Monday, 18 February 2019

Excellent concert of Vidwan Sunil Gargyan

Anna Nagar Music Circle Trust hosted Vidwan Sunil Gargyan for the February concert, accompanied by veteran violinist Vidwan V V Ravi, Vidwan Trivandrum V Balaji on Mridangam and Vidwan V Sivaramakrishnan on the kanjira. It was heartening to see the hall was nearly full on Sunday evening (17 February).

Vidwan Sunil began the concert with the navarAgamAlikA varnam 'valaci vaci'. The second item was in rAgam ShanmuKapriyA, which he outlined briefly in a short AlApanai, before rendition of 'siddhi vinAyakam' of Shri Muthuswami Dikshitar, in rUpaka tALam, at a fast pace. It was in a very fast clip, wherein he and Vidwan Ravi presented well, though a slower rendition can allow to bring out more beauty in this composition and the rAgam. The kalpana swarams rendered by both of them were breathtaking, as it was in the same high speed.

Picture courtesy : Secretary Srikanth Krishnamurthy
Vidwan Sunil chose to give a good AlApanai of saHAnA to start the third song for the day. Both he and Vidwan Ravi brought out the melodious rAgam very well before the rendition of Shri Gopalakrishna Bharathi's lyrics 'tillai ambalatAnai'. After the song, Vidwan Sunil announced that the composition was set to saHAnA by Vidwan Sanjay Subrahmanyan.

The fourth rAgam began with a brilliant AlApanai of pUrna shadjam. The elaborate AlApanai by him and Shri Ravi were excellent and brought out the full facet of this rAgam. Even though there are some swara sancArAs similar to allied rAgams, there was no doubt left that he was singing pUrna shadjam only by using its own unique phrases. 'lAvanya rAmA', a composition of Shri Thyagaraja set to rUpaka tALam, was the kriti that was sung. Following it, a brisk rendition of a rare malayamArutam kriti danuDevvuDO dAsharatE was presented followed by a vilambita kAlam 'cEtah shri bAlakrishnam' in dwijAvanti of Shri Muthuswami Dikshitar.

The rAgam varALi was chosen for exploration. Vidwan Sunil presented it well and Vidwan Ravi followed it with a compact AlApanai showing his prowess on the violin. The song that was sung, 'mAmava mInAkshi' is a composition of Shri Muthuswami Dikshitar set to mishra Eka tALam. A brisk 'idi nyAyamA shrI rAmacandrA' in rAgam mALavi, composed by Shri Patnam Subramanya Iyer was the interlude before the grand main item for the day.

A very elaborate presentation of kApi AlApanai was a treat for all of us. The ease with which he covered the tri-stAyis and full throated singing without holding back was thoroughly enjoyed by us. Vidwan Ravi followed up with a shorter and crisp kApi. We hoped it would be 'inta sowkhya maninE' and it was indeed this composition of Shri Thyagaraja. The last time I heard it as a main song of the concert was in the 90s! Loved this treat which rounded off a nice choice of kritis. Excellent neraval at 'swara rAga laya' was sung, followed by kalpana swarams too. The tani avartanam that followed was very elaborate and nuanced too. Vidwan Balaji showed so many variations on the mridangam, while Vidwan Sivaramakrishnan chose to present some lightning strokes, which for me were unbelievable. To be able to roll them out with one hand, while other percussion instruments have two hands to bring out the similar sol was breathtaking.

The tukkaDa section of the concert included vandu kEtpAr illayO, a rAgamAlikA set to HindOLam, aTAnA and bilaHari, a composition of Shri Oothukkadu Venkatasubbaiyar (I believe; Vidwan Sunil announced as Smt. Ambujam Krishna; experts can help here) and khaMAs rAga viruttam followed by karpUram nArumO in kanda cApu tALam.

