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Touch of class


P. UNNIKRISHNAN, the playback singer, needs no introduction to music lovers in Kochi or for that matter anywhere in South India. His voice finds a familiar echo in the hearts of listeners through his film songs in different languages. Naturally, many look upon him as just an exponent of light music. But he is much more than that. He is equally adept in classical music, which is a different cup of tea altogether.

A disciple of Dr. S. Ramanathan, Unnikrishanan takes special care not to get caught between the compulsions of classical music and light music. Unlike many talented singers, he has not allowed the temptation of cinematic glamour to stunt his advance on the classical track. That is why he has been able to score well in this double role.

Unnikrishnan's concert at the Kerala Fine Arts Society auditorium organised by the Moozhikulam Sala and Eco Shop, convinced music lovers that he is emerging as one of the most promising youngsters in Carnatic classical music. He is gifted with a voice range that can meet the demands of manodharma element at different stages. The point to note is the fact that he is making full use of this advantage to raise the level of the concert beyond what is expected from some one in his age group. Unnikrishnan's concerts in Kochi have always attracted a good audience and this was no exception. Nagai Sreeram on the violin, Kovai Prakash on the mridangam and Kovai Suresh on the ghatam, helped Unnikrishnan in raising the level of the concert.

The concert began with a varnam in Saranga, which was followed by Tyagaraja's `Sobillu sapthaswara... ' in Jaganmohini. The fact that he took up four ragas for elaborate alapana is a reflection of his perspective in rendering classical concerts. Swathi Tirunal's `Vihara manasa... ' in Kapi was beautifully rendered with the support of manodharma swaras. `Kaddanu variki... ' a Tyagaraja krithi in Thodi and `Karunai yela... ' in Varali, were enriched by elaborate alapana and delectable swara singing.

The main piece of the concert was a ragam. thanam, pallavi in Lathangi (Syamalangi Mathangi). In between, there was a charming piece in Mohanam `Rajagopalam bhajeham... ' by Muthuswamy Deekshitar, studded with captivating manodharma swaras. What impressed the listeners was his skilful use of briga, reminiscent of some stalwarts of a bygone era. The only field in which he appeared to fall short was emotional involvement in raga bhava.


The concert gave a clear indication of Unnikrishan's capacity to reach higher levels, provided he does not get lost in star value. This was the first major public programme organised by the Moozhikulam Sala, which had earlier provided much needed exposure to promising vocalists and instrumentalists. Musical homage to Chembai

Many musical stalwarts fade into oblivion in a few months or a couple of years after their death. But Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar is fresh in our memory, even 29 years after his death. There are a couple of factors, which keep his memory alive. First of all, he is remembered as the Guru of Gana Gandharvan K.J. Jesudas. It was Chembai who guided Jesudas in his trek on the classical track by upgrading his skills. The Chembai Music Festival at Guruvayur attracts more and more musicians and music lovers every year. It was thus appropriate that the Kerala Fine Arts Society thought of paying homage to him on his death anniversary day on October 16 with a musical concert. And the musician chosen was Mathangi Sathyamoorthy, who has impressed listeners over the years with her consistently high level of performances whether in public concerts or in the Akashvani programmes. Before the concert started, Justice V.R Krishna Iyer, who spoke on the personal qualities of Chembai, unveiled the portrait of Chembai. He pointed out that Chembai was a simple man with a pure mind. Deep devotion to God, affection for fellow human beings and humility were the traits that set him apart from many of his contemporaries.

Mathangi Sathyamoorthy hails from Tamil Nadu but has been staying near Kottayam for the last few years. Many find a masculine touch in her concerts. The fact is that she is a serious performer. She does not waste time by unnecessarily harping on a large number of bits in her concerts. Her focus is on raga bhava. She brings it out patiently through alapana, niraval and swara singing. In the concert, she was accompanied on the violin by C.S Anuroop, an Akashvani artiste at Thrissur. Jayakrishnan played the mridangam and Manjoor Unnikrishnan played the ghatam.

The concert started with gurusmarana (Guru Brahma). In a way, this was a trendsetter. There were no gimmicks or experiments in populism. Devotion was the predominant element in Chembai's music. Naturally the apt way of paying homage to Chembai is through devotion to God as well as to music. Three ragas - Hamsadhwani, Shanmukhapriya and Bhairavi - were chosen for elaborate alapana. `Vandeham gana vallabham... ' brought out the charm of Hamsadhwani and made a mark in the minds of choosy listeners. Though the main krithi was in Bhairavi, Matangi was at her best in rendering `Marive Rathi... ' by Pattanam Subramania Iyer in Shanmukhapriya. The full potential of this pleasing raga was explored in alapana, niraval and swaraprasthara.

`Rakshamam sharanagatham... '" in Natta and Papanasam Sivan's `Sreekrishna swami kesari... '" in Kedaragowla were not marked by alapana. But the swaraprasthara covered the real range of Natta and Kedaragowla, paying attention to subtle nuances. After the concert, the general impression was that Mathangi Satyamoorthy did full justice to the memory of Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar by providing a class touch to the concert.

M.K BALAGOPAL

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