Powerful voice well utilised

PERHAPS FEW had an inkling of Aishwarya Vidhya Raghunath's vocal prowess when curtains went up at Bharat Kalachar on Saturday last. It is truly a wonder that, in the arena of classical music, someone so young exudes such self-confidence on the stage. But then, not everyone can burst into ``Giridhara Gopala" (as Aishwarya did) on her first encounter with M. S. Subbulakshmi, instead of remaining awestruck.

Barely 15, she is endowed with a powerful voice and is blessed to have an inspiring guru in Sitalakshmi Venkatesan, the disciple of the late legend Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

Aishwarya began with Thyagaraja's ``Tulasi Dalamulache," customary as it is among some schools to render the opening piece in Mayamalavagowla. As she progressed into the charanam, she wove kalpanaswarams around ``saraseeruha punnaga" with ease. The delivery of Sivan's Sanskrit song ``Sri Janakipathe" in Karaharapriya was a bold and emphatic statement of her true class. And thereafter, Dikshitar's song in Todi reinforced the character, confidence and conviction evident right through the kutcheri. The alapanas in the latter two ragams gave free expression to her highly creative impulses.

Anantha Padmanabhan's able support on the violin drew considerable appreciation from the audience. Lavanya, playing the mridangam, was true to her role as an accompanist, not so common these days.

If it is a reviewer's business to find lapses in the performance of a young girl singing for joy, the kalpanasvaram in the Todi kriti seemed to stretch just a little. Inclusion of a Pratimadhyama ragam would have given more variety to the performance. Or, why not an apt song to mark Gandhi Jayanti? But this is unkind criticism against someone who dared to handle three melakarta ragams in a one-hour concert.

But why do children with Aishwarya's level of proficiency and exposure feel obliged to pack so much into a short programme? This is because the elements of a kutcheri are defined in rather rigid terms. Budding artistes are often expected to sing the so-called ghana ragams to establish their credentials where simple compositions that gel with audiences might be adequate. For a few such as Aishwarya who live up to the existing pattern, there are many for whom the dos and don'ts of a kutcheri are too many and sometimes stifling.