S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The January season!

By V Ramnarayan

In an undistinguished first for me, I have to eat humble pie for getting the names of musicians on stage wrong. Writing about a concert below, I substituted Neyveli Narayanan's name for Melakaveri Balaji, both of whom I know very well. Old age, failure to keep notes and the telescoping of several cutcheris in the mind led to this gaffe. I also missed ghatam Guruprasad's name. Like Balaji, he, too, played in a spirit of encouraging a young singer. Sincere apologies to all concerned.

The December season continues! It has spilt into 2017 so seamlessly that it has been a perfect continuum. And somehow the whole cutcheri experience has all of a sudden become more relaxing, less driven by anxiety that even as you are listening to one, you are missing another or two happening at the same time.

The first of these was a Rithvik Raja concert with two senior accompanists in RK Shriramkumar (violin) and K Arunprakash (mridangam) at the Asthika Samajam, Venus Colony, Alwarpet. I had missed the concerts of Rithvik during the prime season, when a couple of my friends described him as a much improved performer. I was looking forward to this concert, but to my disappointment, the sound system at the samajam was so bad that I was unable to make out the quality of the music, and left half way through the concert. I frequently gained the impression that both the voice and the violin were off key. The mridangam too was heard only some of the time. Strangely, a friend, TT Narendran, the critic, who was seated in another wing of the premises, actually had a good word for the acoustics. A day or two later, I met Rithvik who assured me that on stage the sound from the monitor was perfect. I do hope to catch one of his concerts in a better ambience soon.

The next evening, I took in two concerts, both by young singers. The first of them, by Mayuri Vasan—my old cricketer friend L Vasan's daughter from Irvine, California—who is a student of Delhi Sundararajan, was at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore. Mayuri showed much improvement in her voice and aesthetics from the last time I had heard her, but, suffering from a sore throat and cough, she had a few hiccups, in an otherwise promising concert. She had impressive violin accompaniment from Aarushi, a disciple of Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. Mridangam by young Shravan was pleasantly underplayed. Mayuri, who is also pursuing western classical  music can make a mark in Carnatic music, if she listens to a great deal of good music, practises long and hard on the fundamentals of manodharma, with a particular emphasis on aesthetics, her voice and her kriti rendition being her strong points. A long stint at Chennai and bonding with the young musicians here should  help her cause. This has been the case with many US-bred musicians who have made the grade here.

Vidhya Raghavan, another young NRI musician, who moved to Chennai a few years ago, gave us a lovely recital at this quaint little hall, Krishna Saras, on PS Sivaswami Salai. It was an impressive performance by this diminutive vocalist, who seems to have internalised  the essence of the numerous aspects of Carnatic music, whether raga, lyrics, or tempo. She sang in a clear voice with a proper dose of akaram, and we can expect her voice to get stronger in the years to come. Her focus on stage, too, was admirable. Vidhya gained much from the excellent sound management by Charsur, of whose Margazhi festival the concert was a part. Vidhya is a disciple of TM Krishna and many of her senior fellows were present at the audience as was Sandeep Narayan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan's prime disciple, lending the concert a warm sense of camaraderie. Vidhya was also the beneficiary of top class accompaniment by Akkarai Sornalatha (violin) and veterans Melakaveri Balaji (mridangam), and Guruprasad (ghatam) who seemed to revel in encouraging the young vocalist.

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