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Carnatic Chamber Concerts April 2018 Event Summary

Written By: Srishiva Manikantan, Anirudh Ramadurai, and Sashwat Mahalingam


Carnatic music rests on two main elements: raga, and tala. However, as well as these musical elements, a Carnatic composition also has a component of the emotion or sentiment conveyed in the composition. In addition to the rich musical experience, each composition brings out the knowledge and personality of the composer, and thus the words are as important as the musical element itself. Many composers have contributed to Carnatic music. Purandara Dasa  known as the pioneer of Carnatic music, formulated the basics lessons in 1400s, The contemporaries Saint Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri are regarded as the Trinity of Carnatic music who have composed variety of classical compositions in 1700 -1800s. There were many other prominent composers prior to Trinity of Carnatic music. In most of the concerts, “popular” or “classical” compositions of Trinity are chosen as main/sub main pieces. In April 2018 CCC, many performers have chosen the “popular” and “rare” compositions of current generation composers such as Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, Neyveli Santhanagopalan, T.N. Seshagopalan, Chitraveena Narasimhan, Chitraveena Ganesh, and K.N. Shashikiran, and thus made the event more interesting and exclusive. The uniqueness of this theme was well appreciated by the audience.

Mahathi Shankarram (Vocal):

The event began with a bright performance by Mahathi Shankarram, accompanied by Deeksha Venkateswaran on the violin and Vivek Arvind on the mridangam. Mahathi began with Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s navaragamalika varnam, valachi vacchi,  a collection of  nine ragams, Kedaram, Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, Begada, Kamboji, Yadukula Kamboji, Bilahari, Mohanam, and Sri.  She took up the challenge of changing the nadais by taking each line in the poorvangam and doing it in kizh kalam chatusram, kizh kalam thisram, and mel kalam thisram. For example,  in the line valachi vacchi yunnA nApai, valachi was done in kizh kalam chatusram, vacchi yun was done in kizh kalam thisram, and nA nApai was done in mel kalam thisram.  Following the varnam, was a captivating alapana in Kedaragowla, which was emulated nicely on the violin by Deeksha. Mahathi then rendered Papanasam Sivan’s swAmikku sari evvarE, set to Misra Chapu. In this piece, Mahathi demonstrated anvayam, which is a logical connection of words, in the lyrics “padam paNiyum anbar bhavanOyara vandaruLum en sarasa gOpAla.” While Deeksha closely shadowed Mahathi through the presentation,  Vivek provided a steady and strong accompaniment on the mridangam and enhanced all the layam improvisations as well.

Vishaka Ashok (Vocal):

Following Mahathi was a performance by Vishaka Ashok on the vocal, Prahlad Saravanapriyan on the violin, and Ambika Ramadurai on the mridangam. Vishaka begin with the Nalinakanthi varnam ‘Neevegathiyani’, an elegant composition by Sri. Lalgudi G. Jayaraman set to Adi Talam. The rendition brought out the multi-dimensional ragam’s melodic intricacies as well as the deep rhythmic variations embedded within the chittaswarams and mukthayi (in particular swara prastharams). Vishaka’s dulcet voice was able to complement both these features making the performance enjoyable as a whole. Following the varnam was Tyagaraja’s krithi in Atana, ‘Ilalo Pranatarti’, set to Adi Talam. Similar to the varnam, this krithi had a few defining elements of its own, including but not limited to the large amount of weighty sangathis, briga-filled phrases, etc., all of which were handled well through the extensive voice range and capability Vishaka employed throughout. Both pieces were further embellished by Prahlad’s violin accompaniment as he not only played mellifluously to each one but also took extra care to  highlight nearly every jaaru-based phrase or sangathi, creating an especially soothing effect in the Nalinakanthi varnam. Both of these dynamics were well matched with Ambika’s accompaniment on the mridangam, as it was not only well-synchronized, but also professional and befitting.

Sarang Ashwin (Vocal):

Following Vishaka’s performance was a rendition by Sarang Ashwin on the vocal, Sahas Ramesh on the violin, and Abhishayan Thamba Shiva on the mridangam. Sarang rendered the Kuntalavarali varnam set to Adi Talam, composed by Sri. K.N. Shashikiran. The skippy nature of the ragam was expanded upon throughout the entire varnam rendition, and emphasized quite well by Sarang’s voice. The varnam also contained various laya patterns conceptualized by the maestro, which were portrayed well by the trio in the performance. Sahas’s skillful accompaniment on the violin allowed for the augmentation of the sarvalaghu present in the varnam, making it even more eye-catching in general. Thamba’s accompaniment on the mridangam was well-paced and involved throughout the entire performance, further underlining the lively mood set by the ragam Kuntalavarali.

