Distinct within traditional mores
Shashank, on the flute, was both esoteric and appealing.
If you are looking for music with loads of attitude, Shashank's flute recital would be just your cup of tea. Revelling in the awareness that he is espousing an individualistic style, the artiste also seeks credibility by touching base with the discipline demanded by traditional mores. Accompanied by his sister, Shantala Subramanian, his presentation was both esoteric and appealing.
With raga Simhendramadhyamam, there was no stage-by-stage elaboration. Rather, the flautist captured a series of impressions drifting past just beyond reach eloquent vignettes bubble-locked in time. Long wavy phrases chanced upon an idea in the lower octave that was echoed and enlarged in the middle register, while the sudden emphasis on the piercing sharpness of the nishada led to the contrasting tranquillity of the tara-sthayi shadja.
Shashank had an enthusiastic collaborator in the violinist, Mysore M. Nagaraj, who adopted his perspective for viewing the raga's course, albeit with more reliance placed on technique than instinct. The kriti was merely a prop for the flurry of kalpanaswara sallies, and interestingly it was here that Shashank chose to exploit the possibilities of instrumental technique thereby moving away from the vocal style thus far in evidence.
Acceding to requests for Abheri, the artiste made the intriguing announcement that he might later allow the audience to select the raga for a ragam-tanam-pallavi. In Abheri, intention coalesced with expression as the melody flowed through pathways lit up with a quiet, almost magical glimmer. There was seldom an outright statement and often, a touch of suggestion. Tyagaraja's "Nagumomu" made the audience's day. Deciding that the time for subtlety had ended, Shashank and Nagaraj proceeded to test the limits in the swara segment. Gripped by a hit-or-miss frenzy and gleefully deploying every trick in the gimmick book, they went overboard.
At 8:55 p.m., the promised RTP made a late entry. In true micro-chip tradition, the artiste presented an encapsulated raga Lalitha of two-minute duration. An equally brief courtesy call was then paid upon the tanam. The pallavi fared marginally better with a more detailed treatment accorded to the khanda triputa tala structure that accommodated ragamalika swaras.
Nagaraj's amazing skills were highlighted more when he was definite than when he contrived to be vague. The mridangist, Bangalore Arjun Kumar, was the catalyst, impervious to the distraction of any meandering forays and firmly rooted to the kalapramana. With able participation from N. Govindarajan on the ghatam, he provided a masterly tani avartanam.
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