FRIDAY REVIEW

Music all the way

B.R.C. IYENGAR

O.S. Thyagarajan

O.S. Thyagarajan  

Year after year, Kalasagaram is gaining distinction and yet facing a watershed in the choice of artistes for its annual festival. In reality it is true of every organisation, for, the countable few (artistes) reap the harvest with iniquitous claims and yet lace their performances with repetitive and routine recitals. The audience in turn, squares up with the regular and routine for lack of any alternative.

The 38th Annual Festival of Kalasagaram conducted last week, had again the usual squad with TVS, Sanjay, Sudha, Priya Sisters, and OST. Kalasagaram also chose the occasion to honour O.S.Thyagarajan with the title, Kalasagara and the dancer Rajeswari Sainath with the title, Nrithya Kalasagara.

The inaugural programme was a vocal recital by O.S. Thyagarajan (OST). Embar Kannan accompanied him on the violin, Karaikkudi Mani on the mridangam and N. Amrit on the kanjira.

As always on such occasions, considerable time was lost with speeches and presentations and the concert was reduced to just a little beyond two hours.

OST is a much-admired artiste, but it is difficult to say why. His music has not got the sparkle of popular singers, beauty of style or mastery of technique. Basically it is distinguished by great clarity and lucidity of structure. Ideas are well moulded and cannot be effaced easily and it is a manner of unification that matters.

He fulfils great and difficult tasks with all the classiness and charm without the slightest strain or uncertainty. He avoids exaggeration and passion, but appeals to the mature mind by understatement and restraint; it is seldom romantically excited in form, but he knows how to express intense feeling in its own quietly classical way. His presentation is ascetically simple, aesthetically perfect, and architecturally unique.

Here is originality without extravagance, strength without brutality and a dramatic portrayal of impulse, emotion and mood without disfigurement by any strained intensity.

Sudha Raghunathan.

Sudha Raghunathan.  

OST's strong point is his immaculate sruti gnanam a feature, which contributes a major component to the success of a concert. His experience and the repertoire are yet another factors where he has unlimited choice with time and mood to design his concert. The selection was pragmatic, intelligent and aesthetic, each chosen for a specific facet to be projected.

The simple varnam in the raga sri immediately built up the tempo. Birnavara in kalyani set to adi talam, thisra nadai was exhilarating and the rhythmic module highlighted. The contrasting raga darbar had a short essay of the alapana and the kriti, munduvenuka of Thyagaraja conveyed the emotional aspect. The rare song entativinuvintura of Pallavi Seshaiyer in the uncommon raga urmika (a derivative of simhendramadhyamam) shook the audience with a unique delight. A crisp alapana of sriranjani showed the way to marubalka.

In terms of scholarship, his swarakalpana for the song and the kuraippu exercise at the difficult and tricky eduppu (commencing point) was outstanding. OST takes particular care to see that all the musical essentials are projected in right proportion but does not exaggerate any.

The elaborate raga alapana of kamboji, was exhaustive and ecstatic. Although the kriti, evarimata was short in presentation, the neraval and swarakalpana proved to be stimulating. The concert was concluded with some lighter items and a thillana. If OST had only included an item in misra chapu thalam, the concert would have been complete in every aspect. Embar Kannan one of the leading violin accompanists came out with a challenging counterpart and plentifully added to the melodies of OST, each excelling the other.

It is a matchless enjoyment to listen to the mridangam of the maestro, Karaikkudi Mani. He is virtually a creator of divine rhythm. His art lies in the skill of arranging sound in the clearest order, in rhythmic but not metrical sequence, in polished but not ornate diction, in smooth transitions of sound and thought, in balanced phrases and in cumulative dissertation. Besides his unsurpassed contribution throughout the concert, the thani was celestial. The art of changing over nadais (metrical manipulations) during thaniyavarthanam needs great expertise, in the sense that such changes are made unnoticeable and smooth. One should listen carefully maestros like Mani, to appreciate this. The contribution of N. Amrit on the kanjira in the entire episode and in the thani, in particular, exemplified the teamwork.