This was one of the satisfying concerts and evening well spent for us. We could see that Vidwan Sunil has a bright future ahead.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

December Music Season 2018 - Tidbits - Part 2

(Few hits, but a lot more misses in this part) 
Vidushi Gayatri Girish
The season brings not only music, but our enjoyment of others’ behaviour in social encounters as well. Or suffer a sting, if we falter in sticking to the high expectations of the rasika fraternity these events.
Let me start with a heartening thing that we noticed. 6 or 8 or 10 year olds sitting on the dais, taking notes and more importantly keeping the tALam impeccably throughout the concert indicates that we can be assured a continued lineage of interest in Carnatic Music. The music will be handed down and carried forward with interest generation after generation, I am sure. See below picture from Shri Abhishek Raghuram's concert at Narada Gana Sabha. Someone had posted on FB, of a boy playing a phantom Mridangam, in the Music Academy, while seated behind the Mridangist.
Vidwan Sruthi Sagar Flute, Vidwan Abhishek Raghuram Vocal and Vidwam Anantha R Krishnan mridangam
The joyful season it is in Chennai. It is the time to dress up in choice attire, just like we do for an important function in the immediate family. Deck ourselves in neatly creased dresses, jewellery to match, other accoutrements that synchronize, etc. Having said this, I unfortunately did not notice anything significant to report. Somehow eyes and the brain of the beholder did not behold properly.
One of things I loved is that many artists attended others' concerts. Wait. Or was it always the norm - and only now I am able to identify a few artists in the crowd? Having attended very few concerts in first 15 years of this century, maybe I cannot come to conclusion - I would like to know the inputs from our fellow rasikas on this aspect.
Why not some change to attend some dramas, we thought. Dramas and dances are also on the cards for December season. We enjoyed a sparsely attended 3ji of Shri Y G Mahendran, and decently attended Crazy Premier League of Shri Crazy Mohan. The former probably does not see patronage due to a political stance being taken in this political-comedy. As the actor himself announces, comedy in politics and politics in comedy. The ideas as well as the comedy are good and we enjoyed (3ji). CPL was obviously a block-buster. However it makes us think about patronage to dramas. Isn't it cheaper to watch comedy dramas and even historic / fiction based dramas, rather than watch Television serials for free. Through TV people learn all the bad things about relationships, or get into depression with negativity, finally ending up paying hefty charges to A or C Hospital, don't they?
Official photographers and those with special permissions move around the concert hall, auditorium or sabhas to catch some outstanding freezes in time of the performers. It is only a minor irritant if they decide to do so conspicuously instead of by stealth. But here was an official photographer who decided to use the flash in all his clicks at the concert. In my opinion, it is a major disturbance to not only the rasikas, but also all the performers. I wonder whether he got a good set of choice words in his ear. I cannot know the results, if such an event occurred, as I did not go to that sabha again this season. I hope the artists can give their views as well. A regular reader of this series should be able to see a click of the photographer in one of the previous posts!
Vidwan Yazhpanam Balamurugan
Chamber concerts are definitely in a different league in terms of ambience. During the music season, there is added advantage of a slightly sparser crowd. We can have a seat with lot more freedom, relaxation (less cramped postures), and adds to intimacy with the music & the performance. Here is a click from a mesmerising smile of the co-performer (nagaswaram) of Yazhpanam Shri Balamurugan at Musiri Chamber, that I felt like including here. He played very well along with the maestro to lift the concert on that day (and earlier day at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium).
Reading newspapers in some obscure corners of the auditorium is likely okay. The earlier report mentioned one person being admonished as he was reading it noisily in the second row of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. That was outclassed by this person in the first row of the Music Academy. He was reading a tabloid type newspaper - maybe a Mylapore Times or a T Nagar Talk. I wonder how it affects the musicians. Just because it is a free concert, can we do this in the front row, at the "Kailash" of Carnatic music?
Random question, triggered by the snow white top of Kailash. Shouldn't the rasikas of Shri Sanjay Subrahmanyan dress up in white on 1st January?
Vani Mahal concert of Vidwan Sanjay Subrahmanyan
With respect to canteens, which is the main topic for many, I did not sample much, nor have the expertise to provide reviews on that aspect. I may not notice even if someone missed adding salt to the sambhar at times. Snacks at Sivagami Pethachi auditorium and Mylapore Fine Arts club were the ones sampled. For the first time in my life added a lunch at a sabha canteen - this one at the Music Academy - enjoyed the banana leaf lunch of Pattappas! I plan to hold on to the promises by dear friends for the filter kapi - but likely will happen only in December 2019 - see you then.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Two concert notes for the seventh report

