S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Nisha Rajagopalan and the Wow Factor

The Concert Scene
By Ramaswamy Narayanan


It was one of those concerts where the wow factor ran right through.

I said wow when Nisha Rajagopalan began with the Maharaja's invocation, Jaya jaya Padmanabha Murare.

I said wow again when she concluded with Dikshitar's Krishna Jayanti song in enchanting Kurinji, Sri Venugopala sri Rukminilola.

In between, my eyes stayed closed in sheer enjoyment of quality music and technical brilliance that did not overwhelm visranti. 

The wow factor stayed because Nisha instinctively guarded against monotony at any point in the concert. (She must be listening very closely to her own singing, I thought).

For example, after etching a strong Kapi as the second number, she sang the Saint's Mee valla guna doshame. Sensing the dominant melkalam rendering of the sahityam, she balanced it with a series of keezhkala kalpanaswaras which added freshness and variety. Similarly, Simhendramadhyamam came next with Dikshitar's Kamakshi kamakoti peetha vasini and closed in a crescendo of kuraippu reminiscent of MLV. Sensing it, Nisha balanced it again with the Nandan charitram Vazhi maraikkudu rendered in an absolute vilambam that brought tears to the eyes. I could give two more examples, but you get the idea! Not only between songs, but within each song as well, the artist has to keep balancing for the sake of freshness and variety, and this Nisha did fairly effortlessly.

In terms of substance, three ragas, Kapi, Simhendramadhyamam and Dhanyasi were essayed and there were two sumptuous niravals. All three ragas were sharp and clear from the word go, and gave unalloyed listening pleasure.

It was equally hard to choose between the major kritis rendered. The niraval at Kamalesa sodari Kamalakshi Narayani in Simhendramadhyamam was powerpacked with emotion.
The other niraval came in Tyagaraja's Dhanyasi kriti, Dhyaname varamaina Gangasnaname. Nisha did not take up the usual charanam lines for vinyasam. Instead, she went right back to the pallavi line for the impassioned niraval. After all, the crux of the whole kriti being in the opening line, er effort came out deeply moving.

I guess you can now see why I said the wow factor ran right through the concert.
L Ramakrishnan's violin support was an important enabling factor during the whole concert. His raga essays were sonorous and his keezhkalam opening in Dhanyasi was out of the world. Equally arresting were his quicksilver ripostes during kuraippu. The percussion team of Sherthalai R Ananthakrishnan and Trivandrum Rajagopal shadowed the kritis closely and played a long and collaborative tani.

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