Harmonica : Saitejas Chandrashekar
Violin : J K Sridhar
Mrudangam : C Cheluvaraju
Ghatam : Sukanya Ramgopal
01. valachi vAchi ( varNam) – navarAgamAlika – Patnam Subramanya Iyer
02. vAtApi gaNapatim – hamsadhwani – Dikshitar ( O,N,S )
neraval & swara @ ‘praNava swarUpa vakratuNDam’
03. enta muddO enta sogasO – bindumAlini – Thyagaraja ( O )
04. tatvameruga taramA – garuDa dhwani – Thyagaraja
05. akhilANDESwari rakshamAm – dwijAvanti – Dikshitar ( A,S )
06. raghuvamSa sudhAmbudhi – kadana kutUhalam – Patnam Subramanya Iyer ( O )
07. nannu viDachi – rItigauLa – Thyagaraja ( A,N,S,T )
08. jagadhOdhAraNa – kApi – Purandara Dasa ( O )
09. tandanAna Ahi tandanAna (brahmam okkaTE) – bauLi ? – Annamacharya
10. pibarE rAmarasam – Ahir bhairav ? – Sadashiva Brahmendra
11. abhang ( goD tujhE rUp ) – mAru behAg – Thukaram
12. kAyOu Sri gauri – Sankarabharanam scale – Basappa Sasthri
13. Western Notes – Muthaiah Bhagavathar
14. Wedding Bells – ? – Chittibabu
15. harivarAsanam – Ayyapa Bhajan
16. bhAgyAda lakshmi bAramma – madhyamavati – Purandara Dasa
Of late, there had been a lot of discussion on the adaptability of certain instruments in carnatic music. TM Krishna in an article came out strongly against such practice. There had been many such reactions in the music circuits and among followers. The often chewed ‘gamaka’ richness of Indian Music is one of the strong points against these attempts. Western music instruments often designed to the scalar music is not accepted as appropriate for Indian Music. However, there had been many practitioners- more in private and far less in the performing area – attempting to wed these two aspects. Kadri Gopalnath, with his saxaphone seems to have cut a niche for himself, and with all credit to him as he seems to be the only one who stood out amongst the rest. Palladam Venkataramana Rao with Harmonium, recently a young prodigy Satyanarayana with Key Board, Anil Srinivasan’s various attmepts with Piano and not forgetting Anayampatti Sri Ganesan on Jalatarangam are few who continue to grow the influence in their respective fields, despite the purists reservations. All of them seems to have found a way to work around the respective limitations of their instruments, develop the concept and musical knowledge that they possess through their chosen medium.
Sri Saitejas Chandrashekar is one such talent, who over last few years trying to develop a unique style in adapting this small wind instrument into the Carnatic Music arena. Harmonica or mouth organ as we commonly know, has its own limitations and I thought, will have larger challenge than the others mentioned above for its smaller size. It was amazing to see and listen to him overcoming these limitations with aplomb and delivering a wonderful concert at the Seshadripuram Rama Seva Samithi. I had been lucky to listen to his few earlier attempts, but this was for the first time, I attended a full length concert of Saitejas. In short, I am super impressed, and it helped me shed all my prejudice if at all I carried in my subconscious mind.
One goes to these concerts to typically appreciate the skill aspect of the musician in handling these instruments, like the admiration on has towards a mahout who managed the largest animal on the planet. The musical or the ‘manodharma’ aspect of his performance is often forgotten over the hype and awe around the technical handling and skills. What was interesting to note was that Saitejas ( being a vocalist) had immense musical talent, which come forth in his playing. The outstanding hamsadhwani he played yesterday was testimony to his knowledge and practice. A quick varnam was more setting the pace and place of the artists on stage. They coherence soon came into place with the hamsadhwani. To me, that was the ‘piece de force’ of the evening. An equally brilliant bindu malini and garudadhwani set the evening up for some grand music. Dwijavanti was the first long alapana. That probably was not as classy as the rest of the songs he played. Something was amiss, and the typical feel of dwijavanti wasnt there. The swara that added was much better. He quickly recovered with a cracking kadana kutuhalam. The early phrases of his short raga sketch was immensely enjoyable, which I guess could be a USP of the instrument. The kriti recaptured the attention of the audience, with some electrifying accompaniment support. So much was the hype, that the percussionist went berserk ( well, not really out of control) during this song.
Main reetigaula alapana was very good, so was the return. Nannu Vidachi was a good surprise. He played the kriti very well, I thought there was a short neraval, and some elaborate kalpana swaras eloquently executed. The percussion duo played out a spirited tani avartanam. Two senior vidwans were in all support and encouragement to the main artist. Violin provided adequate support and played good dwijavanti and reetigaula alapana. Violin accompaniment, I think is key to the success of harmonica concert. He or she should be able compliment the main artist, filling up for the limitations by improvising the overall effect. It require a lot of coordination between harmonica and violin players and an experienced pair could do greater impact to the concert.
Post main, he continue to showcase his prowess with a chain of songs, few expected a few surprises. Jagadodharana in kapi stood out, the abhang and pibare rama rasam was very good. Few ‘plain note’ kritis ‘kayou sri gowri’ and the HMB notes popularised by Mani Iyer were noted for their execution. Harivarasanam probably was an attempt to sing the popular song before concluding with bhagyada lakshmi baramma.
On my part, I was super impressed and was a revelation to me. I am well aware of the limitations of the medium. Notwithstanding the skills that he exhibited, I am largely happy with his musical aspect of his playing, which was impressive to me. The audience seemed to have liked it too. The large crowd that gathered around the stage post concert was testimony to a grand concert he had which visibly moved people. I wish he get more stages to perform and he continue to increase his repertoire and lead a new generation of artists.