Monday, 5 March 2012

A flying start with TN Krishnan

Oli Chamber Concert 1

By MV Swaroop

Oli, a yearlong project, aims to revive the tradition of intense participatory listening, up-close and personal. It features classical musicians in weekend chamber music performances twice a month, from February 2012. Established and up and coming artistes will alternate in this programmes. The senior artistes will showcase ragas and compositions based on their own tradition, special features of their gurus, or distinct aspects of their bani. The young artiste will present a theme-based recital in an attempt to revive and reclaim our musical heritage.

Oli affords a platform for diverse styles of music, for rendering rare kinds of music, compositions which may not be suitable for a large audience, and allow greater freedom for manodharma music.

No microphones are used so that the tonal qualities of voice and instrument are reproduced with their natural timbre and resonance intact.

Oli features two concerts every month, at different venues; designed for an audience of 30-40 persons. These concerts are free.

Oli Chamber Concerts is an initiative of Gowri Ramnarayan, with Bharathi Ramasubban, Rithwik Raja and MV Swaroop.

Concert 1
TN Krishnan – Violin
J Vaidyanathan – Mridangam
N Guruprasad – Ghatam

Arkay Convention Centre | 12th February 2012 | 6.15 PM

The Artistes

The tonal purity of TN Krishnan’s instrument, his graceful bowing technique, his phrases replete with bhava and gamaka, not to forget his poignant silences, all combine to make his music reflective and soulful. Krishnan’s violin playing is often described as a second voice.

He has accompanied almost all yesteryear giants and his strength lies in his ability to effortlessly adapt his playing to each bani. As a soloist, he has scaled great peaks.

J Vaidyanathan comes from a great music lineage. From his father DK Jayaraman, and aunt DK Pattammal, he received the legacy of a vast repertoire of compositions along with a fastidious pathantara suddham. Vaidyanathan’s masterful and sensitive playing is enticing at analytical and emotional levels.

N Guruprasad: This popular and talented artiste is the son and disciple of ghatam vidvan Nagaraja Rao. His dextrous playing, empathetic accompaniment, and ability to reproduce highly complicated patterns, have made him a sought after musician.

The Concert

Deep into the tukkada section of his concert, TN Krishnan launched into a scintillating Surati alapana. Sangatis soaked in the raga were gushing through every pore of his violin when he stopped at Surati’s quirky kaakali nishadam, and said, “Ah. That’s where that nishadam is.” He played it once more, looked at us in the front row, holding that quivering swara somewhere between the dhaivatam and the nishadam, and said again, “There. That’s it! Semmangudi Mama used to always tell us this. And I can share it with you only when you sit this close, not when you are sitting miles away in a large hall.”

At that moment, our faith in Oli, starting that day, mikeless, at small venues for about 30-40 serious music listeners, was vindicated. We were on to a sound idea, we knew. There is still place today for the fine sound of a solo violin, the power of a pure voice, and a veena not booming through a contact microphone.

When the concert started, I was at the sound console, adjusting the balance for the recording we were doing. I heard much of the Chakravakam (Gajananayutam) through headphones, but I came to the front row for the next piece. TN Krishnan played the first two lines of Deva Deva in Mayamalavagowla, and it struck me: The violin sounds startlingly different without a mike - the sound is so much more delicate, so much stiller. And when the sound comes straight from its source, there is such animmediacy about it, you can feel the swaras, you can almost touch the gamakas.

A swinging swaraprastaram followed in the maestro’s inimitable style, stitching patterns of beguiling simplicity, and landing beautifully at the eduppu in all sorts of combinations, all with a smile on his face.

Then came a Yadukulakambhoji alapana, a sound for the gods, phrase after phrase of what can only be described by the ambiguous term, ‘rakti’ - an amalgam of feel, intuition, musicianship, scholarship and experience. Every sangati, every nuance, every little inflection was a reaffirmation of Yadukulakambhoji’s identity.

Tyagaraja’s Enduku Dayaradura in Todi was the sumptuous main course. J. Vaidyanathan’s mridangam peppered the kriti with the most beauteous rhythms - murmuring here, whirring there, rustling elsewhere. With N. Guruprasad on the ghatam, the percussion section caught the precise pulse of the concert, the atmosphere, the acoustics and the audience.

When Krishnan asked them to play the tani at the end of this kriti, I was a little disappointed - it felt like everything was ending too soon. The audience was unnaturally calm, listening in complete silence, no fidgeting, no consulting raga books or discussing the finer aspects of the music with their neighbours. The setting was not flashy, there were no sponsor banners or jarring backdrops (in fact, three sarees were hung from the ceiling to form the backdrop), the lighting was muted, two vilakkus stood proudly on either side of the stage, Arkay Convention Centre looked like never before, and I was sitting three feet away from a colossus enjoying playing in this setting. I wanted to listen to a lot more, I didn’t want the tani to arrive in the fourth piece of the evening.

Little did I know that elaborate renditions of Kapi, Behag and Sindhubhairavi were waiting for me on the other side of the tani. They say if you are not afraid of a cliché, if you go at like it is the first time it’s ever been done, you can still bring freshness to it. Krishnan breathed that freshness into Jagadoddharana and Venkatachalanilayam. And then we came back to the Surati - a Sri Venkatagirisham in the finest traditions of the Semmangudi school, played by one of the school’s proudest disciples amidst extreme nostalgia.

Pieces performed:

1. Gajananayutam – Vegavahini – Adi – Muthuswami Dikshitar
2. Deva deva – Mayamalavagaula – Rupakam – Swati Tirunal
3. Heccharikkagarara – Yadukulakambhoji – Khandachapu – Tyagaraja
4. Enduku dayaradura – Todi – Misrachapu – Tyagaraja
5. Jagadoddharana – Kapi – Adi – Purandaradasa
6. Saravanabhava – Shanmukhapriya – Adi – Papanasam Sivan
7. Kandu dhanyanade – Behag – Rupakam – Dasara pada
8. Venkatachala nilayam – Sindubhairavi – Adi – Purandaradasa
9. Sri Venkatagirisam – Surati – Adi - MuttusvamiDikshitar
10. Mangalam­– Saurashtram – Adi – Tyagaraja

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful concept and a fine execution from what I read. My experience in playing 'mike-less' accoustic veena concerts here in Melbourne is that people need to be very quite and very soon their ears get adjusted to the sound levels from the instruments/vocalists. Best wishes to Oli chamber concerts for successful future.
    Ramnath Iyer