other instrumental ensembles.

There is a context to the musical concept Malarvannan deployed that evening. Musical fusion of the Hindustani and Carnatic styles is not uncommon, concedes Malarvannan. Equally, there is no disputing that such a dialogue also involves vocalists and instrumentalists from both the streams. Indeed, percussion accompaniments from both traditions are prominent in such exchanges.However, a percussion fusion of the northern and southern instruments is still a rarity, contends Malarvannan, if not altogether non-existent. That is to say, an exclusive fusion of say the tabla, the mridangam, the ghatam, the pakhawaj, ganjira and the thavil is not something you ordinarily associate with fusion music.

A percussion fusion it was, for the most part. Yet, the indispensable melody of the flute and the guitar were not discarded during the performance. Nor were the mellifluous wind and string duo drowned out by the formidable thavil, tabla and the mridangam.

As though to emphasise that the performance was a jugalbandi, the ragas presented that evening could be traced to common roots in their respective strands. Brindavanisarang, Behag, Sindhubhairavi and even Natabhairavi, which goes by the name of Asaveri in the Hindustani style. Sahana, Shanmukhapriya and Neelambari were possible exceptions to this rule.

The honours of the day among percussionists belonged undoubtedly to Malarvannan himself. J.B. Sruti Sagar stole the show when it came to the contest between him and the guitarist Poly Vargese.

The flute essay in Brindavanisarang was the opening melody. As proceedings turned out, alternating spells by the flautist and the guitarist was the order of the evening.

‘Vandanamu Raghunandana’ in Sahana on the flute was next. Sruti Sagar was joined by Malarvannan on the thavil and the ganjira in the anupallavi and then the tabla joined in.

The improvisation on the flute was absorbing.

The next composition in Natabhairavi sounded like a normal RTP. The ‘jhod’ and ‘jhala’ on the guitar was an approximation of the tanam. Conversely, the flautist presented a regular tanam. The ragamalika in the pallavi featured, among others, Neelambari and Behag.

The thunderous tani avarthanam rendered by artists of the thavil, tabla and the ganjira was perhaps the moment much awaited in the evening. The individual solos on each of the instruments were distributed in such a manner that not one percussionist dominated the proceedings.

'Yenna Thavam Seydanai’ and ‘Bhagyada Lakshmibaramma’ concluded the recital. Malarvannan could perhaps try his hand once at gathering India’s different instruments in an all-percussion show. That would be a challenge worth the attempt.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 11:05:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/this-percussion-fusion-was-different/article6811549.ece

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