[Editor's Note - The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of
the author, S. Bala]
O. S. Thiagarajan
for today’s Carnatic Musicians is to how to leave an imprint of a concert when
there is a glut of offerings.
Some like O. S.
Thiagarajan have an additional challenge since they do not depend on flashes
of brilliance but an
copybook steady style. It is also tempting to take a populist route when it
comes to new audiences overseas.
I am glad that
OST remains true to the tradition. With earnest unimpeachable craftsmanship
SIFAS at the mammoth Esplanade hall in Singapore left a strong trail of
Sowkhyam and Pandityam
roughing each other.
stuck to the well established contours – He almost sang only Trinity
compositions, at least for the first two hours of the concert, including
Nidhichala sukhama (Kalyani) as a surprise second item, he chose conventional
suite of ragas and brought in a fine balance of proportion with four Raga
essays, four complex but succinct swara journeys and enthused his co-artistes
very well. These are mere statistics and do not convey the Sowkhyam in the
renditions. I cannot do justice to this even with the best words of English.
It had to be experienced.
Varali was the
shining piece, with a gamaka-laden alapana and the grand kriti ‘Kamakshi’ of
Syama sastry embellished with his guru Sri TMT’s nuances in sangathis. The
other major elaborations in raga were Kedaragowlai (Nilakantam, Dikshitar),
Hindolam (Samaja varagamana, Tyagaraja) and Shanmukhapriya (Ekambresa nayaki,
Dikshitar). Kedaragowlai and Shanmukhapriya had authenticity and skill
written all over. The welcoming feature in his ragas is the complete absence
of any dubious or corruptive phrases that lean towards adjacent ragas. OST’s
voice was his greatest asset, staying true for nearly three hours. Sriram
Kumar was the perfect foil especially in Varali and Shanmukhapriya – he added
to the Sowkhyam even in the brisk phrases of the alapana, a trait he excels
– Dr N Ramani (Flute) and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Mohana veena)
has come to be the surrogate for fusion among foreign audiences, especially to
woo more ears to the classical style. While the format itself is very
entertaining and justifies the inclusion in the festival, the performance
sometimes borders the ‘ordinary’ as was the case on 11th March.
Dr. Ramani played a beautiful Harikambhoji (Sani Todi) in the individual
segment of the concert and some like me in the audience would have yearned for
more of that. The joint effort in Pantuvarali (Purya dhanasri) was
predictable, especially the Hindustani segment and was incommensurate with the
occasion. Music-neutral audiences tend to like rhythm and speed over melody
and craft and were surely fed with that diet. Sometimes I wonder if the
musicians are getting the right advice on what is expected from their
concerts, even those involving ‘foreign’ audiences. Ramani’s seamless mixing
of ragams Pantuvarali, Mohanam, Kapi in the swara korvai was very artistic and
helped steer the concert to safety. The overt rhythm slant was continued in
the tani avarthanam of Mannargudi Easwaran and Ramkumar Mishra.
Valli and Madhavi Mudgal – confluence
There is a
view that pure art is mutually exclusive to commercial art. Is this really
true? How do you then explain the massive audiences (4000-5000 people
sometimes) that yesteryear performers attracted and they did not practise
commercial art in the current sense of the term?
effort by Valli (Bharathanatyam) and Madhavi (Odissi) promised a great deal.
It is a rare combination and was the first ever such programme in Singapore.
It was amazing to see how the two great artistes found enough common ground
between the two styles to present what was comparable to ‘Synchronized
swimming’, sticking to their individual art nevertheless. Madhavi’s piece
heralding the vasant ritu was attractive. The dance programme appetized
the senses. The short duration meant an austere lighter version of what Valli
is known for.
A silky smooth
voice, benefits of the Lalgudi association and an intellectual mind have
rocketed Jayashri to the top echelons of Carnatic Music. She has evolved a
unique style placing melody and voice purity above everything else. This space
has been vacant since MS stopped singing ten years ago. Will Jayashri enhance
this formula more and get to that lofty place? Time will tell.
on the concluding day of the SIFAS festival at the Esplanade, oscillated
between technical brilliance (Todi – Karthikeya Kangeya) and banal. The start
was pedestrian, with simple renditions of Maya tirtha swaroopini (Mayamalava
gowlai) and Seethapathe (Kamas) with simple sangathis, mostly sung once and it
seemed like a Shraddhanjali concert. Brief elements of her true scholarship
were heard in the kriti Janani Ninnuvina (Ritigowlai) and the alapana, even if
the neraval sounded as an afterthought.
Todi made up
for all the soft start as Jayashri unleashed a rich array of sangathis,
especially chosen from the Nadaswara style. It was clear that she herself
enjoyed it and gave it a longer lease than her otherwise crisp measure.
Jayashri presented a skilful neraval in ‘Velmaruvum amala Karakamala’ singing
mostly in the upper octave. Amba Neelayatakshi, the poignant Dikshitar kiiti
in Nilambari was consistent with the slithering melody of her style.
Nattakurinji for the Pallavi in Misra Triputa. The preceding Todi orphaned
the Pallavi, although Jayashri brought some life to it in the swara phase.
Sriram Kumar joined the melody party – it almost seemed to suit his style
perfectly. He reveled in the Todi alapana and in the swara phase of the
Pallavi. Easwaran was reined in by Jayashri’s madhyama-vilamba kala anchor
and used a more sedate soothing style.
S Bala, Music lover