Vandana Chari (Violin):

Vandana’s violin performance was accompanied by Srihari Srinivasan on the mridangam. Vandana started with a short alapana on the pleasant 9th melakartha raga, Dhenuka. The short raga alapana was followed by a most popular krithi of Saint Thyagaraja, ‘teliyalEru rAma’ set to Deshadi talam. Vandhana played the krithi with full of melody entwining various aspects of the raga and sangathis shrewdly. The krithi was followed by interesting mEl kala swarams on pallavi, ‘teliyalEru rAma’ and a korvai following swarams with appealing phrases of raga. Percussionist, Srihari did an outstanding job of supporting the violinist with his dynamic and energetic performance adhering to the required pace of the song.

Samhita Srinivasan (Vocal):

Samhita’s vocal performance was accompanied by Tanisha Srivatsa on the violin and Akshay Suresh on the mridangam. Samhitha stated off with a varnam, ‘Parama gnAnam aruLvAyE’ composed by Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan in raga Janaranjani set to Adi talam. She brought out all nice sancharams of the raga in her rendition. Then she moved on to one of the popular compositions of Sri Papanasam Sivan, ‘parAtparA paramEshwarA’ in Vachaspathi, 64th melakartha raga, set to Deshadi talam. Samhitha rendered very well bringing out the bhavam aspects. She concluded with a fast paced thillana composed by Sri T.N.Seshagopalan in raga Niroshta, 29th mela Sankarabharanam janyam set to Adi talam in her melodious voice. Niroshta is an interesting audava raga that doesn’t contain Panchamam and Madhyamam. Tanisha, the violinist emulated the performance with her mellifluous accompaniment. Percussionist Akshay did an excellent job complementing the vocalist. His support for thillana has showcased his matured performance as it synchronized well with the thillana.

Sumedh Vaidyanathan (Vocal):

Sumedh’s vocal performance was accompanied by Gowri Datta on the violin and Sriram Subramanian on the mridangam. Sumedh rendered a classical composition of Saint Thyagaraja , ‘Kaligiyunte’ in Keeravani, 21st melakartha ragam set to Adi talam. Sumedh started off with a raga alapana detailing intense phrases of the raga.  This was mirrored mellifluously on the violin by Gowri who demonstrated her knowledge of Keeravani. Sumedh chose to sing swarams on the charanam, ‘bhagavata’. He started with keezhkalam swarams for a few rounds and then progressed on to mEl kalam swarams followed by koraippu and korvai. His swarams included elegant sarvalaghu patterns that eventually led to an interesting koraippu, and an edam-to-edam korvai. Percussionist Sriram complemented the vocalist with his energetic and rhythmic support and concluded the performance with his mohra-korvai. He kept up the lively tone of Keeravani with his matured and elevated accompaniment on the mridangam.

Shivani Venkataraman (Vocal):

Following Sumedh’s rendition on the vocal was a performance by Shivani Venkataraman on the vocal, Urmika Balaji on the violin, and Rahul Swaminathan on the mridangam. Shivani begin the performance with an elaborate alapana in the ragam Kalyani. The alapana began with a majority of traditional and classical phrases that were adequately well-used to the audience’s satisfaction, thereafter followed by more lengthy phrases that included various brigas and spuritams, all delivered with finesse and great vocal flexibility. One noticeable constant that stood out throughout the entire alapana was the large amount of expressiveness that displayed a clear abundance of bhavam. This factor persisted through the euphonious violin response as well. Urmika’s rendition maintained the same standard while also adding in extra phrases such as vadi samvadi notes, which combined with the excellent presentation made the overall improvisation marvellous to the listener’s ear. Following this was Maharaja Swati Tirunal’s grand krithi, ‘Pankaja Lochana’, set to Misra Chapu. Throughout the krithi, the brigas added into select sangathis were analogous to the “cherry on top” element - each moment a briga was rendered was even more eye-catching (with appropriate timing) than the last. The chosen manodharmam line for niraval and swaram was ‘vrindavanAnthA kritha”, taken four matrais from the samam. The niraval exchanges between the vocalist and the violinist were (like the alapana) passionate on the whole, bringing out the most touching of Kalyani phrases covering a wide range of octaves. The succeeding swarams were commenced straight from mEl kAlam, in a rapidfire style of rendition that encompassed classic kanakkus as well as porutham-based calculations. The swarams were topped off with a sarvalaghu-filled swaram essay and a brief eddam-to-eddam korvai. Throughout the performance, Rahul’s accompaniment on the mridangam was brisk, but also steady enough to maintain a strict rhythmic control. He played a nice mora-korvai at the end from samam to eddam.

