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The Hindu Review : The overall effect mattered

The Hindu : Friday Review Chennai / Music : The overall effect mattered

hindu title picOnline edition of India’s National NewspaperFriday, Jan 22, 2010
Friday Review Chennai and Tamil Nadu Published on Fridays

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Nirmala Rajasekhar brought out the full potential of Veena. Briskness marked Chinmaya Sisters’ recital. There was substantial depth in Pattabhirama Pandit’s rendition. Shertalai Ranganatha Sarma was at his innovative best.

Photos: V. Ganesan

chinmaya sisters The hindu review

Impeccable: Chinmaya Sisters

Imitation is the best form of prasie. When the listener gets wistful while listening to a performance, he is deeply stirred.

During the season, there were occasions when one felt this way.

Nirmala Rajasekar’s veena recital was one such instance. With the solid plucking, the strings of her veena came clear and loud as she played Sahana with a rich hue in the varnam ‘Karuni’ in Adi talam. Chidambaram Balashankar gave excellent mridangam support and Balaji Chandran, fine embellishment on his ghatam.

The Nattai song in Khanda Chapu was equally exuberant. Playing alternately on the bass and normal strings and sometimes together, Nirmala brought out the richness of Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s samushti-charana kriti in raga Malahari in Adi talam.

The full potential of the veena was used to produce pleasing effects to enrich the alapana in Bhairavi which was done in depth, at places the veena even simulating the human voice.

Syama Sastri’s well- known swarajati ‘Kamakshi’ was showcased in all its majesty. ‘Brovobarama’ (Tyagaraja, Bahudari, Desadi) presented a light relief from the heavy Bhairavi.

Apart from rendering Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Ka Va Va’ (Varali, Adi) with devotional ethos, Nirmala used the passage in the song ‘Pazhanimalai Uraiyum Muruga’ once in chatusram at ‘arai’ and then in tisram at samam. The muthaippu devised between parts of the song by the mridangam and the ghatam were tasteful.

The thani avartanam was a thoroughly stimulating experience with Balashankar sending khandams flying round while Balaji Chandran took the gauntlet and reeled off volleys of his own.

The RTP was centred on the serious Sankarabharanam. One had the feeling that the tanam could have been more majestic, with a generous sprinkling of jhankara’s and playing on the bass strings, possibilities that the veena offers.


Without frills

However, in Nirmala’s playing, melody reigned supreme sans flourishes and frills. The pallavi was set in a double-beat Khanda Jati Triputa, with the first syllable of the sahityam ‘Samaanamaa, Sabhaapate.’

The thani was beautifully trimmed. Ragas Kiravani and Thodi figured in the kalpanaswaras.

Tuning to madhyama sruti, Nirmala played ‘Jagadodharana’ and concluded with Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyer’s tillana in raga Paras and Tiruppavai in Surutti.

A brisk varnam in Kedaragowla set the pace for the concert by Chinmaya Sisters Uma and Radhika. Muthiah Bhagavatar’s ‘Sakti Ganapatim Bhajeham’ came next in Nattai to the rhythm of Rupakam. A few snappy kalpanaswaras at ‘Bhanukoti’ concluded the opening phase of the Sisters’ two-hour concert.

Radhika struck an appropriate balance between her excursions in the manthara and tara sthayis for the Pantuvarali alapana, characterised by a dominance of gamakas over brigas. Violinist Trivandrum Rajasree, playing on the normal strings, displayed commendable finger control, mostly in izhaippu, and followed the singer’s pattern in tara sthayi.

Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Ramanaatham Bhajeham’ in a double rupakam was mellow as Uma took up the alapana of Thodi (following a brief interlude with Tyagaraja’s ‘Nee Bhajana Gana’ in Nayaki). The voice sounded a little muffled and deprived of some power, but was made up by the way she sang Thodi. While one can focus on the relative excellence or level of adequacy of the different performers in a concert, it is the overall effect that counts. In this concert, the synergy was of a high order, with the efforts of all the four artists on the stage producing a sum total of musical values that surpassed the additive result of individual contributions.



There was repose in ‘Koluvamare Gada Kodandapani’ of Tyagaraja in Adi talam. The uncomplicated niraval at the anucharanam ‘Srikarulika Aasritachinta’ touched a chord, as also the kalpanaswaras that followed, facilitating Delhi Sriram to present a lilting sarvalaghu on the mridangam, and gradually gathered fire to build a sumptuous finish before the thani avartanam. The independent sketch of Sriram on the mridangam was strewn with loud and melodious reeng-kaarams.

The 30-minute RTP was a dedicated attempt to portray Hemavathi with rich alapana between the Sisters and the violinist, which neatly etched the raga.