This is the seventh note, and probably the last, for the 2018 music season. I will cover two concerts in this report.
On Thursday, 27th December, we were excited to attend the concert of Shri Abhishek Raghuram, accompanied by Shri J B Sruthi Sagar on the flute and Shri Anantha R Krishnan on the mridangam, at Narada Gana Sabha. The next day we attended the concert of Vidushi Aishwarya Shankar with added intention of sampling the "leaf lunch" of Pattappas, at the Music Academy.
Vidwans Sruthi Sagar, Abhishek Raghuram, and Anantha R Krishnan (L to R)
Shri Abhishek started the evening with a sedate AlApanai of Hamsadhvani. The flute accompaniment suits as much as a violin accompaniment would, in my opinion, and Shri Sruthi Sagar played a nice follow-up. 'vandEHam jagat vallabham' was the kriti chosen, which was followed by kalpanaswarams. He then chose saHAnA as the next rAgam for elaboration. With the relaxed items one after the other, we were wondering whether he was cautious after his throat infection 2 weeks earlier in the Kerala temple, where he cut short his concert after the first varnam.
Shri Abhishek sang Ee vasudhA following his AlApanai and it was rendered full of bhava. Moving phrases, lilting sangatis and can one doubt the scope of saHAnA in those aspects! The team thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, oblivious of the audience - competing with each other for small twists in korvais and sangatis which surprise one-another bringing out individual excellence! The appreciation of one another by the beaming smiles, raised eye-brows, etc., are really worth watching - we are not only audience but spectators in this concert.
And then the plane took off with pantuvarALi as the third piece for the evening. With this we were treated to Shri Abhishek in his regular full flow. A very long elaborate AlApanai he sang, which included to slow unfurling and the fast brigas at the end as well. Shri Sruthi Sagar then played a beautiful follow-up including show of his fingering skills at the conclusion. 'rAmanAtham bhajEHam' was the composition for this main item of the evening, kAshiramakriya rAgam as per composer Muthuswami Dikshitar's nomenclature. kAmavardhani / pantuvarALi are the names given to this rAgam - or they have all become synonymous now, if there was nuanced differences earlier.
This was followed by extended neraval and innovative kalpanaswarams. The sets of kalpanaswarams ended with different portions of the composition. Both the neraval and kalpanaswarams brought out the camaraderie of the 3 artists, each goading the other to higher levels of manodharma. This was followed by usual brilliance of Shri Anantha in his tani avartanam. With just this 3rd piece we found about 2 hours of the concert were over. The main had taken up about 1:20 hours or one and a half hours, and we did not notice - drenched in the excellent music.
A brief AlApanai in bhairavi was followed by a superb 'ela rADAyane kAmini', rendered at a brisk pace. The melody is still ringing in my ear. We were hoping the next one would be a rAgam tAnam pallavi, but a gentleman came and requested Shri Abhishek giving two options. We could only hear that "I will sing candracUDa itself". He launched into a soulful darbArikAnaDA followed by a melodious candracUDa. Though we have heard him sing this before, everytime he manages to move us by the rendition. And then suddenly the mangaLam was sung. Oh my - only 2:15 minutes? This was a bit disappointing - maybe the 7 PM slot is for 2 hours or extended by 2:15 only, at Narada Gana Sabha - we don't know. We obviously want more - and this team deserves more time to present a full concert.
