Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A rare concert by Nadamrta

By V Ramnarayan

Sumitra Vasudev’s vocal concert for Nadamrta on 10 September at Raga Sudha Hall was a distinct innovation in the cutcheri space—a successful one at that. Full marks to mridanga vidwan K Arun Prakash, who authored the concept of a Carnatic music concert without mridangam accompaniment. Sumitra and violinist Dr Hemalatha must both be congratulated too on agreeing to perform to percussion accompaniment in the form of only khanjira and ghatam.

Nadamrta, Arun Prakash’s brainchild, has been presenting in its concerts only compositions of Trinity and pre-Trinity vintage and major traditional ragas exclusively. Nadamrta and the performers of the day therefore took extreme care to avoid any dilution of this aspect.

The young percussionists Anirudh Atreya (khanjira) and Chandrasekhara Sarma (ghatam) reveled in this rare opportunity to give free vent to their creativity, without having to play second fiddle (!) to the mridangam. They created a thoroughly enjoyable rhythmic background for the concert. “I heard a new Carnatic sound today,” a delighted Arun Prakash said at the end of the concert. “It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the existing sounds of Carnatic music. I was sure upapakkavadya vidwans too would want to share more of the concert space and make a significant contribution to cutcheri music, untrammelled by the usual restrictions.”

Was Arun Prakash not taking a risk by starting a new trend, we asked. What if organizers started to follow his example and fewer concert opportunities for mridanga vidwans was the result of such a step?

“As a mridanga vidwan myself, I am sure my tribe of musicians has enough self-confidence not to entertain such doubts,” Arun Prakash replied. “It is possible for an upapakkavadyam exponent in the standard concert format to remain complacent, and limit himself to playing a certain number of routine sollus and korvais. This is just an attempt to give our excellent percussionists an opportunity to reveal their creative ability without inhibition. ”

The youthful pair of Atreya and Sarma were in brilliant form, with a few seemingly rehearsed sallies and several spontaneous outbursts of rhythmic excellence making the concert an exciting experience for the modest crowd that had braved heavy rain to be there.

Before I forget, it was a memorable vocal concert! Sumitra Vasudev gave an outstanding exposition of bhava- and content-rich raga music of a high order. She was in excellent voice throughout in a display of manodharma excellence, particularly in the main raga Saveri and Syama Sastri’s Durusuga in it. While an earlier highlight was a soulful Sahana, the concert ended soon after a trademark ragamalika sloka rendition in which she transited from raga to raga with rare delicacy. Hemalatha was the perfect accompanist, never trying to upstage the main artist, yet eliciting oohs and aahs from the audience with her exquisite raga interpretations. Arunprakash is grateful to the two ladies who so sportingly agreed to take part in this novel concert.

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