Music

Traditional to the core

Udayalur Kalyanaraman Photo: K.Ananthan  

It was more sublime than a Carnatic vocal kucheri, in as much as the rendition and the content went. But that is what one should expect from Udayalur Kalyanaram’s ‘Bhajana Sampradayam-naamasankeertanam’. The presentation follows a set pattern established by tradition: a Thodaimangalam verses (of Ramadas, Annamacharya and Vijayagopala Swami) in song format rendered to a classical ragam, then the guru keertanam and then the proper repertoire, which begins with a sloka, followed by a sankeertana of Bhadrachala Ramadas or Annamacharya, Narayana Teertha, Purandharadasa or an Abhang. Each of these songs concludes with a bhajan-mode rendition that reaches a tempo. The audience participation is sought for the refrain and the bhagavatars go on to the next song. The lengthy recital ends with the customary mangalam.

Attired in conventional veshti and angavastram sans shirts or kurtas, the bhagavatars — Kalyanaram and veteran Sethalapathi Balasubramaniam (support singer) were flanked on either side by the harmonium player Shankar Raman, percussionists Babu Rajasekharan (mridangam) and A. Subramanian (dholki). The multilingual ‘Krishna Vaibhavam’, began with the Thodaimangalam in Nata ragam, a Ramadas kirtana followed by Annamacharya’s Sharanu, Sharanu Surendra Sannutha… and a Vijayagopala’s kirtana in quick succession. The credentials and profundity of the performance was authenticated by the time the first three keertanas were rendered. We knew that we were in for a recital that would be par excellence.

The guru stuti Sthiramaina Sukhamu Pondemu in Sankarabharanam flowed majestic with the harmonium in perfect following. A Narayana Teertha’s composition set to Mukhari came close on the heels, which culminated with Om Namah Shivaya bhajan in Revathi. The Ashtapadi (fourth) preceded by the sloka, as the format went, was a melodic rendition of Chandana charchitha… in Panthuvarali. The support singer Balasubramaniam chipped in with his brand of gamaka which vested the bhajan with classicality. The precision to sruti, the tonal variations, the stress on the right syllable to carry the import of the song, the reach and richness of the tenor held the audience in thrall. The briefing with every verse was the least didactic and in fact served to enhance our understanding. There was never a monotonous moment. Even a classical music concert could not have had the audience glued to their seats more.

The Narayana Teertha compositions in Mohana and Nadanamakriya were handled with a good grip on the raga while the bhava was predominantly the mainstay. A light alapana of the Khamas and Kannayya Krishna.. made its way like a ripple in the ocean of Krishna devotional ocean. The Anandabhairavi gushed with joy and fervor while Veghamela ra swami Rajagopala.. was suffused with passion for the divine and flowed naturally into ninu vina gati ledura... True to the concept of a multi-lingual presentation, we had the popular Krishna nee begane baaro.. (Yaman Kalyani). The Tamil composition of the one and only Oothukkadu tripped and traipsed as Marakatha mani maya chela in Arabhi burst forth. The words of the lyric literally danced the kaaliya mardhanam and the brief yet pronounced taniavarthanam by Rajasekharan gave an extra glitter to this diadem of keertanas. Ranga baaro, Panduranga baaro went fleeting by in total bhajan mode, while the Abhang Naama cha bazaar… literally drew a picture of pilgrims in yatra to Pandharipur. The mridangam further enhanced the effect of slow movement of devotees walking to God’s abode. The Vittala refrain caught on to lend the bhajan flavour. Devotion and dignity marked this presentation staged at Vignana Samithi auditorium under the joint aegis of South Indian Cultural Organisation and Vignana Samithi.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 8:44:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/traditional-to-the-core/article3810706.ece

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