Song of Surrender

Friday, 18 May 2012

A matter of style

More on Oli Chamber Concert 7

By Vivadi

A Sangeetha Sivakumar concert is always something to look forward to, for she never holds herself back on the stage. In finding new nooks and corners to explore, she is unafraid to push herself one step further, even while performing. The opening sketch of Mayamalavgaula (succeeded by Vidulaku mrokkeda) was to serve as a primer to mood of the concert that was to follow; meditative yet lively.
 
Sometimes she slips, yes, but when she pulls it off, the effect is dazzling. The Reetigaula alapana that preceded Paripaalaya and niraval at tamarasayata lochana were perfect examples of this no-holds-barred effort. In trying to reach the tara sthayi shadjam in a lightning flash, she mis-stepped, stopped, and admonished herself with a “Hmmm”. Then, she picked up where she had left off and unfurled a swirl of breathtaking briga-s around the shadjam. Musicians of three preceding generations of her bani - Charumathi Ramachandran, M.L. Vasanthakumari and G.N.B. himself - would have been proud of that passage of music.

While a strong influence of that lineage is but naturally evident in her singing, Sangeetha’s music is her own. After the concert, in a brief interview for Oli, she acknowledged the advantages of having a defined musical ancestry, but stressed, more than once, that a musician must find her own style. “Who you are must come out in your music,” she said. The concert was a rakti raga treat as Reetigaula paved way for Dhanyasi and Begada was soon on its way. Subbaraya Sastri’s Dhanyasi gem Dalachinavaru, was sung with chaste simplicity which made it all the more profound. Melakaveri Balaji initially suffered at the hands of the in-house air-conditioning but soon emerged triumphant to provide great support.
 
Sangeetha’s music is decidedly less manic as compared to her predecessors, and the best example of that came in the swaraprastaram in Nadopasana in Begada. Eschewing the madhyamakala completely, Sangeetha focussed on the majesty of the chaukakala, taking us on what seemed like a leisurely, yet comprehensive guided walk through Begada’s idiosyncrasies - its hard-to-pin-down form and structure, its odd phrases, and the madhyamam and nishadam that don different clothes for different occasions. Each swara, each sangati and each pause was immersed in Begada. VVS Murari backed this up with a delightful alapana, just as nuanced and intricate.
 
This masterful Begada was not the high point of her concert. When it ended, she sang a few phrases of Todi and launched into an exquisite rendition of Subbarama Iyer’s Maane mayile kuyil kanmaniye. To those in the hall who had heard T. Viswanathan sing this superb padam as only he could, this unexpected revival brought a deep wistful joy.
 
When singing padams, it is important for the singer to be in character, the nayika, bemoaning the fact that she has not seen her mannan. For those eight minutes that she wept through an astonishingly beautiful Todi, Sangeetha threw herself into that role. It was a refreshing break from bhakti for Oli!

Sangeetha’s choice of ragas and compositions seemed to have been planned especially for an intimate ambience such as the one at Rasvihar that day and she was ably supported by Murari and Balaji in making this a memorable concert.

The concert

Vidulaku mrokkeda – Mayamalavagaula – Adi – Tyagaraja
Gopanandana – Bhushavali – Adi – Swati Tirunal
Paripalaya mam – Reetigaula – Rupakam – Swati Tirunal
Dalachinavaru – Dhanyasi – Adi – Subbaraya Sastri
Nadopasanache – Begada – Adi – Tyagaraja
Maane mayile – Todi – Adi – Vaideeswaran Koil Subbarama Iyer
Vani pondu – Kanada – Rupakam – Dharmapuri Subbarayar

The Artistes

Sangeetha Sivakumar, a disciple of Smt Charumathi Ramachandran, is a torchbearer of the GNB bani. Her trademark is a balanced approach to her craft, keeping her inimitable lightning-like singing in tandem with karvai-laden, soulful music. A musician’s musician, she is known for her mastery over the technical aspects of music. She is non-compromising when it comes to classical fervour and this adds an extra-dimension to her free-flowing music.

VVS Murari comes from a great musical lineage. He trained under his father Sri VV Subramanyam and continues to perform duets with him. Sri Murari has imbibed a fine style of accompaniment whereby he is a pillar of support to the vocalist but also shines as a complete musician on his own.

Melakaveri Balaji comes from a family of musicians. A disciple of his father Sri Krishnamurthi, Sri Balaji is known for his sprightly and sensitive accompaniment. With a career spanning over three decades, Balaji has derived great experience from accompanying several veterans and this shows clearly in his deft playing.

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