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Celebration of melody and rhythm


The eight-day Swati Sangeetotsavam 2008 proved to be a sumptuous treat for rasikas who thronged the venue.

Photos: S. Mahinsha and S. Gopakumar

Music moods: Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna

The crowds that thronged the Kuthiramalika Palace, Thiruvananthapuram, from January 6 to 13, got the opportunity to listen to pure untainted classical music – vocal and instrumental, Carnatic and Hindustani.

Sanjay Subrahmanyan set the tone of the fete with his inaugural concert and Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna’s concert provided the grand finale for the Swati Sangeetotsavam 2008. Sanjay Subrahmanyan got the festival off to a glorious start. S.Varadarajan (violin) S.Neyveli Venkatesh (mridangam) Dr. S. Karthick (ghatam) and Payyannur Govinda Prasad (morsing) spiritedly accompanied the vocalist.

The evergreen composition ‘Pari Palaya’ in Reethigowla won the appreciation of the audience. The ragavisthara of Shudha Dhanyasi was profusely applauded. ‘Samodam chinthayami’ was the kriti. Niraval on ‘Syanandooranagari’ and ensuing manodharmaswaras were rendered in the typical Sanjay style. A short piece ‘Palaya Sada’ in Nalina Kanthi and ‘Sandhu Thadaa’ in raga Vakulabharanam were the prelude to the Kambhoji kriti ‘Rasa Vilasa’ that was sung at great length. ‘Visweswar’ in Sindhubhairavi, an all-time sweet Swati bhajan, was greeted with applause. ‘Bansiwale,’ another bhajan, was the last item of the concert that came to a close with the mangalam ‘Bhujagasaayino.’

Sanjay Subrahmanyam

In spite of it being a working day, there was a sizeable gathering to listen to the second day’s vocal recital by Aswathy Thirunal Rama Varma, who many thought was a better player of the veena than a vocalist. However he proved them wrong by exhibiting his virtuosity in vocal music.

It was a majestic performance, both literally and figuratively. His clear diction and perfect harmony with shruti stood out. But for Bangalore Praveen on the mridangam, the other accompanists remained the same as on the first day.

The Ata tala varnam ‘Saraseejanabha’ in Kambhoji was the first item. ‘Pannagendra Sayana,’ a padam in ragamalika in eight ragas – Sankarabharanam, Kambhoji, Nilambari, Bhairavi, Thodi, Suruti, Mayamalavagowla and Revagupti – was appreciated by the audience. Each raga in the padam corresponds to one ‘yamam’ of the night.

Tribute to Lakshadeepam

‘Jayajaya Padmanabhaa’ in Sarasangi was the piece de resistance of the concert. In this piece the composer pays tribute to the Lakshadeepam festival. The hour-long rendering of the 27th Melakartha raga was listened to with rapt attention by the audience.

Aswathy Thirunal Rama Varma

The folk version of Kambhoji Purva Kamodari and Saveri were the two ragas in the padam ‘Kamini Mani.’ A Shubhapanthuvarali piece in Hindi ‘Aaye Giridhar Dware’ (Raag Todi in Hindustani style) was followed by Mangalam.

The third day’s musical aradhana was by Manasi Prasad from Bangalore. Charulatha Ramanujam accompanied on the violin, Chelvaraju on the mridangam and Dayananda Mohite on the ghatam. This was her first appearance in Thiruvananthapuram though she has performed twice in Thripunithura.

‘Sathatham Thavaka’ in Kharaharapriya was the main piece with ragaalapana, swaraprasthanam and thaniyaavarthanam. ‘Rama Rama Pahi’ in Devagandhari, ‘Mamavasada Varade’ in Nattakkurinji, ‘Gangeya Vasanadhara’ in Hamir Kalyani and ‘Sankara srigiri’ in Hamsanandi were some of the other pieces sung by her.

