The Carnatic Music Association of North America (CMANA) celebrated the fortieth year of its founding with a two-day musical celebration on 24 and 25 September in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Current President of CMANA, Som Sowmyan welcomed the audience and traced the history of the organization citing many milestones and achievements over the years. He noted that CMANA was the only democratic music organisation in the US with an elected Board which works for the cultural enjoyment of its members. It had sponsored several tours of stalwarts and up-and-coming artists from India and was the only music organisation to have organised a concert of M.S. Subbulakshmi in the US. CMANA continues to honour the founder, Dr. P. Rajagopalan’s mission to propagate Carnatic music among the younger generation, evidenced by the number of quality teachers with a large body of young and talented students in the tri-state area.
This being the centenary year of M.S. Subbulakshmi, junior and senior students from different tutelages were given the opportunity to perform some of her signature songs. At least one of MS Amma’s favourites was included in the concerts by the main artists.
Ramakrishnan Murthy excelled throughout his vocal recital on the afternoon of the first day, and he performed the main piece in Kalyani—Bhajare re chitta Balambikam—with great elaboration. He included several ragas in his imaginative ragam-tanam-pallavi and the saptaswara medley hit the spot with the rasikas. His penultimate piece was Vaishnava janato. The accompaniments were top-notch, with mridangam maestro Trichy Sankaran being the backbone, with excellent support by violinist Rajeev Mukundan.
The evening concert was by Ranjini and Gayathri who have a big following and it being their second appearance within six months, pretty much filled the auditorium. They sang in perfect harmony and their music was steeped in classicism. Their elaborate kalpana swaras, niravals and raga rendition demonstrated their manodharma. As a tribute to MS, they started their concert with the daru Matey Malayadhwaja Pandya sanjatey in Khamas. And they did not disappoint their devoted abhang fans as well. Charumathi Raghuraman (violin) and Delhi Sairam (mridangam) embellished the concert with their brilliant playing.
The morning concert on the second day was by Sandeep Narayan and this was an innovative and high energy performance. Nannuvidachi and Marakatavalli were rendered beautifully as was the ragam-tanam-pallavi in Chandrakauns. Violinist H.N. Bhaskar brought out the nuances of Chandrakauns very well. Sandeep concluded his concert with Maitrim bhajata as a tribute to MS. Mridangist Patri Satish Kumar enhanced the quality of the concert.
This was followed by the main event which was the conferring of the Sangeeta Saagara award on senior violinist A. Kanyakumari for lifetime achievement in the field of Carnatic music. Teacher, mentor, role model and innovator, Kanyakumari’s association with CMANA started in 1976 with the organisation’s inaugural tour with her guru M.L. Vasantakumari. In her remarks, past CMANA President, Dr. Soundaram Ramaswami, described the violinist as an “ocean of music” and commended the CMANA Board for the appropriate choice. A special booklet honouring the awardee was released. Honorary Patron Member, Dr. Robert Browning, presented Kanyakumari with CMANA’s award medal and Sowmyan presented a plaque to her. Upendra Chivakula, Commissioner of the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission and Srinivas Ganagoni of Lead India were among the honoured guests.
Following the award ceremony, Kanyakumari presenteda concert accompanied by her student, Rajeev Mukundan with Patri Satish Kumar providing excellent mridangam support. Annamacharya’s kriti, Meru veru in raga Narayanadri (a raga of her creation), was a classic example of her manodharma and stole the show. Following a soul stirring rendition of Maye and Janani, Kanyakumari played a tillana she had composed. Some favorite tukkadas followed which included Kurai onrum illai. The concert was truly a fitting conclusion to CMANA’s 40th anniversary celebrations.