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When music reigned supreme


Musicians came up with a delightful blend of aesthetics and virtuosity to captivate the listeners.

AURAL MAGIC: (clockwise from top left) Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Malladi Suri Babu, Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, Parasala Ponnammal and Prasanna Venkataraman. PHOTOS: S. GOPAKUMAR

‘Swathi Sangeetotsavam 2009’ got off to a superb start at Kuthiramalika Palace, Thiruvananthapuram, with Sanjay Subrahmanyan singing a full throated concert in the company of S. Varadarajan (violin), Mannargudi Easwaran (mridangam), S. Karthick (ghatam) and Payyanur Govinda Prasad (morsing).

The tenth edition of the music festival began to the notes of ‘Vandhe sadha Padmanabham’ in Navarasakannada, Adi tala. It was followed by ‘Paramananda Natana’ in Kedaram.

The GNB stamp

‘Kalayami Raghuramam’ in Begada saw Sanjay depicting the essence of the raga. Later, Sanjay remarked in his blog that for him, this particular Swati composition had GNB’s signature all over it and it was an apt choice as GNB’s birth anniversary fell on January 6.

Then Sanjay unleashed a Thodi and followed it up with the composition ‘Sri Ramachandra,’ and enthralled the huge audience with the rendition of both the composition itself as well as the neraval.

The main kriti was the melodious ‘Gangeyavasana’ in Hamir Kalyani.

Varadarajan’s scintillating mastery over the violin was in full flow as he followed Sanjay phrase for phrase. The rapport among the musicians elevated the concert to another plane. The percussionists came up with an excellent tani that was greeted with applause. Sanjay also sang ‘Bansiwale’ in Mohanam and a Thillana in Anandabhairavi. Teamwork on stage was at its ideal best.

Music for the soul

On the second day, Malladi Suri Babu came up with a soulful rendition of Swati kritis. He started the concert with the varnam ‘Sarasija’ in Kamaboji, Ata tala. The highlight was that he sang it as a pada varnam, with sahithyam for the swaras.

‘Paripahiganadhipa’ in Saveri, set to Adi tala, decorated with crisp swaras, preceded ‘Karunakara Madahava mamava’ in Begada. Suri Babu, a disciple of Voletti, revelled in his guru’s favourite raga. ‘Deva deva jagadeeshwara’ in Poorvikalyani was chosen for elaboration. The main raga was ‘Kharaharapriya’ and tagged on was the composition ‘Sathatham thavaka,’ Adi tala. The melodious raagalapana was adroitly taken up by Varadarajan on the violin. The superb niraval was enhanced by neatly woven swarams.

P. Satheesh Kumar (mridangam), Karthick (ghatam) and Govindaprasad played an excellent tani.

As Vaikunda Ekadashi was on that day, Suri Babu sang a soul-lifting, serene ‘Shantha karam bhujaga shayanam’ in raga malika style in Maand, Dwijawanthi and Sindubhairavi.

‘Nanda nanda paramananda’ and ‘Kalaye kamala nayana’ in Chenchurutti were some of the other compositions he sang.

Aswathy Thirunal Rama Varma dedicated the third day’s concert to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi who had been honoured with the Bharat Ratna and pointed out that the artiste of the day, Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, had won the award instituted by Bhimsen Joshi himself this year. Venkatesh Kumar started with Poorvi. A mellifluous Kedar followed.

Moonlight rhapsody

The composition was ‘Karunakara.’ ‘Kanha, kab sakhi ghar aayi’ in Behag set the mood of the moonlit evening. A melting Kaafi had the listeners listening in pin drop silence.

Venkatesh Kumar concluded his concert with the bhajans ‘Jaya Jaya Devi’ in Durga and ‘Ramachandra Prabhu’ in Sindhubhairavi.

Young Prasanna Venkataraman, performing for the first time in Kuthiramalika, came good in his concert. He was accompanied by Vinu (violin), Anathakrishnan (mridangam) and Anil Kumar (ghatam).

Good selection

The varnam ‘Sarasijanabha’ in Mayamalavagoula was followed by a swaram-encirched ‘Saamodam Chinthayami’ in Udayaravichandrika. Then came the popular ‘Jaya Jaya Padmanabha’ in Sarasangi.

‘Narasimha Mamava’ in Arabhi was preceded by a very good raga alapana and he adorned it with some good swarams. ‘Palaya deva deva’ in Bhairavi was taken up for elaboration and the main was ‘Paahimaam Sree Vageeswari’ in Kalyani, one of the Navarahri kritis.

The thukkadas were ‘Panimathi mukhi’ in Ahiri and ‘Vishweswar darsan’ in Sindhubhairavi.

On the fifth day, it was veteran Parasala Ponnammal’s turn to enthrall the rasikas with her dignified and pristine brand of music. She began with a Thodi pada varnam. Then came a sweet ‘Palayamamayibho.’

Vintage melody

The main piece was ‘Pahi Jagajanani’ in Vachaspathi. Hemalatha gave perfect support on the violin all through the concert. Kallekulangara Unnikrishnan and Kannur Santhosh gave a good thani. Ponnammal sang Panimathi, ‘Sathatham’ in Neelambari, ‘Smarathinumam’ in Behag, ‘Theliviyalum’ in Malayalam and a beautiful song in Sindhubhairavi that she sings often.

The first five days of the fete saw a fine mix of veterans and up-and-coming singers showcasing their aural magic and technical finesse. Each day had something special as the singers and accompanists came from different styles of playing and singing. If Sanjay electrified the audience with his energetic rendition, Malladi’s soothing singing evoked serenity. Venkatesh Kumar brought to life the Hindustani compositions of Swati. Prasanna Venkataraman, barely out of his teens, gave a concert full of pep and verve while the chaste and dignified concert by Ponnammal was rich and mellow like vintage wine.

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