Local talent takes the stage

THERE IS a saying in Malayalam that one often finds it difficult to enjoy the fragrance of the jasmine flowers in one's own courtyard. In a way it reflects the self-denigrating psyche of the average Malayali. When this way of thinking casts its shadow on music appreciation, distance develops a link with enchantment .

This is why many organisers of music programmes hesitate to encourage local talent. It was to arrest this trend that Mali Foundation, formed to commemorate the contributions made by Mali Madhavan Nair in diverse fields, started last year the `promising musicans' series of concerts in Kochi. This year's two -day Mali Fest was marked by the staging of Karnasapadham kathakali (lyrics and music by Mali) on the first day and a delightful vocal concert by Renuka Vijayan on the second day. Before starting these programmes, Ambalappuzha Rama Varma spoke on the unique features of Karnasapadham and V.N Venugopal, president, Kerala Fine Arts Society, and musician Mavelikara Prabhakaravarma recalled the unique contributions made by Mali in the field of music.

Renuka Vijayan, an electrical engineer by profession, sprang a surprise on listeners with an electrifying performance, reminiscent of some stalwarts in classical music.

She started her music training 14 years ago and for the last 11 years she has been learning the techniques from Chandramana Narayanan Namboodiri, who shaped prodigies like M.K Sankaran Namboodiri. Her first public concert was in 1992 . Since then, she has sung on more than 300 stages, including Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai, Shanmukhananda Hall, Mumbai, Music Academy, Thiruvananthapuram and Rasikapriya at Kochi. She has also made a mark in many fusion music programmes. She regularly perfoms in Akashavani and on TV.

At the concert, held at BTH auditorium, she was accompanied on the violin by Kottayam Hariharan, a disciple of B. Sasikumar. Percussion support was provided by Balakrishna Kamath (mridangam )and Muvattupuzha Sakthidharan (ghatam).

Renuka's model vocalist is Palakad K.V Narayanaswamy, whose unique alapana style is now in the realm of nostalgia. The influence of KVN was evident in Renuka's patient exploration of raga bhava. This was an expression of her sense of dedication. The presence of Prabhakara Varma in the audience was an added source of inspiration.

`Amba Gowri Giri Kanye', a varnam in Arabhi, composed by Irayimman Thampi, set the mood of the concert followed by Muthiah Bhagavathr's `Sakthi Ganapathim' (Natta) and Deekshitar's `Sree Venkita Gireesa' (Surutti). After a brief alapana of Poorvi Kalyani, Swathi Thirunal's `Deva Deva Jagadeeswara' was beautifully rendered `Pankajakshanam ', a Swathi Thirunal krithi in Thodi was the next item.

The star attraction of the concert was the elaborate alapana of Madhyamavati followed by the Thyagaraja Krithi, `Ramakadha sudha'. Raga Madhyamavati is a vast ocean with infinite range and Renuka proved her class by diving deep into its unfathomed caves exploring `gems of purest ray serene'.

Young musicians rarely reach such levels of excellence and Renuka has set an example to new devotees of classical music. Judicious mix of classicism and melody is her forte. After thaniavarthanam, melody held the upper hand in Bharathiar's ragamalika, `Chinnam Chiru kiliye' and Lalgudi's thillana in Desh. Madhyamavathi reappeared in the concluding piece, `Yogindranam' ,a sloka from Narayaneeyam, reverberating in Kerala temple premises as a wake-up call to devotees.