This is the third exhausting day of the festival but I now feel alive after listening to TM Krishna [TMK] who struck a Master’s stroke with a concert of unusual proportion and arrangement. Getting straight into it with a solid Shankarabharanam in ‘Akshayalinga‘. A soulful Karaharapriya in Raama Ni Samaanam Yevaru in Adhi thalam also a thyagaraja Kriti followed by ‘Kaalai Thukki’ in an exquisite Yadhukula Kambhoji. TMK’s imaginative flights framed with the poetry of the Shriram Kumar’s Violin and exhalted by the rhythm of Trichy Sankaran, shall be remembered by Sydney in years to come.
With the sensitive touch of Trichy Sankaran’s “left hand” on the mridangam, TMK’s voice rose and ebbed as tides of sangathis hit the shores of the Auditorium. By this time we were 45 minutes into the concert. Then came Bhairavi. Just when I thought a Thanam would ensue, a shock of amazement rippled through the audience as he started back from where every Carnatic Music Student begins at the Varnam in Ada Thalam “Viriboni”.
The older musicians in the audience exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. Slowly but surely TMK then went first second speed. A few smiled at the rocking ways of TMK and continued listening, after all, TMK commanded their attention with complete sincerity and oneness with his Bhairavi, continuing with a complete swara exploration to a new paragraph that he announced was not popularly sung, he used the words of this paragraph to complete a full swara kalpana finishing with a theermanam. An unforgettable lesson learnt in Bhairavi. Whilst the older generation of listeners may find his presentation of Bhairavi using the Varnam “awkward”, the musicality of neither the varnam, nor the raga or its presentation were compromised in any manner.
TM Krishna today carries the huge responsibility of striking a balance between his need to be an independent fully expressed artist and his need to stay within 50 or more years of established norms in Kutcheri Paddhathi, concert formats. For the well thought out plunge and exhaustive treatment of Bhairavi he got a standing ovation from me and the Sydney audience. Whether this new idea will become an established practice in concerts, whether audiences will come back for more of the same, only time will tell. I definitely was struck by a ‘Lightning’ called TMK. TMK proceeded to sing Chinan Chire Kiliye composed in a new ragamalika followed by a very emotional rendering of a poem [Virutham]. If any one of the listeners knows more kindly leave your comments for the benefit of every one else.
More golden moments however preceded TMK, and these were with Sudha Raghunathan. Sudha has always been one of my favorite female singers. To me she stands alone poised very fashionably in a position that has remained unchanged for over a generation or more. She has with stood the new kids in the block with her ability to adapt and yet remain ever green both in her looks and in the brilliance of her music and performances and today was no less. She presented a kriti, song, composed by GNB in his honor, in raga Chaya Ranjani, a janya of Shubha Pantuvarali. A soft and wonderful reethigowlai with Janani Ninnuvina was enjoyable. This was followed by a MLV style Thodi rendition were Sudha explored ‘Swara Bedham‘. Embar Kannan’s Thodi elaboration that followed was befitting. Sudha’s song Jesini Na Thalli o rama rama was rendered with swara explorations which were elaborate starting with several slow explorations in rhythm to faster double speed one’s. The Thani of Mannargudi Eashwaran and Ghatam SV Ramani was memorable. Sudha sang Bhavayami Gopala balam was exquisite before she finished with a Thillana.
Shashank commenced his concert with a pentatonic scale used by Chinese in their music extensively, which we call the Mohanam in the kriti Nannu Palimpa. He played his flute effortlessly with such sentivity to the notes, that every stretch of the swara in Mokshamu Galadha was explored to its ultimate intensity. Saramathi stands high in the list of his presentation for the evening. His Ragam Thanam Pallavi in Kalyani was influenced by a slight shade of Yaman rather than Kalyani to my way of thinking and I loved it every bit. The two line, Muruganai, Guhane, Shanmughane was set to the Kanda Jathi Triputa thalam.. which is just a fancy way of naming the nine beat per cycle of rhythm. The cycle is divided into beats of 5 and 4. However numerous sub rhythms can be shown in each bar of the beats. This rhythm seems to have dominated each of the performer’s concerts in the festival. The two lines were further explored in other melodies such as Bageshri, Bindu Malini and Panthuvarali and may be a Kafi which were recognisable.
What stood out in Shashank’s performance however is the effects he created with his flutes. He played the Carnatic flute then swapped with the Bansuri and then back to the higher octave flute with ease and accuracy of tone. Seeking more time with the permission of the percussionists he played his flute tapping it like one does a keyboard with such accuracy that not a note was off tune. A memorable exciting concert which had some overtones of the northern indian approach and treatment of the swaras.
There were many sub plots to the festival. Introducing young artists this year the festival featured Nisha Rajagopalan who sang in the morning with Ashok Malur and Trivandrum Balaji. Nisha has a resounding voice. She sang Kambhoji. Her other main ragam was Pantuvarali. Shubha Thanikachalam produced a show which would have been more successful in a non classical forum. She presented involving the audience, an exploration of ragas from films uniting it with a classical number. There were many students who participated and won awards. Successful candidates were recognised in a prize giving ceremony by Nithyashree Mahadevan. The senior student to win the award this year is Devika Krishnamurthy, whose mother Chitra Krishnamurthy is a student of Shrimathi Meera Nathan and the carnatic vocalist MS Sheela. Other awardees names and photos will be added here soon.
As I lay my fingers to rest, I wake up to the tragedy that has been boiling close quarters. Australia lost to Germany in the World Cup. Now there is nothing to celebrate about except for counting my blessings that I had a great weekend of music thanks to Swaralaya. More Photos here
[PS: Sydhwaney thanks Malli Iyer for all his help with the compilation of this article]
From our Secret Correspondent
- None of the artists asked for Audience requests or took any. Now that is sad !! Except for Shashank who announced that he would sing ‘ Raghuvamsha’.
- Practically no one except the artists who sing were present at the Thyagaraja aradhanai. What is the purpose of the aradhanai ?
- Ok the usherers did a great job, but why do this thank you at the end of a fantastic fabulous concert of TM Krishna !! Why cant they just thank and recognise every one at the time of the Award Presentation and be done with it ? I think that was what we did a couple of years ago.
- Some house keeping with a 20 min break why was there only one table serving tea and coffee. Practically every time, many had to leave a concert early so they could beat the queue for the hot drinks.