Keeping alive a tradition

The Thyagaraja festival at Kalpathy is arguably the oldest such fete in Kerala.

The Thyagaraja festival at Kalpathy is arguably the oldest such fete in Kerala.  

WHEN CURTAINS came down on the 82nd Thyagaraja aradhana celebrations at Kalpathy in Palakkad, the organisers had reason to cheer - an unbroken tradition set by such greats as Palakkad Rama Bhagavathar, Chathapuram Subba Iyer and Kalpathy L.S. Viswanatha Iyer had been kept alive. The Thyagaraja festival here, arguably the oldest in Kerala, is held every year at the Ramadhyana Madham, established in Kalpathy by Rajaram Swamigal, a disciple of Thyagaraja.

According to veteran flautist and Palakkad resident Krishna Iyer, in the early 20th century, musicians from Kalpathy used to go to Tiruvaiyyar for the aradhana celebrations there. In 1924, Palakkad Rama Bhagavathar, Mundai Rama Bhagavathar, Alleppey Viswanatha Iyer and Seshan Bhagavathar (father of Palakkad Mani Iyer), all stalwarts in their own right, set off on their annual trip to pay homage to the saint composer. They missed their train and returned crestfallen. The musicians, however, rose to the occasion and decided to hold a festival here, on the same lines of the Tiruvaiyyar one.

Thus began a tradition that was, over the years, carried on by legends such as Palakkad Mani Iyer and Puthukode Krishnamurthi, and later C.S. Krishna Iyer, C.R. Mani Iyer and other disciples of Mani Iyer.

This year's festival saw young talent galore. Call it sheer novelty, if you will. There's no stopping flautist Kudamaloor Janardanan. He began his concert with a rather long-drawn-out alapana of Bahudari. Arty as it was none seemed to mind. The kriti, `Brovabharama,' was supplemented with some sprightly swaras. `Shobhillu Saptaswara' in Jaganmohini followed. Janardanan experimented yet again, this time blending Jaganmohini and Mohanam. Dissenting voices, if any, were silenced with an exhilarating alapana of Yadukula Kambhoji. The song, `Heccharika Garara,' was a treat. The artiste ended his concert with `Raminchuva Revarura' in Suposhini, adi tisra nadai. Edapally Ajith (violin), Palakkad K.S. Mahesh Kumar (mridangam), and E.M. Deepu (ghatam) matched his music well.

Mavelikara P. Subramanyam's music, soulful as it was, touched a chord with the listeners. Subramanyam started with Girirajasuta in Bangala. He then sang `Nadatanumanisham' in Chittaranjini to an overwhelming response. For both the songs, he sang well-structured and appealing swaras, with remarkable ease. Subramanyam set a shining example for youngsters to follow by his scholarly rendition of Varali (`Eti Janmamu'), `Saraseeruhanana' (Mukhari) and Saveri (`Rama Bana'), the last one being the evening's high point. The taniavartanam by Chertala Dinesh was exceptionally good. T.H. Subramanyam was really in his element, ably accompanying on the violin.

Baby Sreeram fired the imagination of discerning music lovers by singing some rare songs. A stickler to tradition, she began with `Ninne Bhajana' in Natta. With `Varalendu' in Gurjari, she got into the groove. After a brief alapana of Atana, she sang the rare piece, `Kattu Jesinavo,' in adi. Baby excelled herself in the next two songs: `Nivu Brova' (Saveri) and `Emi Neramu' (Sankarabharanam). Her alapana of Sankarabharanam would remain etched in the minds of listeners for some time. R. Swaminathan (violin), Palakkad Harinarayanan (mridangam) and E.M. Deepu (ghatam) set the mood for the show.

Shreyas Narayanan's concert was refreshing. The Chennai-based singer sang with verve, giving importance to the details. He gave the audience some memorable moments with creative alapanas, niravals and swaras in Sahana (`Ee Vasudha') and Todi (`Koluvamarakatha'). He was accompanied by Chertala Sindhu on the violin, Guruvayoor Sanoj on the mridangam and T. R. Parameswaran on the ghatam.

Banking on a rich, bass voice, Kanhangad Ramachandran sang popular songs like `Ksheera Sagara' (Devagandhari), `Seeta Kalyana' (Kurinji), `Marugelara' (Jayantasri), and `Nannu Palimpa' (Mohanam).

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