Hiranya Sundar & Lavanya Sundar (Veena):

Subsequent to Shivani’s rendition was a Ragam Thanam Pallavi presented by Hiranya Sundar & Lavanya Sundar on the veena accompanied by Pranav Tirumalai on the mridangam. Lavanya began with an alapana in the ragam Hemavathi, where she highlighted the different shades of the ragam effortlessly. After Lavanya’s beautiful alapana was a dynamic thanam by Hiranya, where she responded to Lavanya’s alapana with her strong gamakams and fingering. From the ragam and thanam, the twins showed the volume of their work and expressed their passion for the art and enthusiasm to present their talent.  The pallavi presented by the twins was, “ninnE nammiti nivE gati nIraja nayana dasaratha rAjakumAra.” This pallavi was composed by Chitraveena Sri. Narasimhan set to Khanda Jathi Khanda Nadai Triputa Thalam on Lord Rama for the auspicious occasion of Rama Navami. They showcased the pallavi in kizh kalam and mel kalam. The duo exchanged neraval and kalpanaswarams in the presentation. They did ragamalika swarams, in which in each ragam’s name invoked a reference to Lord Rama. These ragams included Sindhu Ramakriya, Raghupriya, Ramapriya, and Kosalam. The kalpanaswarams heard were very creative and included a lot of kanakku patterns. Pranav’s accompaniment on the mridangam was breathtaking, as he incorporated a variety of different nadais and continuously maintained a high level of spirit and involvement. He concluded the pallavi with a short but complex mora-korvai. Overall, the presentation was unique and full of energy and the audience enjoyed it everybit.

Neha Bashyam (Vocal):

Following Hiranya & Lavanya’s Ragam Thanam Pallavi was the final  performance of the day by Neha Bashyam, accompanied by Geeta Shankar on the veena and Akshay Aravindan on the mridangam. Neha began with an alapana in Madhyamavathi, which showcased the most prominent phrases, bringing out the raga’s flavor throughout. Bhavam dominated the majority of these phrases, which was well appreciated by the listeners. Geeta’s response on the veena preserved the same pleasantness with dulcet elaborations. Following this was Tyagaraja’s krithi, evvarichirira, set to Adi Thalam. For her manodharmam, Neha chose the charanam line, prakaTa kirti galigina kOdaNDapANi, for neraval and kalpanaswaram rounds. In the neraval, both Neha and Geeta covered a brief but weighty range of Madhyamavathi sancharams before proceeding to 2nd speed neraval. The swarams that followed incorporated really interesting sarvalaghu patterns in both kizh kalam and mel kAlam. Akshay’s accompaniment on mridangam throughout was very enthusiastic and energetic, and gave a nice thani and mohra-korvai towards the end of the performance.


In hindsight, the performances in the lineup in this month’s CCC brought (in addition to classic compositions from composers such as Tyagaraja and Dikshitar) a huge abundance of compositions from modern century composers from the 20th and 21st centuries, such as Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, Neyveli Santhanagopalan, T.N. Seshagopalan, Chitraveena Ganesh, Chitraveena Narasimhan, K.N. Shashikiran, etc., giving room for observing a wide variety of styles of composition as well as the carrying on of banis and legacies from the great giants these eminent musicians hailed from. The first credit for this goes to the gurus of all the students on stage, as the enriching musical experience each teacher provides to his/her student not only allows them to learn aspects of music or gain prowess, but also explore and delve into the various interpretations of this vast musical language, such as the compositions of composers spanning across over four centuries of music and dozens of different schools of thought. Consequently, a sincere amount of gratitude is owed to the parents of each of the performers for putting up with the high demands of this rigorous art and the standards it sets for hard work, participation, involvement, etc. Finally, the credit goes to CCC and the volunteers/coordinators that help make each of CCC’s events successful. Words do not describe the amount of work the organization does (both behind the scenes onstage and offstage) in order to ensure that each budding talent is given an opportunity to showcase his or her skills on stage in front of an encouraging audience of both rasikas and musical experts. Best wishes go out to every performer from today for an enjoyable musical future.