The hall was nearly full, but it was a bit disappointing to note that the first two rows was just half-full. This, I think, is because a single ticket is issued for both the 4 PM and 7 PM concerts. There are a few rasikas who like only the one or the other, and hence the some seats stay empty.
Another interesting aspect is that relatives of Shri Lalgudi G Jayaraman had monopolised the evening at Narada Gana Sabha. 4 PM concert was by Shri Ganesh and Shri Kumaresh. 6:45 PM concert in the NGS mini-hall was a Shri G J R Krishnan for Charsur, in the Samskritam series. Isn't it also a dilemma for the family members to choose between these concerts? At least Smt Jayanthi Kumaresh avoided the dilemma by playing a concert in distant Guwahati the same evening, and not be tugged by conflict of schedule at NGS.
Vidwan B S Prashanth, Vidushi Aishwarya Shankar, Vidwan G Badrinath (L to R)
The next day, we decided to attend the 11:45 AM concert of Vidushi Aishwarya Shankar at the Music Academy. Chidambaram Shri G Badrinath played the violin and Shri B S Prashanth played the mridangam. After singing a short shlokam in kalyANi, Vidushi Aishwarya began the concert with the kEdAragowLa varnam, sAmi dhaya jUDa. A very relaxed shrI varalakshmI in shrI rAgam was the second song. Vidushi Aishwarya chose latAngi rAgam for the first major item of the afternoon. A very nice AlApanai was followed by Shri Badrinath's crisp essay of the same. marivere dikkevvaru was rendered including kalpanaswarams.
Then, after a quick indication of dEvagAndhAri, she took up nA moralagimpavE of Saint Thyagaraja - rarely heard song, I think and first time I am hearinng this. A brisk 'kumaran tAl panindE' of Shri Papanasam Sivan in yadukula kAmbhoji followed this, setting the stage for the main song of the afternoon.
tODi was the rAgam chosen and suddenly it struck me that I had not listened to any other tODi elaboration in the entire season. Seems like this season the artists have chosen a bigger variety to expand horizons for the rasikas by bringing out more compositions from as many sources as possible. A very good AlApanai was presented in unhurried manner, but towards the end it seemed to come to a close quickly without the usual faster pace akArams. We then noticed that she was trying to manage the time properly as it was only a 1 and half hour concert. Hence the slightly abrupt descent and closure of AlApanai. Shri Badrinath presented a short version as well before Vidushi Aishwarya presented Amba nadu vinnapavini of Pallavi Gopala Iyer, followed by neraval and kalpanaswarams. Shri B S Prashanth played a spirited tani avartanam.
Vidushi Aishwarya then closed the concert with viruttam in dEsh and jOnpuri, followed by Purandara Dasa's 'Hari citta satya' in jOnpuri (usually rendered in pUrvi kalyANi). This was a good concert within the time constraints of 1 and half hours. The fulfilling concert was then followed by filling stomach - the 2nd treat for the day was the 'paet pooja' of Pattappas meals served in banana leaf, like a 'kalyAna sAppADu'.
Wish all rasikas a very Happy New Year, and hope 2019 is great for all, along with more melodious, musical accompaniments.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Anahita and Apoorva exhibit skills in short and crisp Music Academy concert

