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Vintage melodies

DAMODAR NARAYANAN

The Swathi Sangeethotsavam at Kuthiramalika featured eminent vocalists, accompanists and up-and-coming youngsters who showcased their versatility and virtuosity.

Photos: S. Mahinsha, S. Gopakumar

Fiesta of ragas:(Clockwise from top left): Carnatic vocal concert by Ajoy Chakraborty, violin duet by siblings S.R. Mahadeva Sharma and S.R. Rajashree, R.K. Padmanabha, Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma and Amrutha Venkatesh.

Kuthiramalika in Thiruvananthapuram, a royal venue for the Swathi Sangeethotsavam, once again witnessed seven enrapturing concerts this year.

Sanjay Subrahmaniam's energetic vocal recital gave the festivities a grand opening. As usual, Sanjay dazzled with his grip over techniques and aesthetics of raga and laya. He began with ‘Parvathy Nayaka' in Bowli and followed it up with ‘Jaya Jaya Padmanabha' in Manirang. A profound and soothing Bilahari raga visthara stood out for its distinctive swara phrases and long sustaining notes.

Energetic rendering

The main raga Kharaharapriya and the kriti ‘Sathatham Thavaka pada Sevanam' had a flowery niravel at ‘Madhusoodhana Shaure.'

Avaneeswaram S.R Vinu (violin) played perfect interludes and painted each raga imaginatively. There was technical finesse in the percussion with Nanjil A.R. Arul (mridangam), Manjoor Unnikrishnan (ghatam), Kottayam Murali (morsing) and Uduppi Sreekanth (ganjira). Sanjay concluded with a thilana in Ananda Bhairavi.

On the second day, violin duo S.R. Mahadeva Sharma and his sister, S.R. Rajashree, mesmerised the audience, many of whom had braved a shower to attend the concert. The siblings came good with a excellently coordinated recital that showcased their skill and artistry. Another highlight was a memorable taniavarthanam by B. Harikumar (mridangam) and Vaikkam Gopalakrishnan (ghatam).

Beginning with a melting ‘Seve Srikantham' in Mohanakalyani, the violinists moved on to ‘Bhavaye' in Pushpalathika. Each piece was essays in melodic excellence as raga after raga blossomed under their able fingers.

‘Jaya jaya Padmanabha' (Sarasangi), ‘Narasimha Mamava' (Arabhi), ‘Samodam' (Udayaravichandrika), ‘Pankajakshanam Rameshan' (Thodi) were some of the kritis played. The main was Kamboji. ‘Saramaina' in Behag came as a soothing interlude after a spellbinding tani. Mahadeva Sharma also sang the number.

Vidya Kalyanaraman started her vocal concert on the third day with ‘Gopalaka' in Revagupthi, followed by ‘Smarahari paadaaravindam' in Saama. ‘Deva Deva jagadishwara' in Poorvikalyani was preceded with a raga alapana and she adorned it with an excellent niraval. ‘Sumasayaka' was rendered well in Karnataka Kapi. K.P. Nandini deftly accompanied her on the violin. The main piece was ‘Janani Mamava' in Bhairavi, which she decorated with a good niraval at ‘Deva Deva' and imaginative swarams.

Percussion accompanists were Trivandrum Balaji (mridangam), Udupi Sridhar (ghatam) and Bhagyalakshmi (morsing). The star among the percussionists that evening was Bhagyalakshmi. Vidya concluded her concert with ‘Bhavayami' and a Hindi bhajan ‘Baajath Murali.'

Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma's concert on the fourth day was another attraction of the festival. ‘Sarasijanabha,' Ada tala varnam in Kamboji, had a steady build-up that pepped up the audience. ‘Saadhu Thada,' a kriti in the 14th Melakartha raga Vakulabharanam, composed by the vocalist himself, highlighted the grandeur of the vilambit kala and was adorned with effective swarams. The composition on Lord Narasimha ‘Paripahimam Nrihare' in Mohanam had brilliant swara passages in the lower octave.

The tranquil raga Hamirkalyani and the kriti ‘Gangeeya…,' which was the main piece, was a real treat. S. Varadarajan came up with some delectable phrases during the raga delineation. The highlight was the ragamala in Lalit, Brindavani and Behag. A terrific tani by Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam), S. Karthick (ghatam) and Payyannur T. Govinda Prasad (morsing) won over the crowd. He wound up with a Hindustani bhajan ‘Aaaj aaye…' in Mishrapahadi.

On the fifth day, Amrutha Venkatesh's vocal recital belied her age. Her selection of kritis, melodic rendering, clean swara patterns and crisp diction were proof of her dedication. ‘Chalemela,' an Ada tala varnam in Sankarabharanam was the opening kriti. Each raga in ‘Bhavayamiraghuramam' was portrayed without losing the essence of the raga or the feel of the lyrics. The main kriti ‘Ramaramagunasima' in Simhendramadhyamam marked the pinnacle of the concert. It was presented with an intense raga alapana, marvellous niravel, and superb swara passages.

Edappalli Ajith, on the violin, enhanced each note. Taniavarthanam by Palakkad Maheshkumar (mridangam), S. Karthik (ghatam) and Govinda Prasad (morsing) was a stylish affair with tonal innovations to suit each groove. Amrutha concluded with a mellow ‘Aliveni' in Kurunji.

Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty's Hindustani concert captivated the listeners. He began with an elaborate Hamsadhwani and explored each and every contour of the raga. The tans and alaaps in vilambit taal (slow tempo) and druth taal created a perceptible joyous ambience. Brijeshwar Mukherjee, who provided vocal support, was splendid with his awesome rendition of sargam, alaaps, and interludes. The kriti ‘Jai Jai Devi' created a devout ambience. The Khamaj rag that was befitting the evening had two compositions tagged to it – ‘Mileye Shyam Pyare' and ‘Bajatha Bhadayi Nagari Raghurai.' The concluding sargam ragamalika that started with teen taal travelled through several ragas. Ajay Joglekar (harmonium) and Sandeep Ghosh (tabla) ably supported the vocalists.

Grand conclusion

On the concluding day, R.K Padmanabha's vocal concert began with a virutham and the popular composition ‘Jayajaya' in Manirang. The composition ‘Mamavasadavarade' in Nattakurunji and ‘Viharamanasa' in Kapi, sung in the orthodox classical style, enthralled the audience. The vocalist's voice culture had a clear bass spectrum that enhanced each sangathi. Sankarabharanam was elaborated vividly after which an attractive thanam session was rendered with with a variety of thanams such as Mayoora thanam, Masthakam thanam, kukkuda thanam, Manduka thanam and so on.

‘Rajeevaaksha Baaro,' the main kriti, one of the few surviving Kannada compositions of the royal composer, was a total package with an excellent niravel and exquisite swara structures.

C.N. Chandrasekhar on the violin accompanied the vocals effectively. Taniavarthanam was a delightful performance by Cheluvaraj (mridangam) and Sudheer (ghatam). ‘Ramachandra' in Neelambari gently brought down the curtain on this year's edition of the fete.

With inputs from Padmini Narayanan and Supriya V.

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