A Momentous Shadja and Story of Dharawal

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On Sunday 5th July I attended the inaugural program of Shadja, an exciting initiative led by Sri Bala Sankar, an accomplished Sydney-bred mridangist who now resides in Melbourne. As Bala explained, Shadja aims to help people of all walks of life find their own ‘shadja’ – that one moment (or many) that occurs in a concert where you think “aha!”. I was very impressed with the care that Shadja took to help each and every attendee to find their own shadja by even providing us with pens to jot down our thoughts!

The program was split into two sections – the first being a grand vocal concert by Sri G. Ravikiran, a prime disciple of Vidwan Sri T. M. Krishna and the second a Bharatanatyam recital by Aruna Gandhi and her students from the Silambam Sydney School of Indian Classical Dance.

Sri Ravikiran opened the concert with the kAmbhOji tAna varNam taruNi ninnu basi, a composition of Violin Ponnuswamy. He then launched into a kalyANi alapana followed by rAma nIvADukonduvo, a kriti composed by Sri Tyagaraja. Sri T. Sampath’s skilful accompaniment on the violin was exemplary, particularly his exposition of the Kalyani raga-alapana and during the following swara kalpana.

The concert was dominated by compositions of the Carnatic Trinity – we were treated to Sri Tyagaraja’s calamElara in mArgahindOLam, the speedy nenarunchinAnu in mALavi – where he highlighted the rhythmic variations in the chitta swaram and orajUpu jUcedi nyAyama in kANaDagowLa. We heard Sri Syama Sastri’s majestic O jagadambA in Anandabhairavi which was preluded by a melodious slow-paced raga alapana. However, Sri Ravikiran really came into his own in the domain of Dikshitar where his melodious voice and his attention to shruti-shuddham were key to his excellent renditions of srI rAjagOpAla in sAvEri and the rare bhaktavaTsalam abhisheka valliyutam in vamSavati.

Sri Ravikiran hit the peak of the concert with a beautiful illustration of sAvEri rAga, displaying his vocal prowess as he reached both high and low in the vocal register. True to the rAga bhava of sAvEri, he brought out its inherent Santa-rasa which was continued on by Sri Sampath. The elaborate nereval at murArE srI vidyA rAja harE was succeeded by a slow build-up of sarvalaghu swaras that brought the depth of sAvEri to a powerful crescendo. Then began the much-awaited taniAvartanam from Sri Bala Sankar on the mridangam and Chi. Athavan W. on the kanjira; together they revealed the intricacies of the seemingly simple Adi talam and rounded it off with an apt korvai.

From this point on, Sri Ravikiran presented a number of classic yet popular compositions from a variety of composers such as Irakkam varAmal (Sri Gopalakrishna Bharati), Sri Annamacharya’s muddugArE yashOda and the brisk jAvaLi celi nEnETlu in paras.

After a short break for the audience to refuel after a well-rounded concert, the second segment commenced. Smt. Aruna Gandhi and her students presented a very innovative performance based on the Story of the Dharawal speaking people of Sydney, incorporating story-telling with rAgamAlika tAnam excerpts. This was followed by an Ode to Australia, featuring a musical composition in Sanskrit penned by Dr. Meenakshi Srinivasan and set to the beautiful brindAvana-sAranga rAga. These two unique pieces were very well-presented by all of the children who meticulously demonstrated the salient features of Australia a.k.a. hiraNmaya khanDam. All-in-all it was an evening to remember, and all of the artists gave a vibrant start to what I hope is only the first of many more quality programs to come from Shadja.

Did you find your Shadja moment? Comment below to tell us about it !

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