An unusual thematic concert by vocal duo Lakshmi Rangarajan and Savita Narasimhan.
Though they began with the introduction that bhakti remains the indispensable and major element in Carnatic music, vocalists Savita Narasimhan and Lakshmi Rangarajan showed in their choice of theme that this devotion could indeed be approached from a different angle.
More, it could feature not only divine love, but also give a glimpse of human love, depicted in the exquisite verses of poets like Kalidasa.
Sugandham Sangeetam (at Hamsadhwani, Indiranagar, Chennai) began with a Saundarya lahari image of the goddess bathed in ethereal fragrance. This recital of two hours and 45 minutes highlighted the many facets of adoration by evoking the scents associated with bhakti and romance.
Muthuswami Dikshitar proved to be the mainstay of the recital, right from the opening kriti Sri Matrubhutam in raga Kannada, where the consort of the deity is described as Sugandhi kuntalamba, the lady with the fragrant locks. In the elephantine pace of Chetasri Balakrishnam, the singers chose three apt lines referring to the olfactory experience, for alternating swaraprastara – navaneeta gandhavaha vadanam, navatulasivanamalam and nava champaka nasikam. The piece de resistance was another Dikshitar kriti in an unrivalled Hamirkalyani. What else but Parimala Ranganatham? The raga alapana was presented with the respect and detailed ornamentation commanded by so imposing a composition. The niraval and swaraprastara too unfailingly maintained this grandeur.
Less formidable pieces were interspersed with this solemn fare. Tyagaraja’s Tulasidala, listing the sacred flowers used in puja was introduced with a suitably reverent alapana of Mayamalavagowla by Savita Narasimhan, while Lakshmi Rangarajan undertook to paint a traditional Ritigaula before the playful Brindavana nilaye of Oothukadu Kavi, and Swati Tirunal’s faster Pahi sada pankajaksha was sandwiched adroitly in between.
Andal’s Karpuram naarumo came first after the tani interlude, followed by Jayadeva’s description of the heady perfumes of flower-filled woods in springtime. Dushyanta’s first sight of the lotus-like Sakuntala ended the feast of love.
The singers were lucky in their accompanists – R Hemalatha’s violin added incense, while J Vaidyanathan (mridangam) and Anirudh Athreya (khanjira) helped to spread the many different kinds of scents across the hall.
The vocalists acknowledged the contribution of Gowri Ramnarayan whose brainchild the theme was and who helped select the songs.