Sri Tyagaraja, while describing the beauty of music sang thus – “Raagasudhaarasa paanamujesi ranjillave O manasa!” He urged the mind to drink the nectarine juice of music and find true bliss in it. A group of young kids fed a packed auditorium at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, ambrosia that was no less than a manifestation of Sri Tyagaraja’s above saying. The group – Carnatic Choir — crafted deftly under the supervision of the eminent singer Bombay Jayashree, has set a trailblazing trend of innovation and talent in presenting a traditional Carnatic kutcheri. The sheer joy that the kids were experiencing rendering some of the complicated ragas effortlessly, seeped into the audience who were transfixed with joy at the experience of a performance so brilliant, that rest assured the future of Carnatic Music shall show bright in the hands of these young talents.
Unlike a traditional choir wherein there are typically four sections for the four or more parts of harmony and the accompanying orchestra stationed in front of the choir, the Carnatic choir group had their accompanists seated next to the group and the group itself sang the renditions together, while interspersing the performance with individual singing occasionally - all under the watchful eye of a female conductor. Thus, the group has strived to bring in some modifications to the typical choir ensemble and suit it for a Carnatic kutcheri.
Beginning the performance with “Sangeetagnaanamu” in Dhanyasi raga, and “Raagasudhaarasa”, the compositions of Sri Tyagaraja were aptly chosen to signify the spiritual wealth imbibed through music. This was followed by “Vandanamu Raghunandana” in raga Sahaana , set to adi taala. The entire performance was a mixture of well-known as well as seldom heard compositions. The performance itself was woven around a storyline and formed another distinguishing feature. It would have been a superior programme if certain aesthetics of the compositions were maintained. For instance, following SyamaSastri’s, “O Jagadamba ” in Anandabhairavi, the group is shown agonising that the earth has become too hot to stand upon. The children quote that the song has invoked Jagadamba, and she has a fiery form that is causing the earth to burn, and she would need to be cooled down by singing a song in Amruthavarshini raaga. The kriti “O Jagadamba” itself calls upon the Universal Mother’s protection and invokes her motherly attribute. It is soaked in karuna and bhakti rasa, and it seems rather antagonistic for it to result in a scary manifestation. While the effort may have been to link it to an upcoming raaga and explain its significance, it could have been done without compromising the essence of the krithi. The following krithi – “Anandaamruthakarshini” by Dikshitar was deftly presented. The children simulated the rain with various physical movements such as rubbing of hands, jumping on the stage, and clicking the fingers together.
The magnum opus of the evening was definitely “Naa Jeevadhaara”, a composition by Tyagaraja in raga Bilahari. With the amazing accompaniment of Giridhar Udupa on ghatam and Sumesh Narayanan on mridangam, the group showcased their ample talent vested in them and trained diligently to perfection by the virtuoso Bombay Jayashree. Their effortless performance added a new dimension to the rendition and its experience for the audience. They sang the often heard composition of Sri Vyasaraayaru – “Krishna nee beganebaaro” for the padam, and unfortunately as is being noticed often in the recent years, the pronunciation was compromised in the rendition of this Kannada composition. An undue separation of the words created a mispronunciation that marred the otherwise skilful presentation. “Poosida Srigandha maiyolagamma” was sung “maiyolu gamma”. The tillana that followed and finally “Maithreem Bhajata” were the perfect scores to draw the curtains down.
All in all, the Carnatic choir has carved an identity for itself with its harmonious mixture of innovation, improvisation and above all an unadulterated talent of pristine vocals that are rightfully worthy of our undivided attention and encouragement.