Venkatesh Kumar

The next day witnessed the performance of Parasssala B. Ponnammal. She was accompanied by Attukal Balasubramaniam on the violin, G. Babu on the mridangam and Adichanallor Anilkumar on the ghatam.

Golden voice

Gifted with a voice that is still as vibrant and sweet as it was in her prime, Ponnammal did not disappoint her listeners. She began her concert in style with a pada varnam ‘Dani Samajendra’ in Thodi, set to Adi tala. ‘Paripahi Ganadhipa’ in Saveri was the next item. ‘Santhatham Bhajami’ in Bilahari, ‘Bhavaye Sri Janaki Kantham’ in Sriranjini and ‘Sahasika Dhanuja Hara’ in Shudha Saveri were followed by the main composition of the day ‘Rama Priya.’ The listeners were spell bound by the enduring quality of Ponnammal’s music.

Setting the tempo of his recital with a varnam in Madhyamavathi, Master Balamuralikrishna went on to ‘Kalayami,’ in Kannada set to Mishrachapu tala. ‘Pahi Jagath Janani’ in Vachaspathi, set to Adi tala, was the main composition. He chose ragas Asaveri, Nattakurinji, Suruti, Amritavarshini, Nadanamakriya, Kamalamanohari and Kamas for the other songs that he sang. It is to the credit of the singer that he sang each piece admirably.

Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi

Pandit Venkatesh Kumar’s concert was one of the highlights of the fete. His powerful voice and clarity of phrasing left an indelible mark on the rasikas. His style of singing is a mix of Kirana and Gwalior gharanas. The Hindustani concert began with raag Purvi. Desh, Sohni, Durga, Bhimplas and Sindhubhairavi followed.

The violin duet by the Lalgudi siblings G.J.R.Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi, was a display of traditional violin playing that their father, Lalgudi Jayaraman, would have been proud of.

Parasala B. Ponnammal

‘Sarasijanabha ninnu,’ a varnam in Kambhoji set to Ata tala, began the concert. ‘Mamamava Sada Janani’ in Kanada continues to be popular and the artistes played it with ease and elegance, highlighting the nuances of the raga.

Master Balamuralikrishna

‘Pahijagajjanani’ in Vachaspathi, ’Jayajaya Padmanabha’ in Maniragu and ‘Paramapurusham’ in Lalithapanchamam were rendered beautifully before they took up the Bhairavi raga alapana and the composition ‘Janani Mamava.’ The Thriputa tala was ably handled by mridangam vidwan R. Ramesh and ghatam exponent V. Suresh. The Dhanasri tillana tuned by Lalgudi Jayaraman was the concluding item of a superb violin duet.

Record gathering

A record gathering filled the venue to listen to Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna who provided the fitting finale with his innovative style and inimitable voice control.

He opened the concert with ‘Paripahi Ganadhipa,’ tuned by him in raga Aswathy, created by him and dedicated to his disciple, Aswathy Thirunal Rama Varma. ‘Karanam Vina Karyam,’ ’Pahi Sarasanabha’ in Saveri, ‘Ambhoja Nabha Mam Palaya’ in Kharaharapriya and ‘Shambho Sathatham’ in Kapi followed and then it was the glorious alapana of the Arabhi raga and the kriti ‘Sri ramam Vibho.’ The thaniavarthanam by B.Harikumar (mridangam) and P.L.Sudheer (ghatam) was short but sweet.

Manasi Prasad

The Vagadheeswari composition ‘Kamalanayana’ was loudly applauded. A Telugu piece ‘Valaputhala Vashama’ in Kedaram and a Pahadi dhun ‘Aaj Aaye Sham Mohan’ were the precursors to the Thillana sung in Anuragam, a tune created by the singer, with lyrics describing the Lakshadeepam. S.R. Mahadeva Sarma on the violin lived up to his usual high standards.

The organisers deserve credit for conducting a festival of this magnitude. It was indeed a glorious tribute to the genius of Swati Tirunal.

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