Accompanists: Vidushi Apoorva Krishna on violin and Shri Rohit Prasad on mridangam
We went to the Music Academy a bit early for the 11:45 AM concert of Vidushis Anahita and Apoorva. Entering at around 11:15 AM into the morning concert of veteran flutist Shri B V Balasai, we felt we had missed a chance to attend his concert too, if only we had come at 9 AM. He was playing the pallavi in hEmavati, which was followed by kalpana swarams in the same rAgam, kIravANi and amrutavarshini. Hope it rains a bit it Chennai, as we still have a deficit of more than 50% in rainfall for the quarter ending 31 December, 2018. Shri Balasai then played vEnkatAcala nilayam in sindhubhairavi and a small piece in HamsAnandi, closing on the dot at 11:30 AM.
Veteran Flutist Shri B V Balasai
It was a bit disappointing to see that the hall was less than half full. However, it could be the standard modus operandi of rasikas moving to the canteen to appreciate the food, before the second serving of music at 11:45 AM. By the time the 2nd bell rang at 11:45 AM, the hall was nearly full. As the curtains opened to pink highlight of the backdrop to the sides, we also saw pink included in the attire of the ladies and the mridangam cover.
Moving on to the music, Vidushis Anahita and Apoorva began the proceedings with a brisk-paced composition of Oothukkadu Venkata kavi (Subbaiah Iyer says Wikipedia). God only knows which is the right spelling for this poet's name, with U / Oo, tt or th, and the name itself kept separate or combined as Subbaiyer, etc. 'vandaduvum pOnaduvum' set to bilaHari rAgam was sung well and set the tone for the crisp concert. The kalpanaswarams rendered in this rAgam were nice and short too. Shri Rohit Prasad played quite softly and aptly for this duo.
Kumari Apoorva then took up a detail AlApanA of shubhapantuvarALi. Vidushi Apoorva Krishna on the violin presented a delightful follow-up to the exploration by the vocalist on this first major item of the concert. A composition of Harikesanallur Shri Muthaiah Bhagavatar 'manOnmani mandaHAsini' was presented in a quick tempo, with an elaborate neraval at 'sanakAdi muni vinuta' by both the vocalists and the violinist. The neraval in the upper stAyi by Kumari Anahita was full throated and with shuddha shruti sangatis which made it a treat. In fact she was able to demonstrate this in other songs throughout the concert filling our hearts with superb music. I have to reiterate that mridangam accompaniment was really superb because it was quite apt, throughout the kutcheri. The nAdam of the mridangam was great.
Kumari Anahita then took up a brief AlApanA of dEvagAndhAri and rendered a shlOkam following the AlApanA. This was a nice change of pace after the two quick-tempo songs. They took up Shri Muthuswami Dikshitar's kshitija ramanam cintayE right after the shlOkam. Andal's tiruppAvai 'kaRRu karavai' was the short piece that came next sung in mukhAri, I think. As per lists on the internet, this has been sung in HusEni, saHAnA or vasantA by artists. If it was indeed rendered in HusEni, then it is my shortcoming in not being able to differentiate between mukhAri and HusEni rather than the singers' presentation.
Anahita and Apoorva in full flow, along with Apoorva Krishna and Rohit Prasad
The main for the kutcheri was kalyANi, which was initially taken up by Kumari Apoorva and then completed by Kumari Anahita. Once again the elaboration was impeccable, with the upper stAyi singing of Kumari Anahita taking the cake. Vidushi Apoorva Krishna played a detailed version in response and also repeated some nice phrases, which were sung by the duo. Saint Thyagaraja's karu vElpulu nIku sari was sung in medium tempo - first time I am hearing this composition. They presented wonderful kalpanaswarams in variety of korvais, in turns, before a very nice tani avartanam by Shri Rohit Prasad.
The final song was parulanna mATa in kApi, a jAvaLi composition of Dharmapuri Subbaraya Iyer, set to rUpaka tALam. I am hearing this after a long time and am reminded of an article that I read in The Hindu about two decades ago. If I am not mistaken, as per that article, this composition is originally set to a tALam of 17 beats, but is being sung in rUpakam (an extension of a phrase by a beat makes it a nice 18, which would be tisra-nadai rUpakam). Musicians / rasikas who know more about this may kindly share the specific information, and if I am mistaking some other composition for parulanna mATa, kindly correct me.
It was a gratifying concert where-in other than the shubhapantuvarALi and kApi pieces, I heard all the others for the first time. Looking forward to these artists to be promoted to next levels and getting more time for performance of full-fledged kutcheris.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Excellent concert of Vidwan Prasanna Venkatraman in MFAC