Uma and Radhika shared honours in presenting all the sthayis alternately, over the whole scale in the tanam as well; the violin also left pleasant impressions.

The pallavi was in Adi taalam, with a misra step at each matra, taking off at samam with the words ‘Ninne Nammiti Neeraja.’

It was delivered faithfully in three kalams. The kalpanaswara ragamalika demonstrated the versatility of the threesome in Hamsadhwani, Aboghi, Sriranjani , Bilahari, Saveri, Mohanakalyani, Valaji, Khamas, Charukesi, Hamasanandi and Behag, concluding with an impressive kuraipu.

With a soulful viruttam in Sindhubhairavi and ‘Jagadodhaarana’and a tillana in Behag, the concert came to an end.


Precise niraval

The concert of T. S. Pattabhirama Pandit offered a listening experience different from many other enjoyable ones in this series. Aditi Krishna Prakash, playing the violin, and K. Sadguru Charan, handling the percussion, lent handsome support.

The opening Nattakurinji varnam was sprightly and cheerful, followed by a brisk alapana in Vachaspati prefacing Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Paraatpara Parameswara’.

The niraval and kalpanaswaras were precise, with the violinist taking up every shot of the vocalist with great fidelity. ‘O Jagadamba’ of Syama Sastri followed after a short alapana of Anandabhairavi, and concluded without any improvisational ceremony. After nearly half the concert time from start, the singer settled down to the elaborate the main item.

The alapana in Simhendramadhyamam for Mysore Vasudevachar’s ‘Ninne Nammiti’ took up some 16 minutes between voice and violin. There was substantial depth in Pandit’s rendition, with his deliberate, leisurely sweep over the musical scale. Endowed with a flexible voice, he could scour all aesthetic possibilities of the raga. There was no dearth of feeling, imagination or quality of workmanship in Aditi’s version of the raga.

With commendable virtuosity and originality, she carried across her alapana boldly with her own phrasings not to be outdone by the main artist in any aspect. Expected niraval at ‘Pannagendra Sayana’ inspired awe as it evoked the Lord of Vaikuntha in divine recumbence on the hooded Adisesha., and the team spared no efforts to paint this picture to etch it in the mind of the listener.

Sadguru Charan could anticipate every nuance the other two would produce and match it admirably with his percussion, with the result that Simhendramadhyamam and the seven-stepped Misra Chapu appeared to dance around the musical platform! The short thani was a reflection of the overall ethos of the scenario rather than a stand-alone exercise in rhythmic patterns.

Pandit transported the audience to a higher level when he took up a viruttam of a Sanskrit sloka (‘Padmavaram Padma Sreekaram Sadgurum’) starting with a slow Dwijavanti.

Through a barrage of rolling brigas and ravaikorvais, the music reached a crescendo at the words ‘Mama Gurum Vande’ in Khamas, effectively conjuring up the picture of a benign master, with the violin matching the mood.


Admirable improvisation

Commencing with the Saveri varnam ‘Sarasuda’ in a double-beat Adi, Shertalai Ranganatha Sarma proceeded to sketch Reethigowla in a deep voice, accompanied by V.L.Sudarsan on the violin and Madipakkam P. Suresh. Tyagaraja’s ‘Nannu Vidachikadaluku’, setting the pace. ‘Unnadiye Gatienru Adainthen’ followed, with a soulful composition of GNB in raga Bahudari and Adi talam With a flourish of raga Ranjani followed the kriti ‘Deva Deva’ in Rupaka taalam.

The listener was a little disappointed when the singer took up Thodi, having heard it in detail in the previous concert. The reserve, however, melted on hearing this singer’s rendering. This is the charm of Carnatic music. So many different improvisations are possible for the same raga. ‘Sri Subramanyo Maam Rakshatu’ (Dikshitar, Adi) instantly tuned the mind of the listener to a sublime level, thanks not only to the composer’s genius but also the musician’s expression. Niraval and kalpanaswaras at ‘Satakoti Bhaskara Sobhakara’ were soul stirring. In a hurried thani, P. Suresh packed volleys of sollus in chatusram, khandam and misram to produce a dynamic effect. The buffer between this and RTP was Vasudevaachar’s ‘Paahi Krishna Vasudeva’ in Behag. A noteworthy aspect was the way Sudarsan made the bow trot on the strings. The pallavi was in 2-beat Ata talam to the words ‘Saravananai, Muruganai, Guhanai.’ Ragamalika swara korvais went through Anandabhairavi and Sindhubhairavi. The concert concluded with a composition of Swati Tirunal in Ahirbhairav.