FRIDAY REVIEW

Journey to the summit

M.V.RAMAKRISHNAN

Keep pace with Sanjay, you are sure to reach the top of the hill with a dazzling view.

For the average rasika in Chennai, where Carnatic music overflows in innumerable sabhas, it may be difficult to imagine the vital role played by South Indian temples in promoting Carnatic music in distant Northern cities such as Delhi, where there are few secular institutions organising it.Even in Chennai, in spite of the dominant Sabha culture, there were times when temples used to organise grand Carnatic music festivals featuring leading musicians. Those were the days before the popular musicians started touring abroad (America in particular) extensively. And they were usually very happy to perform in the temples here for a nominal fee or no fee at all.

Basic attitude

Surely they must all be still having that basic devotional attitude, but when it's a question of foregoing a foreign assignment for the sake of performing in a temple in Chennai, they naturally feel that the omnipresent Almighty can be worshipped sincerely anywhere in the world. And dates have a way of clashing, because some temples here like to organise music festivals around certain auspicious occasions such as Sri Rama Navami and Vinayaka Chathurthi, and that's when some South Indian circles abroad are also inclined to extend their hospitality to our leading musicians. However, one does find now and then that there are some top-ranking musicians who still love to experience the spiritual joy of performing in a local temple here, as Sanjay Subramaniam seemed to be doing in the crowded Varasiddhi Vinayakar Temple in Besant Nagar last Sunday evening. In terms of acoustics, the noisy conditions prevailing in our temples during evening prayers are not ideal for a Carnatic music recital. But in terms of atmosphere, perhaps nothing could be better, provided the musicians perform with absolute commitment and devotion. Apart from the rasikas who sit down and listen to the music with concentration, the devotees offering worship do absorb the music consciously or subconsciously. And those who listen to the music intensely are also absorbing the faint but recurring sound of bells ringing and priests' chanting, which are not unwelcome distractions but are essential elements of the sacred ambience. Sanjay Subramaniam has an earnest way of singing which might sometimes appear to be rather laboured, like climbing a tall and steep staircase.But if you keep climbing with him, he is sure to lead you to the top of a hill from where you get a splendid view with an extended horizon. And in the recital under review, with all the ambient bells and bustle, you also found a hill-top shrine where you could pray with him. Nagai Muralidharan is surely one of the best violinists today. His sensitive accompaniment is like a good mirror which faithfully reflects the vocalist's musical vision and reinforces his mood.In the sacred venue of the Varasiddhi Vinayakar temple, he joined Sanjay Subramaniam in rendering some soulful music, which was also made lively by the resounding mridangam of Neyveli Venkatesan.