Vocal : Prince Rama Varma & Amrutha Venkatesh
Violin : Avaneeswaram S R Vinu
Mrudangam : J Vaidyanathan
Ghatam : Dr.S.Karthick
01. viribONi (varNam) – bhairavi – Pachimirium Adiappa
02. mAyAtIta swarUpiNi – mAyAmALavagauLa – Ponnayya ( A,S )
03. Sankara nin karuNai purivAy – behAg – Neelakanta Sivan ( A,S )
04. jananI ninnuvinA – rItigauLa – Subbaraya Sasthri
05. rAmakriSNaru managE bandaru – tilang – Purandara Dasa
06. rAmA rAmA guNasImA – simhEndramadhyamam – Swathi Thirunal ( A,N,S,T)
neraval & Swara @ ‘muni mAnasa dhAma mrgamada sulalAma‘
07. pankaja mukha sankara hita – nottuswaram – Dikshitar
08. kshIra sAgara vihAra – Ananda bhairavi – Thyagaraja
09. thillAna ( tillAna nAdru dhim) – kuntaLavarALi – Balamuralikrishna
10. bhujaga SAyinO – yadukula kAmbOji – Swathi thirunal
I wouldn’t say I am superstitious, but one always like to start the year on a good note. I thoughtfully pick the book want to start reading at the beginning of the year which sets the tempo for the rest of the year ( it is Javiar Marias this year, if you are very curious) of my reading . Similarly, one hope for a good concert to kick start the year of concert listening. One can always take a CD or mp3 of probably MDR or GNB, but that not replace a concert ambiance or experience. An auspicious start, we believe, can take care of the rest of the year. This concert, did start with a bang, exceeding my expectations, giving my apprehensions a rest…but wait.
Usually a concert to me have a “bell curve” effect. It would start slow in engagement (with the fellow artists and the audience, that is me), lifting to higher plain as in the curve, stay there during sub-main, main, RTP, and taper off post main (in most of the cases I find the post main is poorly thought out and executed by the artists). However, yesterday’s concert was a kind of “reverse bell-curve effect”. It started on a high note and went to become dull and dragging in the middle, recovered a bit towards the end. Probably the “talking” took an uper hand and music stayed behind.
This was the first time, Prince Rama Varma and Amrutha Venkatesh singing together in concert. He said, usually they sit face to face and there is eye contact while teaching and this is the first time they are sitting side by side. and he hoped the concert will go well till the mangalam. It did go well from that perspective, there was complete understanding and symmetry between the singers. Even the different ‘shruthi’ of the singers did not create any listening discomfort.
The initial part of the concert had less talk and more music. Mayamalavagaula , probably took the maximum time, was grand, with some outstanding swara patterns, alternated by both the musicians, with very high sense of understanding by J Vaidyanathan ( Karthick did not appear till behag), and the classy reproduction by Vinu was a pleasure to listen. I was fearing they will get carried away and the proportion might be missing, but it was not the case. Before it become an exercise of mind, they decided to stop aptly and to an incredible finale of swaras.
Behag alapana of Rama Varma was ok, probably the distraction of sudden appearance of Ghatam Karthick in the midst of the alapana disrupted the flow. Karthick, apologized profusely to the artists on the stage and to the audience ( an appropriate gesture done with utmost prudence on his part) before settling in behind the main artist. Rama Varma, joked that Kartick felt a little out of place among AV,AV,RV and JV ( the initials of the rest of the artists) hence the delay. Later, Sri Krishnaprasad of SRLKM informed that Karthick had a program at the Music Academy, Chennai in the morning and he drove down to Bangalore to make it to this concert. Salutes to him.
Behag alapana from Vinu was far more simple and elegant ( bangaru behag – remarked Prince Rama Varma later) and the kriti from Neelakanta Sivan was new to me in a concert. The kriti to me, did not have the weight and class, and was more suited as a post main item. However, the kalpana swara was done at a very interesting place ( some kinky sounding words, I fail to recollect) and was again very very good.
Janani Ninnuvina, was started with explaining the musical lineage of Subbaraya Sasthri. One of the luckiest musician / vaggeyakara as he was learned from both Muthuswami Dikshitar and Thyagaraja, and being the son of Shyama Sasthri, he had the best of all the trinity composers, in his music. Janani Ninnuvina started in MDR style, almost imitating the master. Prince said earlier that once you learn a kriti of Subbaraya Sasthri, you wouldn’t want to listen to any other kriti in that raga. I might add, after listening to MDRs ‘janani ninnuvina’ , I have exactly the same opinion.
Until here the concert was fabulous and the ‘talking’ started from here and was the low point of the concert begun from here. Both tilang devar nama, the main simhendra madhyamam alapana and the kriti were not something to cherish. There was a huge intermission after the two-pronged alapana of simhendra madhyamam, with introduction and praise of the artists on stage, which went on and on. The kriti as well as the neraval wasn’t anything great either. The kalpana swaras, somewhat redeemed the main, playing the ‘passing the parcel (of swaras) ‘ game among the five participants on the stage for a long time.
J Vaidyanathan was a pleasure to watch. He, probably, was the main attraction of the evening. Never intrusive, never trying to muscle his way above the music, he played with such sensibility and impact through out the day. The effect seems to have transmitted to Karthick, who took no time to settle in despite his late arrival. They both played on a delectable tani avartanam, sans noise. Avaneeswaram Vinu, was a shadow of the main artists.Barring a few glitches he played well. His behag alapana was top class, so was the returns of mayamalavagaula swaras.
He announced the post main will have a one minute kriti of Dikshitar, a two minute kriti of Thyagaraja and a thillana. The dikshitar’s nottuswaram, and the utsava sampradaya kriti in anandabhairavi for the one and two minute connection. BMKs kuntalavarali thillana was good, getting all the participants back in action. He said, the sahitya for this thillana is written in 5 languages and they will sing the kannada version here. Some one need to help me here. There was only one line of sahitya, which included the raga mudra and the vaggeyakara signature. It can be the same in any language and I found nothing specific in kannada here.
The concert was webcasted live by Shaale.com. Kudos to the team for bringing the concert to the wider audience. The short hall was overflowing and there was no place to sit or stand. The narrow hall , almost parallel to the stage (in width) had two cameras up in front ( about 5 feet from the stage) and the camera operator from shaale.com blocking the audience from watching the concert. The video telecast guy was standing most of the time irking the audience ( after repeated requests he would sit down for a while, before jumping back to fiddle with the settings), at times giving free advertisement of the product made in India by Page industries. I was left with no choice, but to look at the small screen of the ‘laptop computer’ of the broadcasters, to see what is happening on the stage most of the times. The hall is small and narrow, and I hope the organisers and the telecasters will look into this and make the situation better. If not, I am probably better off staying at home and watching the telecast in my PC at home, than venture into the hall to have the ‘darshan’ of the behind of a camera guy.