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Ode to Neelakanta Sivan

Neelakanta Sivan Sangeetha Aradhana brought to Kerala some of the stars in the firmament of Carnatic music.

Obeisance: (clockwise from top left) T.M. Krishna, Sangeetha Sivakumar, Abhishek Raghuram, Sanjay Subrahmaniam, Narmadha and Chinamaya sisters.

Some of the reigning stars of the Carnatic music firmament came to Thiruvananthapuram to pay homage to composer Neelakanta Sivan who lived and passed away in the capital city. T.M. Krishna’s concert began the 34th Neelakanta Sivan Sangeetha Ara dhana in Thiruvananthapuram. Aficionados of Carnatic music were treated to a veritable musical feast on the opening day of the eight-day music festival.

‘Intha chalamu,’ the Ada tala varnam in Kambhoji composed by Pallavi Gopala Iyer, set the tempo for the performance. Tyagaraja’s ‘Janakiramana’ in Sudhaseemanthini was succeeded by the popular ‘Sujana Jeevana’ in Kamas.

A bhakti-laden ‘Entraikku Shivakripai’ in Mukhari, a composition by Neelakanta Sivan, was profusely applauded by the packed audience.

The main was a Syama Sastri composition in Saveri, ‘Burusuga Kripajuchi.’ Elaboration of the raga, neraval and manodharma swaras were handled with finesse.

R.K. Sreeramkumar gave excellent support on the violin. Neyveli Venkitesa (mridangam) and Udupi Sridhar (ghatam) came up with a scintillating thaniavarthanam lasting over 15 minutes. Three short pieces – ‘Kinthu cheyvu’ in Kalyani (Swati Tirunal), ‘Navasidhi Petralum’ in Kharaharapriya (Neelakanta Sivan) and ‘Maye Thwam Yahi’ in Tharangini (Muthuswamy Dikshitar) – brought the concert to a close.

Sangeetha Sivakumar, Krishna’s wife, rose to the expectations of the rasikas on the second day. She was ably supported by Padma Krishnan (violin) Trivandrum Kishore (mridangam) and Udupi Sreekanth, (ganjira).

She began her concert with a Suruti varnam ‘Entho prematho’ by Neena Kuppier. Neelakanta Sivan’s melodic ‘Shambho Mahadeva’ in Bouli was the artiste’s next piece. Evergreen ‘Janani Ninnuvina’ in Reethigowla, composed by Subbaraaya Sastrigal, was received with great appreciation.

‘Ananda Nadamaduvar,’ the popular Neelakanta Sivan composition in Purvikalyani, was the pick of the concert.

‘Vararagalaya’ in Chenchu kambhoji, ‘Shivanai Ninainthu’ in Kamboji and ‘Parumana Mitta’ in Kapi brought the concert to a close.

The Chinmaya sisters were a surprise package. They won over the hearts of the audience with their sheer enthusiasm and calibre. The Navaragamalika varnam of Kothavasal Venkatarama Iyer ‘Valakhi vachi’ was the opening item. ‘Vathapi…’ (Hamsadhwani) ‘Shambho Mahadeva’ (Bouli) and ‘Entraikku shivakripai’ (Mukhari) followed.

An elaboration of Shubha Panthuvarali was followed by a melodic rendering of the Tyagaraja composition ‘Ennalu urage.’ Dikshitar’s ‘Akhilandeshwari’ (Dwijavanthi) and Tygaraja’s ‘Bandureethiklu’ (Hamsanadam) preceeded the major item of the evening in Kiravani, the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Kaligiyunde.’

Viju S. Anand (violin) gave excellent support while Vypin Satheesh (mridangam) and Adichanalloor Anikumar (ghatam) exhibited their skills during the thaniavarthanam.

Changanasseri Madhavan Namboothiri, a disciple of T.V. Sankaranarayanan, opened his vocal recital with ‘Jaya Jaya Ganapathi,’ a composition in Hamsadhwani by Sachidananda Swami. ‘Sakalagra bala Nine’ in Atana and a Purandaradasa devarnama displayed the influence of TVS.

Two Tamil compositions (‘Muruka Muruka’ in Saveri and ‘Kaliyuga Varadan’ in Brindavanasaranga), a fast-paced Tyagaraja kriti in Ravichandrika (‘Niravadhisukhada’) were some of the pieces he sang. The piece de resistance of the concert in Bhairavi was ‘Ika Nandu Brova’ by Pallavi Sesha Iyer. It was rendered in detail with ragalapana, sahityam, niraval and swara prasthanam.

Edappally Ajith’s (violin) efficient bowing was complemented by Kottayam Santhosh (mridangam) and Kottayam Unnikrishnan (ghatam).

‘Western notes,’ composed by Muthiah Bhagavathar and popularised by the legendary Madurai Mani Iyer, were rendered to the delight of the audience.

Resonant voice

Endowed with a resonant voice and clear diction, Abhishek Raghuram, grandson of mridangam legend Palakkad Raghu, impressed rasikas with his verve and control. ‘Ee Vasudha,’ a Tyagaraja composition in Sahana and ‘Oraru Mukhane’ in Reethigowla were dealt with in detail.

The flagship item of the programme was the Kalyani raga kriti ‘Ethavunnara,’ composed by Tyagaraja, which lasted for 90 minutes. It was a superb exhibition of the various facets of singing – ragalapana, lyric, niraval and mamodharma swaram. He was accompanied by Akkarai Subbalakshmi (violin), Palakkad Mahesh (mridangam) and Trivandrum Sankarasubramony (ganjira). The tani drew thunderous applause. ‘Navasidhi Petralum,’ composed by Neelakanta Sivan, a Swati padam in Neelambari, ‘Ramachandranithanu’ in Dwijavanthi were some of the thukkadas he rendered.

The only instrumental concert in the fete was by Narmadha. Dr. Narmadha, an exponent of the Parur bani, began with a Sankarabharanam varnam by Swati Tirunal. Like many of the artistes, she also paid homage to the composer by playing ‘Entraikku Shivakripai’ in Mukhari and ‘Shambho Mahadeva’ in Bouli. The main was Mohanam and she embellished it with ragam, thanam and pallavi, ragamalika and swaraprasthara.


Expectations of the jam-packed audience were sky high as Sanjay Subrahmanian started off in great style with the Adiyappayya Ada tala varnam ‘Viriboni.’ Avaneeswaram S.R. Vinu (violin), Patri Satheesh Kumar (mridangam) and Thripunithura Radhakrishnan (ghatam) accompanied the vocalist in an exemplary manner.

A Sri Ragam piece by Dikshitar, ‘Shrivaralakshmi,’ kept up the tempo of the concert. ‘Unnadiye Gathi,’ a GNB composition in Bahudhari, had the audience in raptures. ‘Nannu Vitiji,’ a chowka kala kriti by Tyagaraja in Reethigowla, enabled the vocalist to showcase his repertoire of skills. ‘Kanden Kali theernthen,’ a Sahana piece, was beautifully rendered.

The next item was a Koteeswara Iyer composition ‘Ghananaya Desiga’ in Rishabhapriya. Then came a ragam, tanam and pallavi in which the main raga was Janpuri and the ragamalika consisted of Hamirkalyani, Patdeep and Gangeyabhushani. ‘Eppo Varuvaro’ by Gopalakrishna Bharathi was the pallavi chosen. After singing Swati’s Behag piece ‘Deenamathavutha,’ the artiste chose a couple of light pieces and concluded his performance with ‘Maname Kanamum Maravathe.’ The concerts were organised by Sri Neelakanta Sivan Sangeetha Sabha to mark the 109th Samadhi year of the saint.


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