The Hindu November Fest

Bombay Jayashri, Abhishek Raghuram presented an adventure in music


At The Hindu November Fest’s final concert, Yatra, Carnatic musicians crossed time, space and genre to display India’s rich musical heritage

The opening notes of the sarangi, that enchanting but less heard instrument, launched the journey within — Yatra, masterminded by Carnatic musicians Bombay Jayashri Ramnath and Abhishek Raghuram, the final concert of The Hindu November Festival, at the Madras Music Academy.

The strings set the plaintive (at times pensive) tone for the musicians to travel across several Indian musical genres from padam to patriotic anthems. Murad Ali on the sarangi was pivotal in cementing and steeling this homage in multiple styles and languages, adroitly supported by all the accompanists: Ravichandra Kulur (flute), Anantha K Krishnan (mridangam/tabla) and Praveen D Rao (keyboard/harmonium). The result was a concerted effort — professional and pleasant, an adventure for Carnatic vocalists taking different routes.

Piercing notes of the raga Shuddh Sarang shaped Subramania Bharati’s intoxicating Valli in ‘Enda Neramum Nin Maiyal’ followed by the Marathi hymn, ‘Tejonidhi Lohagol’, set to music by the late Jitendra Abhisheki, which refracted raga Lalit, as Kalyani, Pantuvarali and Pilu beamed in and out in a mishra spectrum. The tabla’s firm grip and clever patterning girded this prayer to the majesty of the sun.

A triptych came next: excerpts from familiar padams Ososi (Mukhari), Panimati (Ahiri), Aligite (Huseni), in ragas bearing the essence of the Carnatic heritage. Were they chosen because though highly classicalised in these songs, they still have roots in the folk tradition? This was obvious in the duo highlighting the general flow of the slow notes rather than the depth and weight of the compositions.

Not only did Abhishek Raghuram rein in his usual flamboyance to match Jayashri’s grace, he also composed original music for the November Fest: two songs totally different in pace and mood. With a flute essay as a sashaying prelude, old wine ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma’ was packaged in a new bottle with Nand raga in bubbling ferment. Equally unexpected was the blend of spring raag Bahar and monsoon melody Malhar, to invoke the goddess of the veena, through ‘Kamala Vadane’. This major piece seemed to be structured like a kriti in familiar Adi talam, but became experimental as it was rendered more in the Hindustani style, where niraval was transformed into a duet of taans, with accelerating speeds and frills. The swaras too were delivered with Northern flavours, though Raghuram touched them up with Southern virtuosities of odukkal and kanakku. The flute and the sarangi followed suit, with the keyboard adding its highlights, while the percussion straddled two worlds to bank the flow — the tani avartanam of nine minutes was a taut exercise in unrelenting rhythms, sans break or pause.

What struck you throughout the concert was the singers’ brilliant sruti management, a Herculean effort for performers, especially when one is a male and the other, a female voice. This not only involved vocal adjustments here and there, but also at times, for one to sing in the lower octave in long stretches as the other used the regular pitch. Bombay Jayashri dared to sing long spells in the lower register, with power and control. The effect was almost one of harmonising. Not everything worked as well of course, like the attempt at simultaneous singing and sollukattu. Also, a brief introduction to each piece would have added production values.

Kulur’s flute was delightfully suited to the moods, whether sprightly or sentimental. In the final Yamunakalyani, 15th Century Vyasa Raya’s ‘Krishna nee Begane’ was interwoven with 20th Century Lalgudi Jayaraman’s tillana. The anthem Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s ‘Vande Mataram’ closed the concert and festival, as the artists paid tribute to Mother India, home to immeasurable and plural treasures of music.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 11:02:59 PM |

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