Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

From Muraliganam to Krishnaleela

Bharat Sangeet Utsav

By V Ramnarayan

Photos © by Sivakumar Hariharan

Carnatica and Sri Parthasarathi Swami Sabha have achieved their objective if it was their intention to shake up our little Mylapore world of music rasikas. Quite a few surprises, mostly pleasant, have already greeted the full houses the Bharat Sangeet Utsav has been drawing at the Narada Gana Sabha auditorium for the last two days.

I have attended most of the concerts so far, and heard glowing reports in praise of the children’s symphony the festival opened with—the grandeur of 135 children performing in unison to the accompaniment of some majestic violin playing by maestro VV Subramanyam.

Sangita Kalanidhi Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna seems to have ripened like old wine. He was in incredible voice despite a bad cough and congestion. His rendering of his own compositions in Latangi and Lavangi was magnificent, while Bagayanayya in Chandrajyoti was a master class in raga bhava as well as perfection in the enunciation of lyrics. The timbre of his voice, which reverberated around the hall, belied his 83 years, and he often seemed totally immersed in the nada in an egoless state.

The camaraderie that he induced on stage brought out the best in Nagai Muralidharan (violin), Tiruvarur Bhaktavathsalam (mridangam) and Vaikom Gopalakrishnan (ghatam). A memorable opening day.


The first Bharat Seva Puraskar awardee--for her charitable work under the Samudaya Foundation banner--Sudha Ragunathan partnered Shashank in an unusual jugalbandi. The consensus was that though both artists acquitted themselves well, the chemistry did not exactly set the house on fire, the young flautist in particular lacking in opportunity to reveal his class. 

Venkatesh Kumar took us to the brink of ecstasy with his ringing voice and sruti-perfect raga odyssey. Starting with an hour-long Multani, which he rendered in three speeds, he moved on to a lilting Bhimpalasi, followed by a grand Sohni, which he concluded with a tarana. The devarnama he sang in response to an audience request was crafted with delicate sensitivity.

The whole concert was a close-to-tears experience, meditative and serene. Many of us felt after it that any music that followed would spoil the mood.

Personally, I tried to deal with this unusual musical dilemma by spending half an hour away from the auditorium, giving myself the time to slowly come back to earth from the high of the afternoon, and walking in late to TM Krishna’s concert, something I hate to do. Krishna was half way through a Sahana alapana, the most nuanced, deeply explored essay of the raga I have heard in quite a while. If Venkatesh Kumar was the master conjurer swaying the audience with an emotion-charged yet controlled performance, Krishna seemed totally lost in the beauty of the music, rarely even opening his eyes.

Krishna is Krishna. He did not disappoint those who came anticipating a surprise or two in the concert. His alapana suite of multiple ragas was followed by an exhaustive tanam, followed by tani avartanam, with Manoj Siva and Anirudh Atreya serving up a delicious concoction.

In fact the percussion offered reverberant nada of a high order throughout the concert, and the violin virtually sang in the hands of Vittal Ramamurthy, like Manoj Siva, constantly encouraged by Krishna to give full rein to his manodharma.

After an evocative Sakhi prana in Senchurutti came listener’s choice Kaana vendamo, which Krishna rendered with the pathos and pleading we associate with the Dandapani Desikar version of the Gopalakrishna Bharati song. The mangalam in Sriranjani was a seamless extension of the song but surprised the audience like the googly when first sprung on unsuspecting cricket lovers.

In what was a lovely concert that revealed admirable growth in musicianship and musical integrity of a high order, Krishna interspersed soulful music every now and then with snatches of conversation with himself, his accompanists and his listeners. Such a menu of music and musings tends to complete the TM Krishna package, we all know by now.

The Carnatic music world seems to be divided between those who love Krishna and his music no matter what, and others who are vociferous critics of the way he presents concert music. Will he settle down to a new cutcheri bani, or will he go on experimenting, following his instincts without fear or inhibition? An interesting prospect.

1 comment:

  1. "Will he settle down to a new cutcheri bani, or will he go on experimenting, following his instincts without fear or inhibition? An interesting prospect..." (T.M. Krishna) Changing the cutcheri bani is a rather tall order task, and the last vidwan who successfully did that was Shri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. Ariyakudi was so effective as a leader that his own contemporaries loved and embraced that change. Only time will tell, how successful TM Krishna will be. Without any doubt Shri T M Krishna has the capacity bring such a change..

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