Vocal : T M Krishna
Violin : R K Sriram Kumar
Mrudangam : Arjun Kumar
Ghatam : Giridhar Udupa
01. gajavadana – thODi – Kumara Ettendra ( N,S)
neraval & swara @ ‘vAgvilAsa kArtikEya guhavara’
02. evvarani – dEvAmrutavarshiNi – Thyagaraja ( A )
03 YadukulakAmbOji – ( A ) – ended abruptly , thanks to some issue with the amplification.
04 Siva Siva Sivayana rAdA – pantuvarALi – T ( N )
neraval @ ‘Agama mula nutiyinci’
05 SrI vAlmIkalingam chintayE – kAmbOji – aTa tAla – Dikshitar ( A,N,T )
neraval @ ‘shankaram sOmakulAmbikAmbhOja madhukaram’
06 RTP – rudrapriya – Chaturasra Triputa x 2 kaLai
pallavi line ‘ AkAsha rUpam Sivam, ArdrOtsava vaibhavam bhajE ‘
ragamalika swaras in ‘rudrapriya, sindhu bhairavi, behag, naLinakanti, dEsh, dwijAvanti, nIlAmbari
07 bArO krishNayya – rAgamAlika – Kanaka Dasa
08 sLOkam ( rAmAya rAmabhadrAya rAmachandrAya) – khamAs
brOchevAravarurE – khamAs – Mysore Vasudevacharya
09 nenjukku nItiyum (?) – punnAgavarALi – Subramanya Bharati?
10 rAmachandrAya janaka ( mangaLam) – kurinji – Bhadrachala Ramadas
The whole evening was full of drama. It was very irritating and insulting while seated inside, but looking back it provided for a lot of funny moments. So, do not judge anyone harsh, even if I sound so in the next paragraphs.
Its after three years, that I decided to attend a TMK concert. I did it in a pure democratic way, by voting, with 3 out of 5 voted for Krishna, and a couple for Pt Jasraj at Chowdiah Memorial. Krishna’s concerts are usually crowded with rasikas, and we decided to reach early to find some accommodation inside the auditorium. Despite reaching by 5:30, we could find place only at the fag end of the hall, last few rows of seats. A place, I must say, not conducive to listening to music. The area is so cramped and despite few fans switched on, you have a sense of suffocation due to lack of oxygen. So, the set up wasn’t all that great for a good listening, but gave ample scope to listen to few non musical surroundings.
Krishna started his concert in ‘his traditional’ way, with a heavy kriti upfront. Gajavadana in Thodi was sung very well. The nereval was very good and the swara that followed was just brilliant.
Devamrutavarshini alapana was good, albeit short. So was the return. But I thought the kriti was rendered fabulously, with some great singing at the SivuDanO ..mAdhavuDanO , with some good percussion support.
Soon after, he started a slow deliberate build up of yadukula kAmbOji alapana. The trouble started here. As expected the Mic-Amplification turned out to be the villain again. A couple of times, Krishna stopped singing, sitting close eyed in silence, before building it up from where he left. The trouble persisted and he decided to remove his mic stand and sing without the microphone. The violinist followed suit. The disturbance ( of some noise getting amplified) continue to distract him and it was then he decided enough is enough. He demanded the entire amplification system to be shut down and the personal to move out of the control room. Until he made sure these are met, the concert was held standstill.
From this point, concert was without any support of amplification. Which means, people at the back seats were left to the mercy of the level of sound the singer, the instrument and the percussion could produce to the entire hall. From this point, all I could hear was the snippets of what was going on at the stage. Krishna, on his part, called all those who were seated in the balcony seats to come over and sit on the stage. If he was adamant on not using any amplification, I was equally adamant to remain where I was ( not that there were seats available in front), until the concert was over. The loss, definitely is mine.
Back to the concert, as Krishna suddenly broke into ‘Siva Siva Sivayana rAda’ leaving the beautiful YadukulakAmbOji alapana where it was with a fast paced pantuvarALi. It definitely, brought the concert back alive with another set of fast paced neraval. Kamboji was the main, with an elaborate alapana with some outstanding singing at the higher octaves. More so, because only that part was audible to me. Whenever he was in the lower octaves and slow soft singing, al I could see was the hand movements and body gestures. some of them were like a batsman mock-practicing an extra cover drive, after being beaten by the bowler in the previous ball, to give you an idea.
