When melody becomes a family affair
AMONG THE trios and duos that adorn the contemporary Carnatic stage, few can boast of the fame and distinction as those featured last week in the city. Lending special significance to this sequence of concerts was the presence of young stalwarts in the company of legends.
T. N. Krishnan, flanked by son Sriram Krishnan and daughter Viji Natarajan with T. V. Gopalakrishnan on the mridangam. Pic. by N. Sridharan
You sense an air of religiosity in the Asthika Samajam in Venus Colony. The strength of the audience that evening was just right and added to the sobriety.
Against this backdrop, the flute trio comprising the maestro N. Ramani and his grandsons T. Suresh and R. Athulkumar could not have made a more apt selection of songs for their recital. Their emphasis, it seemed, was decidedly on melody than virtuosity. Could there have been two opinions on the composer most expressive of bhakti and sheer melody?
So, after the opening varnam and Dikshithar's Natta ragam invocation to Ganapathi, it was Thyagaraja all the way for the next 90 minutes. The artistes fused together their talent in the two songs ``Adamodi galada" and ``Banturithi koluvu."
The three flutes did not exactly sound like one, perhaps the quality of the sound system had something to do. But all the same, there was not a discordant note.
The young cousins showcased their individual brilliance in the rest of the performance. T. Suresh gave evidence of his fluency and stamina as he played an impressive alapana and swaram for ``Rama ni samanamevaru."
This is the song extolling the virtues of Rama, the saviour of Raghuvamsa, of Sita's devotion and the affable nature of the brothers.
The song is easily the simplest and perhaps most melodious of the composer's creations in Karaharapriya. Athulkumar likewise came up with his version of the Ramani lineage as he revealed the beauty of Mohanam in the alapana and svaram to ``Nanupalimpa nadachivachchithivo."
Engineer and entrepreneur S. D. Sridhar blended skill with grace in his violin solo. The percussion duo by R. Ramesh on the mridangam and Srirangam Kannan on the morsing was truly outstanding.
On Saturday, it was the turn of TVG's Academy of Indian Music and Arts to present yet another reputed trio before audiences at the Varasiddhi Vinayakar temple. This time, it was the violin maestro T. N. Krishnan and children Viji Natarajan and Sriram Krishnan who blended admirably during their two-hour performance.
The customary opening pieces were ``Vallabha nayakasya" the Dikshithar song in Begada and Swathi Thirunal's ``Devadeva kalayamithe" in Mayamalavagowla. These and ``Manivini," which featured later on in the programme, are vintage kritis popularised by the late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. The senior Krishnan had accompanied Iyer on many occasions and must have walked himself down memory lane as indeed his audiences.
It was during the presentation of the kalpana svaram that Sriram and Viji proved a match to their father. This was especially evident when they enchanted listeners with ``Orachoopu," among others. Then followed an exposition of Behag for the song ``Smarajanaka subhacharitha."
This was somewhat of a surprise considering that in the Carnatic repertoir, the ragam is generally featured at the tail-end of the Kutcheri.
But then, Swathi Thirunal who wrote the song had come under the influence of the Hindusthani tradition and may not have felt constrained to introduce minor departures.
The joy of Kambhoji is multiplied many times over if ``Ma janaki" is the artistes' choice and the trio made a feast of it for a good half an hour. Veteran T. V. Gopalakrishnan handles the mridangam so delicately, lest the beats should diminish the grandeur of the kutcheri.
Flute maestro N. Ramani with grandsons T. Suresh and R. Athulkumar. Pic. by S. R. Raghunathan
Accompanying him on the ganjira was Amrit and on the morsing, T.R. Sundaresan. They played ball with TVG.
The inimitable Lalgudi G Jayaraman and his illustrious son, GJR Krishnan appealed to the finer sensibilities of listeners at their concert for Bharat Kalachar. Lalgudiji's varnams have long been a favourite with artistes and listeners alike.
The response from the gathering was as enthusiastic when he chose to play a varnam in Huseini.
Lalgudi G Jayaraman and son GJR Krishnan. Pic. by Pichumani.
T. V. Vasan joined forces during the charanam just as the ghatam was beginning to be missed in companionship to Karaikkudi Mani's mridangam.
The violin duo played a less known kriti of Thyagaraja ``Munupe teliyakapoyina" in Bangala and the Muthaiah Bhagavathar song sarasadalanayane in Saramathi. But the flavour of the evening was Muthuswamy Dikshithar.
``Sri Balasubrahmanya Aagacha Agraganya" in Bilahari, one of the composer's masterpieces in praise of the deity of Thiruveragam livened the evening. This kriti is well-known because it is perhaps one of the foremost among Dikshithar's compositions on his ishta daivatha. ``Balagopala," the main piece of the evening, owes its fame and status on the concert platform to the richness of its verse as well as the prominence of Bhairavi ragam. Krishnan could grip listeners with his alapana and swaram despite the ragam being heard ad nauseam.
The duet of Mani and Vasan was a rhythmic relish to the large expectant audience. Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, also an accomplished vocalist, was conspicuous by her absence on that cool evening. Else, the performance would have been the third to feature a trio in two successive days.
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