A talent that needs polishing

Shreya Devnath at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha on Sunday. Photo: S.S. Kumar

Shreya Devnath at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha on Sunday. Photo: S.S. Kumar   | Photo Credit: S_S_Kumar

There has been a significant improvement in violin skills across the board among youngsters today. This has set a burden of higher expectations upon any budding violinist. In addition to this, a Carnatic violin solo concert has never been an easy proposition. Shreya Devnath’s violin solo performance at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha on Sunday must be viewed in this context.

The performance commenced with Lalgudi Jayaraman’s varnam in Asaveri. It was followed by Tyagaraja’s kriti Bhavanuta in Mohanam. The kalpanaswara-s that followed seemed over-rehearsed. She then played an alapana in Sriranjani and while she brought forth the raga bhava strongly in the slower phrases, the same impact was missing in the faster sections. She needs to work on being able to play the gamaka judiciously in the faster phrases as well. Sriranjani loses its character when the gandharva and nishada are presented without gamakas, especially in the ascent. The Tyagaraja kritiSogasuga mridanga talamu’ was followed by interesting kalpanaswara-s exhibiting eduppu-s in each of the three words of the pallavi. The kalpanaswara-s ended with korvai variations for each of the eduppu-s.

The main raga chosen for the day was Shanmukhapriya. The elaborate alapana covered all the essential phrases of Shanmukhapriya but the X-factor which makes a raga shine was missing through most of the alapana. The raga finally came alive in the beautiful and flowing phrases in the mandra sthayi. This was followed by the tanam and a simple pallavi in 2- kalai Adi followed by ragamalika swara-s. The pallavi normally presents a musician with an opportunity to showcase skills and creativity in laya. When the pallavi chosen is very simple and the trikalam avoids the tishragati variation, it brings up the question of the RTPs relevance in such a short concert.

Melakaveri Balaji on the mridangam and Sukanya Ramgopal on the ghatam played with great understanding. Their tani in 2-kalai Adi talam was robust but formulaic. Neither presented any new ideas.

The performance brought to the fore a common question. How do we judge when is the best time for a music student to take centre-stage and become a performer? In Shreya Devnath’s case, she has all the ingredients, technical and musical, to grow into a violinist of calibre. First, she needs to polish her technical skills. Specifically, she needs to work on her steadiness of bowing, the ability to play controlled slow and fast vibrato and felicity of fingering in the upper octave. One of the potential pitfalls of performing too early is that all effort gets directed towards performance skills, thereby stunting one’s musical growth. This seemed to be the case because of the over-rehearsed nature of a substantial part of Shreya’s presentation and a lack of spontaneity and flow. Spreading her interest to violin accompaniment could benefit her in these and many other aspects, even if she wishes to primarily be a soloist.

(Viswanath Parasuram is a musician, educator and founder of Karadi Tales; Email:

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 2:40:13 AM |

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