Silk and steel combine
O. S. Thiagarajan... in fine form.
AT THE Krishna Gana Sabha, T. M. Krishna began with the Begada varnam (the nishada on the high side, was it the mike?) before breaking into a lightning Pantuvarali (``Ninne neranamminanu", Rupakam) where neraval and swaram seemed to race ahead of the singer. Next Anandabhairavi crawled in, as if to say look, he can handle both extremes, and everything between. Kriti renditon may not be his strongest suit but on that day ``Tyagaraja yogavaibhavam'' retained its Dikshitar majesty, embellished with swaraprastara accenting gamakas from tiny flickers to long glides, at times with a delicious folkish spark; ``Nannubrotsutaku'' (Todi) made you hold your breath with its chittaswara and swarasahitya (splendidly nourished by Palghat Raghu on the mridangam). Again steel and silk combined in the swara singing, accent on sarvalaghu, delectable in slow speed, ebullient in the fast. Krishna excels in swaraprastara. Later, the quick pallavi in Begada had to cut out laya intricacies. But it did string tender ragamala swaras. In alapana Todi stood out for depth and conception. You regretted that the amplification was far too loud, and that the voice could not match the imagination in open mouthed singing and finer modulations. Mysore Manjunath on the violin was fluent, vibrant in mandara sthayi, giving a sense of roundedness to each piece. Palghat Raghu (mridangam) and T. V. Vasan (ghatam) offered suggestive percussion, with intricacy, sense of timing and modulation. Their tani was invigorating in its understatement.``Kanchinagara nivasini, kaivalya pradayinim nalinim...''
O.S.Thiagarajan's neraval (in Dikshitar's ``Ekambresa nayakim", Shanmukhapriya, Adi) kept echoing in the listener's mind long after the concert was over. It invoked the august presence and compassion attributed to the Goddess in this verse, continued in swara passages where melody was girded with seemingly effortless but inherently complex rhythms. That day the singer had many things on his side, his own voice was strong, except in negligible patches. The Shanmukhapriya alapana was an impressive prelude, though it had quirky prayogas and quirkier accenting. Craft skills for deliberate effect are interesting, but not when they intrude into the flow of bhava. Again, though you wished for more chowka kalam in the longer Sriranjani alapana, it was not speed but lack of bhava which marred the swaraprastara in ``Chittam iranga." It had no connection to the pathos of the lyric. But OST proved that speed is no bar to emotion in the right place, linked to classicist control, as in the crackling Kalyani (``Biranavaralichi"). But easily the best piece of the evening was the unhurried, reflective, self-forgetful ``Enduku nirdaya''(Harikhambodi). It had everything - emotional intensity, ragabhava, precision timing. The swaras were marvellous - their slots exact, but contoured with gamakas.
Sriram Parasuram's violin was individualistic and contrastive. Umayalpuram Sivaraman's mridangam sang through the evening with taut pauses, intriguing silences, modulated effects. He highlighted the mood and structure of kalpita and rachita elements in voice and string, but only where necessary. You particularly noted the tani with G. Harishankar (kanjira), as also each arudi of both percussionists, low in volume - all the more piercing in effect.
Bombay Jayashri's style has been in a process of evolution towards greater involvement with bhava. You noted the balance of feeling and polish in the early piece ``Deva Deva Jagadishwara''(Purvikalyani), in the viruttam where ragas were treated to be in perfect tune with the lyric, and the immaculate ``Uyyala lukavayya''(Nilambari). (Jayashri is among the few who pay attention to the post tani segment). What happened in between was unsatisfactory. The flawed enunciation (as in the comprehensive Khambodi) prevents the voice from expressing what the imagination conceives, making even mellowness appear superficial in alapana, kriti (``Sri Subrahmanyaya") and niraval. However, she was able to bring off a burnished swaraprastara with cent per cent ragabhava in slow and fast speeds. The RTP in Vakulabharanam was no patchwork, the mela's identity was shaped in long, clear, continuous phrases, avoiding laya fireworks. Pakkala Ramadoss (violin) was nourishing, touching on prayogas unaccented by the singer (as in Begada). The percussionists (Satishkumar and Trivandrum Rajagopal) did their job well, with a tani of resounding gumkarams.
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