In true Alathur tradition
Malladi Brothers... meticulous planning.
THE ALATHUR Brothers, foremost among the classical singers of the late forties, fifties and sixties, possessed abundant `vidvat', `gnanam' and `sikshai'. An important part of their equipment was stage presence. They could give a signal to the audience to herald an oncoming passage that merited close attention and savouring, if not outright applause.
Sadhakam is another contributive ingredient. They are reputed to have never let up on this. Practice makes perfect; and perfection is worth seeking. None of these points appeared to have missed the Malladi Brothers at their concert on December 21. They must have planned the concert to the smallest detail.
Take the ragas from song one. Hamsadhwani, Todi, Bilahari, Chakravakkam, Kalyani, Anandabhairavi and the talas Khandachapu, Adi (fast), Rupakam, Misrachapu, Adi (fast), Adi (slow). What contrast! The brothers have individually a powerful voice; and use it to good advantage.
Spontaneous singing is admittedly a necessary trait of an artiste, and figured prominently in their independent essays. Bilahari was an example. The trains of unbroken Kalpanaswaras were marked by pauses at `ma' and excursions into `kaisiki-nishada prayoga', underscoring the nodal points of the raga's `lakshana'.
In ``Karpakaambike'' even as the sangatis came in sprays of delightful formations, the words stood out, inducing the listener to get involved through seeing the bhakti in the composition. ``O, Jagadamba'' and the `manodharma' bit at charanam, leading to the `tani avartanam' were further examples. Cosmetic wrappings complemented the inspiration in a big way.
The `javali' in Revati, a pleasant product of mere joint practice sessions, is an example of this. M. R. Gopinath's rich manodharma had a dependable outlet in his violin. His mastery of the intricacies of using it was evident. He was always equal to the singers, be it in the multiple-knotted brigas or the systematic development of a raga in gamaka or in his repartees to the instant preparations of `swara-korvais' directed to him.
Umayalpuram Mali, quiet, unassuming and practically immobile in mien, made his mridangam the eloquent spokesman for his creative thoughts. Mali extracted the potential of the ghatam through T. D. Balu's virtuosity in the short tani.
Gayathri's presentation on Saturday, December 22, did not leave out any section of the rasikas. For the orthodox, she offered varnam, in appropriate `kaalams' for the `kriti-bhakta', choice items like ``Sugunamu Cheppu Konti''; Tiruppavai for the traditionalist; Papanasam Sivan's ``Enadu Manam'' for the Tamil enthusiast; ``Divaakara Tanujam'' for the ruling planet of the day; and a very well-devised 50-minute RTP. There was besides a ragamalika, swaravistaras in four ragas, making up a total of 18 ragas in 140 minutes. These are but figures. There were features which captivated the heart, Hamsanandi, for one. Gayathri's 10-minute exposition was a picture of profundity that spoke of the maturity in her perception. Her well-modulated voice could respond both pleasantly and audibly. Pleasant as the raga is on the ear, it demands careful handling of its mechanics to prevent any turn-off through an inadvertent slip. Gayathri went about the alapana elegantly.
In the concluding phase, she made a brilliant demonstration of a catchy sruti-bhedam the musician's play which produces an illusion of sweet confusion between two different ragas, when both are equally present. By shifting emphasis of the tonal scale to `Rishabha' and suppressing the `Shadja' in a brief sanchara, she revealed the presence of Hindolam in Hamsanandi (ragas which are in fact poles apart).
It was a delightful moment, and kudos to the discerning rasikas of Karthik Fine Arts who burst into an uproarious expression of their fine appreciation with a handsome applause! Periya Thooran's composition ``Inda varam arula'' in madhyamakala khandachapu overflows with bhakti, in lyric and score and through her spotless diction and voice, Gayathri served it to the listeners. Sanjeevi came up with adequate support on his violin. His tanam had the appropriate bowing style. Poongulam Subramaniam (mridangam) and Karthik (ghatam) made a lively pair, punctuating the flow of the songs, kalpanaswaras and neravals pleasantly.
They could have paused a little in the Navagraha part to watch the mood or just the raga and toned down their volume. Their 15-minute tani was a worthy finale to the elaborate `pallavi'. They produced several clusters of `sollus', which flowed like a stream, and on landing at the correct `idam', proceeded to spell out the sahityam of the pallavi with deft fingers.
Gayathri Girish... delighted everybody.
Lalitha and Nandini opened the recital with a varnam played not in just two tempos but four, producing a tingling effect on the listener. In her Bilahari alapana, Nandini produced soothing notes on the `manthara-shadja' string with the richness of her firm bowing and the precision of finger placement.
The swara-prasthara in ``Tolijanma Muni'' in Bilahari bore the master's signature. Patently western in technique, it adhered fully to the norms of Carnatic music as it raced through a dramatic finish. To the ardent listener who fantasised the frisking of lambs, fluttering of sparrows' wings and trickling water, listening to the western tremolo, the scene turned to the placidity of the deep ocean and the grandeur of the silent mountains as he listened to the cent per cent Carnatic ethos conjured up by the Dwijavanti of ``Sri Akhilandeswari'' in an abrupt switch. An outstanding component in the concert was the eminent musical contribution of the percussion duo, led by Thanjavur Kumar. The violinists were fortunate to have him by their side, and P. N. Ramachandran (ghatam).
The two emphasised the truth, again and again, that the percussion instrument is not a mere time-keeper. So well-tuned was Kumar to the spirit of the violinist that he anticipated every mood of theirs instantly, whether it was fast or slow, loud or soft, sound or silence.
P. S. KRISHNAMURTHI
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