Lakshana, lakshya well balanced
K. V. Narayanaswamy... traditional and individualistic.
WE ALL know the story of how Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan (vocalist and composer of the 72 melaragamalika) defeated Peria and Chinna Vaithis in straight combat with an RTP in Chakravakam. At the Narada Gana Sabha (main hall) S. Sowmya brought off an RTP in the same melody in Khanda Triputa, topped with swara coils in a series of ragas forming what she called a mela vyuha, which may have dazed that very Sivan by its power and precision.
Most remarkable was that, on that occasion, her command over theory did not swamp her musicality. On the contrary it generated excitement by balancing lakshana with lakshya. The inspiring pallavi came after good mood preparation with alapanas (note the contrastive raga-tala-kalapramana choice) in Madhyamavati ("Nadupai", Chapu) and Purvi Kalyani ("Minakshi memudam", Adi). The neraval swara exercises were performed with the expected skills. But it was Chakravakam that established her as a vidushi of remarkable understanding, who could grip you with both gnanam and bhavam. The alapana had the majesty and dignity of a royal presence, revealing depths not usually glimpsed in the raga. The tanam was extraordinary, a wholly different kind of voice production was used to explore rhythmic and melodic possibilities in ways specific and distinct to the genre. Those varied enunciations could never be mistaken for raga alapana in disguise. The pallavi matched these grand preludes, marching through swaras in ragas which had similar notes in half the scale (dha-ni-sa) but differed in the rest -- from familiar Kharaharapriya and Harikhamboji to Navanitam, Shadvidamargini and the eerie Nasikabhushani, each sliding effortlessly into the next distinct form. This mesmerising feat by voice and violin made you forget that the singer was not in her best voice on that day.
On that day M. Narmada's violin was as heady as the string of golden shenbagams in her hair. Some of the obvious mannerisms of her style were mostly in abeyance as she produced phrase after phrase both melting and radiant by turns. The percussionists (Neyveli Narayanan and Udupi Sridhar) were in their elements right through, with a tani so replenishing that you wished it were longer.
It is a privilege to hear vidwan Palghat Narayanaswamiperform at his age in a style so traditional and yet so much his own. He had a reverent audience at the Narada Gana Sabha as he launched into a varnam in Khambodi, followed by Harikhambodi (``Entara Nitana") and yet again by Khambodi (``Tiruvadi Charanam"). They did not mind his getting stuck for a long unmusical neraval patch in his personalised versions of madhyama phrasings.
The Varali nugget was heartwarming as usual, the raga and kriti (``Seshachala," Rupakam) perfectly suited to his tender enunciations. Most important, KVN's recital on that day reminded us once again of the need to focus on genuine bhava in every aspect of performance without sacrificing musicianship, or slipping into sentimentality. One saw this particularly in the neraval ("Aravinda patra nayanam", Varali). The viruttam brought tears - both to the choked singer and the rapt listener. The Behag and Sindhubhairavi came from the depths with an utter spontaneity that eschewed all frills. In fact, the phrasings seemed plain and straight, until you realised that they were really luminous shafts piercing deep into the consciousness.
R. K. Shriramkumar (violin) played with deep understanding of the man and his mood, and the limitations of age.
J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam) and H. Sivaramakrishnan (ghatam) were completely in tune with the singing and treated listeners to a tani which exhilarated both ear and heart without disrupting the contemplative spirit of the concert.
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