21 December, 2019, Friday
Accompanied by Vidushi H M Smitha on violin, Shri Manoj Siva on mridangam and Shri B S Purushothaman on kanjira
Having heard quite a bit about this artist, who is currently mentored by Sangitha Kalanidhi Sanjay Subrahmanyan, we decided to attend his concert at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club, TAG Auditorium. Shri Prasanna Venkatraman started the concert with a nice warmup rendition of the darbAr varnam, calamEla, a composition of Shri Thiruvottiyur Thyagayya. Shri Prasanna's voice was well settled right from the word go. He then took up the Shri Gopalakrishna Bharathi composition sivalOka nAtanai in mAyAmALavagowLa. He unfurled his vidwat in the neraval at 'arpa sugattai' and followed it up with very good kalpana swarams. Vidushi H M Smitha accompanied very well in both the neraval and kalpana swarams.
Prasanna Venkatraman and team in full flow
The first rAgam taken for detail exploration was udayaravicandrikA a.k.a. shuddha dhanyAsi (as known in the current trend). Shri Prasanna gave a very good sketch of the rAgam followed by Vidushi Smitha's nice follow-up. Saint Thyagaraja's statement of the eternal truth - 'How much ever one has learnt, whatever places one has visited and seen; every single man among them is still a slave to the one wearing bangles' - was the composition sung in this rAgam. Yes, it is enta nErcinA that was sung, followed by very brisk kalpana swarams. One tidbit about the translated version of this song in thamizh - Dr. M Balamuralikrishna has presented about 12 Saint Thyagaraja kritis in 2 CD set. This song's lines in that set, (enta nErcinA) in thamizh as sung by the Maestro are - ettanai kaRRALum ettanai kaNDAlum; attanai AnROrum aRangin adimayE.
kalAvati kamalAsana yuvati of Shri Muthuswami Dikshitar was the next item that Shri Prasanna sang, which we thought would be the filler before the main song. However, he sang another fast paced composition, vararAgalaya of Saint Thyagaraja in cenjukAmbhOji following the kalAvati song. Shri Prasanna took up mukhAri for the main fare of the evening. It was very well elaborated in a steady build up. He has a style of his own, but at one or two points, there was a bit of influence of Shri Sanjay's mannerism and some phrases. Vidushi Smitha also presented a melodious mukhAri after which kArubAru of Saint Thyagaraja was rendered in a relaxed speed. The kalpanaswarams in mukhAri were also well covered before a superb tani avarthanam. Both the stalwarts Shri Manoj Siva and Shri Purushothaman enjoyed the exchange, which was a nice treat to watch.
Shri Prasanna immediately took up a rAgam tAnam pallavi exposition in mOHanam. It is quite difficult to pack all these into two hours and fifteen minutes and hence the AlApanA was a nice crisp one from both him and the violinist. The tAnam was also a nice show of his voice and skill, followed by the pallavi 'kanaka sabEshA jagadIshA nataNa prakAshA' set to Kandajati Triputa Talam in tisra naDai. He sang kalpanaswarams in HindOLam, nATTakurinji and bEHag.
The final song rendered was composition of Kanakadasa 'bArO krishnayyA' in a rAgamAlikA beginning with mAnD rAgam. A flawless concert we enjoyed.
If one were to point out any shortcoming, we can say that there was not enough neraval on the mOHanam pallavi. Maybe that could not be fit into the short time, but in my opinion neraval can be given priority over rAgamAlikA kalpanaswarams. Shri T N Seshagopalan, in his lecture demonstration on Pallavis at the Pallavi Darbar of 2018, had mentioned that the most important part of a good rAgam tAnam pallavi is the extended neraval on the pallavi. I agree with this thought, and hence hope that all artists give more weightage to the neraval. They can trim other parts of RTP when their is paucity of time.
Shri Prasanna Venkatraman has a very good voice and superb control over it. We will definitely show our patronage to his concerts as it is very much worth enjoying his good music.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Ashwath Narayanan sings to full house at Raga Sudha Hall

