In her bearing and style Aruna reminds one of MDR.
It was a bitterly cold winter evening in Delhi 18 years ago, and Aruna Sairam from Bombay was to sing in a suburban temple in Mayur Vihar, far away from the New Delhi railway station where she was to catch the Tamil Nadu Express leaving for Madras at 10-45 p.m. The violinist had been trapped in an awful traffiic jam on a congested bridge across the Yamuna, and the concert could begin only at 8 o'clock, which left very little time for her to sing.
But what a marvellous performance it turned out to be!
A small but earnest gathering had waited patiently and hopefully for two hours to hear her recital, and she must have felt she owed them something special in return. Totally ignoring the frantic signals of the organisers who were getting into a state of panic, she rendered a colourful ragam-tanam-pallavi in Kharaharapriya in a very leisurely style, choosing the first stanza of Tyagaraja's composition, "Chakkani Raja" for the lyric, followed by a sparkling string of swaram in several ragas. Somehow she managed to conclude the recital just before 10 p.m. and rushed to the waiting taxi.
This writer does not know whether Aruna was able to catch the train for Madras that cold and memorable night in Delhi, but she didn't certainly miss the boat for the hearts of music lovers in Madras or anywhere else! Year after year, as she has steadily grown in stature as a musician, she has recruited more and more admirers wherever she happens to perform regularly. No wonder the spacious outdoor venue of Hamsadhwani was overflowing with eager rasikas when she sang there recently. Matching their consistent adoration with her characteristically intense commitment, she gave a profoundly moving performance likely to be remembered for a long time.
What makes Aruna Sairam's recitals so memorable is the meditative and soulful quality of her music, which is the result of a beneficial combination of several significant factors, including the influence of her great teacher Brinda. Endowed with a rich, low-flung voice which is admirably suited to the extremely slow tempo she likes to adopt, she explores the subtle nuances of melodies and songs in a calm and unhurried manner, which enables her to project the spiritual vision of the classical composers on a very vast screen. Her overall bearing and stately style forcefully remind us of the monumental music of M.D. Ramanathan.
Quite predictably, just as in the case of MDR's recitals, the highlights of the Hamsadhwani concert (`Sri Satyanarayanam, Sabhapathikku Veru Deivam,' `O Rangasayee') came and passed before us like a majestic procession of the divine images. In the Subhapantuvarali kriti, Muthuswami Dikshitar conveys a profound sentiment with a simple phrase: Sarvam Vishnu Mayam. In the Khambodi song, Tyagaraja is lost in wonder singing in praise of Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. In both cases the grandeur of the ragas is matched by the depth of devotion that the words convey. Aruna deserves a bouquet for invoking the true spirit and divine message of the songs to touch the hearts of a thousand spellbound rasikas.
The singer owed much to the excellent support provided by all her accompanists: H.N. Bhaskar (violin), J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam), S. Kartick (ghatam), and B.S. Purushottam (kanjira).
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