During this time, my wife playing with my hand phone, managed to change my profile picture on the facebook, I could hear and smell( how disgusting) few loud belch ( you bet! ) , a elaborate highly emotive ( by sound and stretched hand over the head) yawn from a gentleman visibly bored, and innumerable sneezes that shook the seat ( you cant blame him, the area where we seated was full of particles that cause you sneeze), apart from a girls loud calling to her mother.
On such a day, he choose to sing a rare ( I haven’t heard this kriti before) Dikshitar kriti on the deity of Tiruvarur “SrI vAlmIkalingam”. Let me admit here, that I could not hear the words clearly, and if not for the help of Google, I would have thought he sang SrI valli dEvasEnapathe in kAmbOji , taking his experimentation to a different level altogether (its a silly joke,pardon me). The kriti by itself is pretty long and Krishna, to whatever I was able to hear, did a phenomenal job. The neraval was one of the best I ‘ve heard ( despite the fact that I am hearing this for the first time ) and was shear joy to watch others having a good time on the stage. Neraval was very elaborate, lasting more than 10 minutes. He did not sing any kalpana swaras for this, gestured Arjun kumar to start his tani avartanam. I cant comment on the quality of the tani avartanam, but going by the overall stage mannerisms, and some excited remarks from Krishna, give me the confidence to say, Tani avartanam was very good. We could hear Arjunkumar’s left hand ( remember, he is a southpaw) playing, not the minor nuances with the right. Giridhar Udupa’s case was even pitiable. All I could see was the shake of his head, and the final ‘frustrated’ bang on the poor ghatam with both palms were the only audible sound from the earthen pot. Overall, the tani avartanam in ‘aTa tALam’ did not reach us to appreciate it effectively. However, I applauded for the visual fair that I witnessed.
There was some more drama during the main. post the alapana’s the organisers came to the stage from the side and requested for the amplification to be re-established. Krishna silenced him with the finger on his lip, and waved him off. But, they had better ideas. Clandestinely switching on the mics, they tried to diffuse the situation with some sneaked in amplification through the abandoned mics on stage. Arjunkumar was quick to notice this and with a ‘magnificent gesture’ he removed the cable from the mouth piece, nullifying the effect of mrudangam being amplified ( rightly so, I thought). Krishna too sensed something is going on during the tAnam, which he confirmed by a tap on the far lying microphone. He was quick to reach out to pull off the cable, a feat repeated by Sriramkumar, with a smart tap with his bow, and the subsequent removal of cable.
By now, it was 8:45 and Krishna, started another alapana, in Rudrapriya. A short alapana in two phases preceded slightly more detailed tAnam, which saw some kind of engagement between the vocal and violin, which did not reach us as the cables were removed. Krishna seems to be singing something and I was sure that the pallavi had started and as it is I am not able to hear. I dawned on me only after a while that Krishna was attempting to ‘compose’ a pallavi line ‘on the stage’. After a few minute of ‘trial and error’ he seems to have concluded on the ‘very creative pallavi line’ and he sang the ‘purvangam’ few times for the rest of the crew to fall in line with his idea. I should be fair here to the team. The ragamalika swara singing that accompanied the pallavi ( there was no trikalam) was worth the evening. Alternating the ideas from one ragam, easing from one to the other, Krishna and Sriramkumar, left the audience spellbound.
He sang bAro Krishnayya and searched the organisers with a lifted finger, to check if he can sing one more. I guess, the organisers by then had fled the stage and there was no one to be seen. He however continued accepting a request from the nearest rasika seated on the stage. Concluded the concert with a fast paced tamil piece and mangalam.
As I was leaving the hall, I could see the organiser coming on stage and apologising for the mishap. Please note, he too spoke without microphone, saying it was unexpected and these things do happen. I did not stay long to hear the rest.
Seriously, this concert would have been an outstanding concert, if only the organisers had managed to have a decent audio system, and if only Krishna had a little more patience. At the end I felt I was deprived of the listening pleasure of one of the best concert I’ve attended this year ( just by the kritis he sang and not by my enjoyment at the end). Seldom you see such a brilliant set of kritis in one concert. Every thing Krishna sang was briliant, but it wasnt for the majority of the audience. One can understand Krishna’s frustration and while empathising with him, I still believe he would have agreed to re-install the amplification for the benefit of all those who came in to listen to him on a Sunday evening.
In the end it left sour taste in mouth and the 44th annual festival at Gayana Samaja did not start in a right note. I hope the situation improves the coming days.