Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Celebrating the Trinity in Melbourne

By Shobha Sekhar

Tyagaraja festivals are conducted in various parts of the world especially where the Carnatic music loving Indian diaspora has a strong presence. Over the past 29 years, Ravi Ravichandhira OAM, Festival Artistic Director, has ‘upgraded’ the tribute to include all the three great vaggeyakaras – Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Sastry – known as the ‘Mummoortigal’. As it is one of the largest festivals organised in multicultural Australia, it is recognised by Tourism Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, Australian universities and Government bodies.

This year the Mummoorti Vizha (11 and 12 April) blossomed into a multifaceted festival with the participation of intermediate and sub seniors in ensembles, senior students and resident artists in solo segments, as well as eminent artists from India performing Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music.

The festival opened with vocal ensembles presented by TYME (Talented Young Musician Ensemble) comprising vocal, violin, veena and percussion students from top ranking music schools in Melbourne. TYME under the leadership of Shobha Sekhar (vocal) and Murali Kumar (instrumental) came alive with four groups – Intermediate, Senior Boys, Senior Girls and Instrumental. The songs included Syama Sastry’s swarajati in Todi, the rare Jhampa tala Bhairavi composition Sarievvaramma, Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Raka in Takka raga, Guni janadi in Gurjari and Tyagaraja’s Gandhamu and Niravadi sukhada. The participants enjoyed the vibes of congregational singing as well as bonding with friends across diverse music schools. Another major stride was the inclusion of music students from the University of Melbourne and NMIT who participated in the TYME segments.

An additional feature introduced this year was the Mini-Concert series by emerging musicians. Pragadeesh Shanmugaraja, Raghuveer and Narayan Kasthurirangan, Sakthi Ravitharan (all vocal), Thanukirthi Sekhar (veena), Arushi Ramesh (student of Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi and a New Zealand resident), Manisha Jothin, Anita Das and Narayan Ramakrishnan (all violin), Pavan Gopinath, Satheepan Elankumaran, Arjunan Puveendran, Mithun Ranjanan and Sai-Nivaeithan Ravichandhira (all mridangam) regaled audiences with their skills and enthusiasm. 

The Pancharatna singing segment was given an additional boost by Guru Karaikudi Mani’s special korvai preludes and instrumental (for swarams) music for the Nata and Varali kritis. Impressed with the presentation, Vidwan Mani said that the “perfectly sruti aligned ensemble” should be broadcast for listeners in India. 

In the Bharatanatyam segment, Rajeswari Sainath’s impeccable jatis highlighting her grip over laya, and Vyshnavie’s enactment of the navarasas and her gymnastics-like swift movements wowed the audience.

Resident artists featured included Shobha Sekhar (veena), Sundari Saripalli, Murali Kumar (violin solo), Uthra Vijayaraghavan, Ahilan Sivanandan, Rama Rao, Sridhar Chari (flute). Narmatha Ravichandhira, Jayshree Ramachandran and the Iyer Brothers (veena duet). The teachers not only performed but encouraged all the participants with their unflagging presence 24x7.

The emcees Narayanan Ramakrishnan and Arjunan Puveendran had researched into the meaning of every song rendered and intelligently filled all the ‘gaps’ between segments with their wit and information.

The icing on the cake was the “grand finale presentation” titled ‘A Tribute to the Trinity’, by the Mysore Brothers Nagaraj and Manjunath (violin) in concert with Karaikudi Mani and sishya Ravichandhira (mridangam).

The Mysore Brothers played awesome music, with sukhabhavam oozing in their raga segment and racy forays in their swara kalpanas. The mridangam maestro Mani delighted us with his unique ‘vivaram’ and complex rhythmic patterns during his tani. He was very ably supported by Ravi Ravichandira. The kutcheri was one of its kind – to be cherished forever.

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