A spell binding Double Bill with Vocal and Mandolin Concerts
Before life manifested in the world, a vibration and a sound was the beginning. So what better way to start the day but with the sound and vibration closest to our hearts, what ever name one may call that sound. Such is the belief of the group of volunteers who call themselves GOD, Global Organisation for Divinity who are devotees of His Holiness Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji.
A humble organization that wants to spread the word. Yes literally just the Word would do it, is their belief. Simple as it sounds many are thronging slowly to join this group that holds monthly bhajans chanting the Word, the name of God in Sydney and in other parts of Australia. Their vision is to promote peace and harmony for the betterment of human society without any social, cultural or geographical boundaries.
The many who form this group gladly offer their time, resources, talent and organizational mettle into opening a Centre called the ‘Naama Dhwaar’ meaning the ‘The Gateway of Chants’. An evening of classical music was held recently at the Castle Hill High School, where many converged from the Northern parts of Sydney. The evening had a spectacular cast of local musicians. The first half consisted of instrumental music provided on the Mandolin by Kishan Jeyendran who was accompanied by Janakan Swathanthiraraj on Mridangam and Balaji Jaganathan on Violin. Kishan Jeyendran started the evening with a rare varnam composed in Nattakurunji in Adhi Thalam. When asked he advised that the varnam was composed by Srirangam Moolaiveettu Rangaswami Nattuvanar. After a crisp Shobillu in Jaganmohini, a truly instrumental piece and a Dikshitar composition in Surutti, Kishan proceeded to explore the ragam Bhairavi in some depth in a Thyagaraja composition of Upacharamu. This was followed by a rare ragam ‘Naganandhini’ bringing another Thyagaraja keerthanam called Sathaleni Dhinamunu. The highlight of the evening however was Dikshitar’s composition Maamava Meenakshi in Misra Chapu. This piece culminated in a complex rhythmic venture that was superbly executed leaving both accompanying artists and the audience a little amazed. We asked Kishan the following questions to get behind the makings of the concert.
1. What was involved in the selection process of your concert pieces ? I know that you took different contrasting ragams, but found that your favourite thalam Misra Chapu kept reappearing, any comments ?
The songs are all compositions which I enjoy listening to and so the decision was simple. Of course in putting the list together, you look to ensure there is contrast and variety. I think consecutive Misra Chapu songs was more a coincidence than anything else. I like both pieces so I decided to play them.
2. Why did you chose Varali as one of the main ragams? To me this ragam has always been a favourite prathi-madhyama Raagam. I find it has so many nuances to be explored both in ragam and swara kalpana and this provides great scope for elaboration. The unique feature of the ragam I believe, is the small confined intervals in which the swaras lie and the interplay between these notes can be exploited to add colour.
3. Why Mandolin ? I first heard the instrument being played by Shri. U Shrinivas in a concert in 1996 and I was drawn to the sound and tone of the instrument.
4. Who teaches you Mandolin or did you teach it to yourself ? I started out self-taught, developing the fingering techniques on my own and learning simple songs. Since then I have received guidance in learning compositions and manodharma aspects from Shri Trivandrum R Venkatraman and Kum. A Kanyakumari. I am now also receiving guidance from Carnatic Bros – Shri K.N Shashikiran and Shri P. Ganesh.
5. In one of the renditions you have finished with a complicated theermanam that left every one quiet amazed? How did that idea came to you i.e. a reducing progession in the rhythmic pattern before the final theermanam ? The reducing pattern is traditionally played in the main and sub-main pieces. The approach behind the mathematical aspects is based on developing a simple base idea. Once you have the base idea in mind the rest is just using your imagination to permute the syllables and extend the pattern itself and keeping the audience awake.
The evening followed with one much loved singer of Sydney Prema Ananthakrishnan who commenced her concert with not only for her resonating voice but her smiling and simple approach to her music. If there is beauty in simplicity, the audience certainly found it here. Accompanied by the same artists Prema’s approach to her music was very different to Kishan’s. What was however resounding was her treatment of Thodi. One of the most difficult ragams to elaborate it requires many years of practice and familiarity with this ragam to do real justice to its immense potential. Prema Ananthakrishnan and Balaji Jagannathan provided a wonderful partnership that was dynamically supported by Janakan Swathanthiraraj on the Mrdangam. Prema Ananthakrishnan finished with a wonderful piece ‘Bhavayami gopalabalam’ a song that I have heard and slept to as a child. Prema Ananthakrishnan forte is her ability to smile as she sings and make it sound and look so easy that she had the entire audience eating out of her hands with the emotion and love in her voice for her songs.