Accompanied by Vidwan S Varadarajan on Violin, Maestro T V Gopalakrishnan on Mridangam and Shri Alathur T Rajaganesh on Kanjira
(9 December, 2018)
We can fathom that Shri Ashwath Narayanan is an accomplished artist by the crowd that assembled at Raga Sudha Hall on the Sunday evening. Many rasikas were standing outside and peeping through the windows to see if they could find an empty seat. The better indication about the entire team is that about dozen other musicians were attending the concert, among whom could identify Shri Bharath Sundar, Smt K Gayatri, Shri Aditya Narayanan.
The concert began with a brisk rendering of the kalyANi rAga varnam "vanajAkshi". He then followed it up with a brisk rendition of "shiva kAmasundari" in jaganmOHini, which was also at a good pace. The vidwans were in good flow and were enjoying each other's music as well as the small innovative sangatis or subtle plays at different points of the song. Shri Ashwath Narayanan included a nice set of kalpanaswarams before the first big item. Shri TVG showed his knowledge of the compositions as well as decades of polishing of the skills by giving such a subtle accompaniment appropriate to each kriti. Shri Alathur T Rajaganesh played a subdued role and sometimes had to be goaded by the Maestro to play further and play more.
Ashwath Narayanan and team, in full flow
Shri AN took up aTAnA for a very good AlApanA. Given that this rAgam cannot be easily fit into any structure but has a beautiful swaroopam drawn by the many compositions in it, this was a commendable AlApanA. Vidwan Varadarajan stuck to his role of playing an appropriate AlApanA in length, but brought out all the beauty of aTAnA within the time that a violinist is expected to play compared to the main artist. Ela ni dayarAdu was the song chosen, with the standard start at the anupallavi 'bAlakanakamaya'.
After the three faster paced songs, it was time to slow down and relax with cEtashri bAlakrishnam in dvijAvanti. The short AlApanA prior to it by Shri AN was followed by a crisp and beautiful one by Shri SV. The composition was sung with lot of bhava, which was appreciated by the Maestro TVG as well. The next song was kaDaikkaN vaittennai ALammA in bEgaDA. This was also rendered in a relaxed fashion before a fast paced paramapurusham Hrdaya bhAvayatam. I had not heard this one before and was wondering that it was not really paras rAgam which was the closest I could associate with. The lyrics revealed that this is in lalitapancamam rAgam.
Eagerly looking forward to the main song for the evening, we were treated to the regal shankarAbharanam. Shri AN's AlApanA was very elaborate and enjoyed by Shri TVG too. Shri SV's version was again kept within a shorter timeframe but brought out the full scope of the rAgam, showing his tremendous knowledge and experience. swara rAga sudhA was the chosen kriti which was presented well, including an extended neraval at kamalanupai. Then followed a free flow of kalpanaswarams. The tani avartanam was excellent with a nice exchange between the mridangam and kanjira. Nuances from the enormous experience were played and there was good response too from Shri Rajaganesh.
Shri Ashwath Narayanan made everyone relax with viruttam in kApi, sindhu bhairavi, beHAg and bAgEshri rounding it up with a nice rendition of Shri M D Ramanathan's sAgara Shayana vibhO. Shri TVG again appreciated this very much, as, if I am not mistaken, he is a contemporary to Shri MDR. The concert was closed with the pUrnacandrikA rAgam tillAnA and mangaLam. The Maestro placed his hand on Shri Ashwath Narayanan and blessed him at the end of the concert during the applause.
Though a few members in the audience left at varied times, the hall was back-filled by those waiting outside and listening - this happened over the entire duration of the concert. Overall a very good concert.
However, have to mention that there were a couple of slips in tara stAyi by Shri Ashwath Narayanan in aTAnA AlApanA, shankarAbharanam AlApanA and in kalpanaswarams of the same. This was a bit uncharacteristic of him. We could say an influence "tad bit" on the percussionists too, as they also missed one of their korvais each (Maestro TVG and Shri ATR) during the tani avartanam. Shri SV however was flawless in his bowing and sangatis throughout. Let us blame this on some superstition, like the artists leaving home during RahukAlam on a Sunday or some such  - because to my knowledge it was uncharacteristic of them.
These small blips did not affect the mood and quality of the concert at all. We can always enjoy this rising star, in my opinion.

