By Lavanya Narayanan
5 November 2016
Day 4 was easily one of the most-awaited days of the festival. A katha kutcheri by Dushyant Sridhar, the rare union of Abhishek Raghuram and grand-uncle Lalgudi GJR Krishnan on stage, and a Malladi Brothers concert drew crowds to the hall.
Dushyant Sridhar’s katha kutcheri, a presentation on Narayana Teertha compositions sung ably by Anahita and Apoorva Ravindran, was well-executed. The storytelling was captivating and relatable, with slight humour keeping younger viewers as invested throughout the 2-hour performance. A newfound appreciation of Narayana Teertha’s classic work was apparent and the harmony of violin and mridangam enhanced the presentation.
Young Ramakrishnan Murthy made his appearance next in a sampradaya kutcheri. While his voice gave way to the Chennai monsoons, resulting in a bad cold, his effort on stage and humility in thanking his rasikas for their support, even through the “not-so-good” times were much appreciated and elicited quite a few laughs from the audience. The accompanists truly shone, with Charumathi Raghuraman proving her mettle on the violin once again. Manoj Siva and Chandrasekhara Sharma interacted with ease to provide apt tala support.
Chathwari, bringing together Abhishek Raghuram (vocal), Lalgudi GJR Krishnan (violin), Guru Karaikudi Mani (mridangam), and Ghatam Suresh, was highly anticipated and exceeded expectations. Creative play between Abhishek and Lalgudi GJR was at its best, reaching a new height in Koteeswara Iyer’s Arul seyya vendum ayya in Rasikapriya. Korvai preludes and inventive patterns highlighted Karaikudi Mani’s prowess which Suresh successfully matched during a thunderous tani avartanam. The vocalists then concluded with a tillana medley, displaying bits of Lalgudi Jayaraman’s signature tillanas in Behag, Pahadi, and Desh, to name a few. Impressive were the observance of a single tala structure and the flawlessness in which voice and violin moved swiftly from one tillana to the next. A rare opportunity to see stalwarts exhibiting such advanced artistry made the concert one of the best we have seen thus far.
The day ended with a peaceful rendering by the Malladi Brothers, a duo known for bhava-rich music that bears the unmistakable stamp of the Pinakapani-Nedunuri school. The duo’s inclusion of many rakti ragas was apt for the day, benefitting highly from the saukhyam that the brothers are known for. Nagai Sriram (violin) proved to be a fitting complement to the duo’s vocal timbre and Mannargudi Easwaran’s energetic mridangam strokes kept the concert moving, with B.S. Purushotham (khanjira) adding nuanced touches to create a complete performance.
6 November 2016
Day 5 was a day for storytelling with each programme focusing on a thematic presentation of a given topic. While Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan’s Miradasi chronicled the life of Meerabai and her immeasurable bhakti, Visakha Hari’s Ramanujar Vaibhavam enthralled the audiences who could not even find seats in the hall on Monday.
Both Jayashree Vaidyanathan’s morning kutcheri and Udayalur Kalyanaraman's sampradaya bhajanai involved soul-stirring renditions of classics. The kutcheri was an appropriate start to a leisurely Sunday morning and competent accompaniment by Kovai S. Chandran (violin), Manikudi S. Chandrasekharan (mridangam), and N. Narasimhan (ghatam) rounded out the solid presentation. Udayalur Kalyanaraman’s bhajanai, an interaction between classical ragas and energetic namasankeertanam was engaging as well.
Miradasi, conceived, written, music-directed, and anchored by Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan, told the tale of the Rajasthani poet Meera. The production revisited a simpler time when music could heal one’s wounds and provide solace to the young Meerabai and interwoven songs of Meerabai’s placed beautifully within the narrative painted the picture of Meera’s Krishna playfully prancing around the garden. Especially powerful were Nisha Rajagopalan’s renditions of Daras Bina and the classic Hari Tum Haro that conveyed Meerabai’s longing and steadfast devotion with authenticity and pathos. The presentation reached its peak with the three vocalists (Nisha, Amritha Murali, and Vignesh Ishwar) joining in on Chakar Rakho Ji in celebration as Gowri took us through the streets of Brindavan, extolling Krishna.
What followed was a crowd that is difficult to come upon during the off-season. An overly packed auditorium waited anxiously for Vishaka Hari to begin and soon, rasikas began occupying the stage and even seating themselves in the aisle ways! Her stirring rendition of Ramanujar Vaibhavam, curated specifically for Bharat Sangeet Utsav 2016, took advantage of her comfort in the Harikatha space as well as her vocal prowess that is often overlooked. The team of accompanists including Padma Shankar (violin), B. Ganapathyram (mridangam), and Trichy K. Murali (ghatam) enhanced the rendering greatly.
The day concluded with Nithya Kutcheri by the Priya Sisters, bringing together Bragha Bressell, Gopika Verma, and Sailaja in an innovative union of Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, and Kuchipudi, respectively.There was a confluence of styles on stage as the artists presented both solo and combined pieces. This was reflected brilliantly in Delhi Sairam’s assimilation of adavu patterns on the mridangam . A cause for despair still was the mass departure of a large section of the audience within 30 minutes of the programme, a battle that dancers still face as they take the stage.
7 November 2016
Day six began with the joint Carnatic kutcheri of vocalists of K. Gayathri and Ashwath Narayanan. Accompanied by B. Ananthakrishnan (violin) and festival favorites Delhi Sairam (mridangam) and Chandrasekhara Sharma (ghatam), the duo presented a thematic concert on Siva-Sakti, utilizing their individual strengths to resemble the shifting power within the deities and the amazing strength of their union, reflected well in the vocalization. The artists highlighted the yati lyrics, taking great care in emphasizing both srotovaha yati and gopuchcha yati whenever possible and also explaining the significance of such techniques to the audience. The lineup was carefully crafted by the artists and the magnificent Ardhanareeshwaram was done considerable justice, especially by Ashwath whose range and free-flowing voice were a welcome surprise.
A jugalsangeet by Gayathri Venkatraghavan and Hindustani vocalist Arati Ankalikar followed. After presenting a rapid Hamsadhwani, the 2 vocalists put forth a pallavi with the lyrics: Vande Nisham Bharata Mataha Vasudhaabhava Naamu
The pallavi sang the praises of Indian diversity, progressing fluidly from Carnatic Abheri (Bheemplaas) to Mohanam, Hamsanandi, and a very apt Desh that wove seamlessly into the patriotric Vande Mataram. The jugalsangeet was a rare match of vocal prowess and underscored the beauty of both musical forms.
The theme was continued by a jugalbandi between Hindustani vocalist Sanjeev Abhyankar and Kunnakudi M. Balamuralikrishna. Though the former focused more on lyrical intricacies, the concert took full advantage of the singers’ ease in adjusting to each other’s stylistic tendencies. The day left no stone unturned in celebrating and cultivating national integration through the arts.