The next vocal concert in the series was by Sudha Raghunathan. V.V. Srinivasa Rao accompanied her on the violin, Naively Skandasunbramaniam (violin) and R. Raman (morsing). Presenting classical concert music to packed audience month after month, year after year, is a gruelling task. True, it is thrilling but to have to stay at the top is exasperating and even tiresome. She has been an endless success because of her resilient ingenuity. Expressiveness, sentiments, elegance and love of details constitute the theme in her music; all have a harmonious flow. There is proportion and order, form and rhythm, precision and clarity, all in moderate form. Beyond moderation, even perfection becomes oppressive! Each of her performance is built like a temple, wherein every part is carefully finished in detail, but has subordinate place in the whole.

The concert commenced with the pada varnam in harikamboji, a composition of Mysore Maharaja, followed by sidhivinayakam in shanmugapriya. It is said that music can make one weep; the audience indeed did when Sudha came out with classic composition of Shyamasastry, nannubrovumu lalitha, in the raga lalitha. It was exceedingly emotional.

The raga sahana was delineated well and the uncommon krithi, vaidehi thavapada bhaktim was fascinating. Although the mudra of Thyagaraja is there it is doubtful if it is his. Ni alladu edayya gati in chalanata, of kotiswaraiyer, was yet another touching picture. The alapana of todi was appealing although it could certainly have been better. The krithi, koluvamaragatha, the accompanying neraval and swarakalpana were just customary.

Chandra Bhanu

Chandra Bhanu  

The RTP calls for comments. It was a ragamalika pallavi consisting of kalavathi, kirvani, and kalyani. The name gowri was also mentioned in the lyric but for lack of the raga lakshnana, it should be presumed as a part of the lyric and not significant of the raga.

The pallavi was set to khandajati thriputa thalam, khanda nadai consisting of 45 pulses per cycle. It was a marathon work out, which needed incredible concentration; it was more academic than melodious.

Raghavendra Rao was at a low key on his violin, while, Skanda Subramanyam on the mridangam and Raman on the morsing made merry on their instruments.

Chandra Banu's vocal concert last week under the aegis of Kalasagaram confirmed that there is no dearth of performing artistes in the discipline of Carnatic music. The only thing found wanting was the will of the organisers to project them.

Chandra Banu has been putting in her best effort to prove herself as an excellent performing artiste. Endowed with a delicate voice, with a nasal twang, she has a confident approach to her performances. While the talent is there in good measure, what she perhaps needs is experience and appropriate guidance.

In this context, it is necessary for any artiste to motivate himself or herself to excel in areas like alapana, neraval and swarakalpana. Chandra Banu would do well to redesign the alapana, since it sounds pedestrian.

The desire to indulge in richly rehearsed long koruvais in swarakalpana is yet another weakness in many of the contemporary artistes, not to mention Chandra Banu - a practice which is deprecating and artistically hollow.

Her concert had some pleasing items, although the sequence could have been more judicious. She started well with the popular varnam in the raga Sri. Raghunayaka in Hamsadwani was the right choice thereafter. The chitta swaras that were woven in the kriti was juvenile and redundant. Ramabirama in Darbar was well presented but had some howlers in the lyric. Again the chitta swaras in the song was superfluous.

Aparadhamula in lathangi and Shankari Nive in Begada left the boredom of Anthara Gandhara oft repeating and the contrast between items was not visible. An intervening Sadharana Gandra item could induce colour to the sequence. It did come all right in the next item Dasarathe in Todi, but the time lag was telling.

The concert concluded with some impressive items like, Vinarada Na Manvi in Kedragowla and Akhilandeswari in Dwijavanti. One can easily identify the style of her guru Sesahchari in her singing.

Nevertheless, Chandra Banu should make efforts to add her own individuality at this level of her performance.

Peri Thyagaraju accompanied her on the violin and Burra Sriram on the mridangam. Peri Thyagaraju, the disciple of his father Srirmasmurthy, is one of the promising violinists of the younger generation and his contribution for the concert was creditable.

Young Sriram on the mridangam was confident and at ease. His thirmanam in the thani was imaginative and splendid. All in all, the concert was well received by the large audience and proved an encouraging facet to the artistes.