Friday, 21 December 2018

December 2018 Music season - Tidbits - Part 1

Tidbits mid-season from here and there
(plus hits and bites on many everywhere)
Part 1 of . . .
December season has the musical highs, as well as the accompanying fun, awkward moments and woes. Here are some of them to chew on, mid-season.
A picture from the previous season - 30 December, 2017 - winners of best concert of the season
Why is it that some folks wear those overpowering perfumes and land up in a tightly packed small hall, which is already warmed up by the excited bodies in spite of the A/Cs going full blast? Boy o boy, was it a hit on everyone's nostrils and for some it struck the brain and probably nearly made them faint. Please folks, can you take it a little easy on the perfume in such places. Maybe you can try it in huge auditoriums, like NGS / MA, but please don't in the Raga Sudha Hall! You have some weddings too, like at Antila, that can present you with the right opportunity to overpower everyone within 3 floors of you.
Hindustani methods are mostly followed in every thani avartanam. That is my opinion. What do I mean by that, am sure you ask! Well, the presentation of the percussionists starts at a leisurely place, in vilambita kaalam and possibly a 2-kalai chowka taalam. However, as the different exchanges move forward, the taalam speeds up and soon the beats are closer placed. At the end of the kuraippus and korvai one can see the vast difference in the taalam as the singer / instrument player has to switch back to his/her 2-kalai chowka taalam in vilambita kaalam to finish the presentation of the item. It is very obvious at this time, though the earlier change of speeding up is very gradual and less noticeable. If we were to have an electronic taalam keeper, one will find that at times the taalam is at 1.5 times the speed - or they finish 1.5 avartanams near the end of the tani avartanam compared for every avartanam used during the start of the piece.
Now is that something to complain about - probably not. However I wonder whether the percussionists can do even more variations in more complex nadais, if the taalam were kept at the slow speed. It could give more scope to the mridangam, kanjira, ghatam and morsing players, if one were to keep the slow pace throughout. More complicated korvais and many more variations could probably be played with ease, don't you think in the vilambita kaalam?
It was not rare to see people reading magazines and newspapers in the decades ago, while enjoying the music. Though magazines were less of a problem, newspapers were a nuisance - noisy to open, flip, fold, etc. Now-a-days, of course it goes without saying, many are on their mobile phones to either post their opinions (minority) or keep checking news, social media, etc. (majority) It was interesting to see one gentleman in the 2nd row of a hall (already mentioned in that particular concert's notes) happily reading a newspaper. Probably he was doing it noisily, as a VIP from the first row had to step up to him and admonish him (after which the reader folded, and after a few minutes was out of the hall, probably bored without parallel activities). Though the mobile phone usage by others has not been bothering me much it has indeed made me wonder which gets priority in our brains - music or the masala? Your views please!
Can you identify the star on the dais, other than the violinist Shri B U Ganesh Prasad?
When we complain about the audience, it is OK, but couple of folks took the cake and ate it too, when doing on the dais - disturbing the concert. They ate it because they were the percussionists in the concert, when they decided to start chatting during the AlApana of the main artist. They kept at it for "longer than it can be ignored" duration and disturbed the main artist so much. The artist had to break off the AlApana and a stare at the mridangist had to set the 'concert ethics' right! I did not expect the lack of professionalism on the part of experienced percussionists (was this AlApana of a top artist so disinteresting). Ooh la la. If they were my friends I would have let it rip at them after the concert. However, I am just a lay rasika who should not poke nose into giving top artists some advice.
Back to the audience - we seriously really need to control our movements and respect the fellow rasikas. Sabhas need to do something to stop movements in the middle of songs. Like the volunteers in tennis matches, who stop movements in-and-out of the stadium except during the breaks between games, we need the sabhas to enforce the rule of in-and-out only during the gaps between songs. It is really annoying when the interruptions are frequent, especially in the "free concerts"... okay, okay... since it is free for me, I should bear with it? Oh wait. It is free for them too - does that mean they are going to run amok and trouble all rasikas? Hmmm... You decide folks.
Yes, yes, it is well known that people should switch off their mobile phones or put them on silent mode. But wait, we don't announce that anymore. That means, there are many who don't do it anymore. Every concert I hear a dozen or two interruptions by the mobile phone. Now, there are going to be one or two people who genuinely forget to switch off or switch to silent mode. An announcement before every concert should likely reduce these interruptions to one or two (by old person or two whose problem(s) we have to be sympathetic to). So, please organizers, continue to announce before every concert - it may really help (along with chaperones at the gates for the control of flow of people).
Back to sound advice. Or rather just observation of solace for the experts who are fighting every day with the equipment. If Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan itself has problems with the sound, at times, where we are supposed to have one of the best sound systems if not "the" best in Chennai, then what can we say about other sabhas, halls and kalyana mandapams. During the concert of Shri Abhishek Raghuram there was a hum heard, but I believe only on the dais, probably from the monitors (lucky for the rasikas in the seats). In the concerts of two vidushis Gayatris (K and V, latter after the first), there was feedback heard and at times for the rasikas too. However, this time it seemed to have been reduced if not eliminated after a while and multiple attempts - just tells us so much about the complexity of creating a re'sound'ing success.
OK, I will sign-off with a confession until the next hit-or-miss comments on everything but music. Except for a concert in Arkay CC, where I waited for a particular song to complete before entering, the few times I have been late to a concert, I have entered in the middle of the presentation wonly. We are like that wonly, when seats are likely to be gone in any delay of a few seconds. But I do try to avoid in case seating is not likely to be a problem and I happen to be late. Leaving mid-way is usually not a problem, as I leave only between songs or when the artists are re-tuning their instruments.