Below the austere banner that said ‘Nivedanam’, disciples of all ages rendered a range of songs in unison. They were the students of Gurukulam celebrating the 80th birthday of their guru R. Vedavalli at the Smt. Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium in Mylapore.
The three-part evening’s first segment was the Gita Rasa, where students presented Vedavalli’s compositions sticking to her strict observance of unswerving grammar (Lakshiya and Lakshana Sangeetham).
A stickler for tradition, Vedavalli liked to present unique offerings such asTyagaraja’s ‘Utsava Sampradaya’ kritis, Andal’s ‘Nachiyar Thirumozhi’, the opera ‘Pallaki Seva Prabanda’, and lesser known padams and javalis. She also set ragas to Ambujam Krishna’s compositions, did a treatise on Mallari, and even surprisingly simple rhymes for children highlighting the importance of patriotism. The first student segment celebrated these myriad shades of the legendary musician’s repertoire, samples of which were sung by the group with a brief preface for each by Sumathi Krishnan.
The second part was an audio-visual presentation by her prime disciple Sumitra Vasudevan, who explained her guru’s forte of singing tanam and her style of niraval. Audio excerpts were presented with video clips showing the various stages of Vedavalli’s musical journey.
Vedavalli’s penchant for classicism showed in her emphasis on singing tanam mostly in the madyama kala beat and in her selection of phrases for niraval. The musician’s tanams in Thodi and Gana Ragamalika were strong testimonies to her skill.
The last section of the evening was Keerthi Rasa, which had felicitations by the guests of honour such as N. Murali, Aruna Sairam, Bombay Jayashree and V. Ramnarayan. Murali to Vedavalli and her contribution to Carnatic music.
Of particular note was Sumitra Vasudevan’s tribute in the form of a special pallavi on Vedavalli in Latangi raga set to the complex and lengthy Simhanandana talam (with 128 aksharas), which Vedavalli and her guru Mudikondan Venkatarama Iyer are known for setting pallavis to.
A visibly moved Vedavalli gracefully attributed her musical prowess and wisdom to her gurus, Madurai Srirangam Iyengar and Mudikondan Venkatrama Iyer. She said that they had never sung for fame but for pure music.