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August 2017 - By Sashwath Mahalingam

In many cases around the world, one would notice the term “package deal” being thrown around, be it a marketing advertisement, a college admission, etc. This phrase often refers to a characteristic of being wholesome, or complete, in character, talent, or execution. To those in music, the idea of completeness and not missing any important element is a rather embraced topic. Musicians often strive for perfection of all aspects possible of their music, including bhavam, layam sense, melody, creativity, tradition, etc. because the audience does not like being left out on any aspect that they would typically expect to be there. This requires a lot of thoughtfulness, thorough planning of execution, musical knowledge and understanding. As each performer took the stage at the CCC event on Sunday August 20th, 2017, all of them displayed a significant level of a musical sense of “completeness” or “wholesomeness”, be it how the accompanists and main artists balanced out each other and provided different aspects of music to the stage, how the musician chooses to switch between aspects creatively throughout, or how they simply plan their execution with the guidance of a guru.

 


Priyanka S (Vocal):

The event started off with a performance by Priyanka S on the vocal, Aishwarya Anand on the violin, and Vivek Arvind on the mridangam. Priyanka began with a traditional alapana in Kalyani, one that spanned a lot of time and covered a lot of ragam aspects. In her elaboration, she made it a point to include many nice classic Kalyani phrases that helped the audience more easily empathize and comprehend the ragam’s nature. This was also done through slow and skippy phrases that helped make the alapana sound nice overall. Aishwarya’s response was equally elaborate as it helped showcase a more flowing aspect of Kalyani enhanced with bhavam. Following this, Priyanka proceeded to Tyagaraja’s gem, Etavunara, set to Rettakalai Adi Talam. Throughout the pallavi, Priyanka displayed an extensive variety of sangatis that created quite a buildup and a sense of grandeur to the song. For her manodharmam, Priyanka proceeded to do swarams directly on the pallavi. She introduced an interesting framework of swarams where following a few keezh kAlam swarams, she proceeded to do tisram and mEl kAlam in successive, rapid-fire swarams. In her swarams, Priyanka showcased a variety of high octave phrases that brought out a bright aspect of Kalyani. Throughout the exchanges, Aishwarya responded to the rapid-fire challenges as well, bringing in her own kanakku and bhavam through her playing on the violin. Keeping the pace steady and well-managed was Vivek Arvind, who on his mridangam kept up with a consistent and well-controlled sense of layam. Following Priyanka’s korvai, Vivek played a brief, nice mora-korvai at the end.


Adithya Narayanan (Vocal):

Following Priyanka’s performance was a rendition by Adithya Narayanan on the vocal, Anirudh Prabhu on the veena, and Akshay Suresh on the mridangam. Adithya began with a small viruttam in the ragam Panthuvarali. The viruttam was a very energetic start to the rendition and showcased a large range of octaves until its finish. Following the viruttam, Adithya proceeded to render Naradamuni Vedalina, set to Tisra Nadai Adi Talam and composed by Saint Tyagaraja. Especially in the anupallavi, the song included a lot of challenging sangathis requiring quite a bit of voice modulation, all of which was handled effortlessly by Adithya. For swarams, Adithya took his on nArAyaNa nAma mulanu, and rather than using the standard samam eddam, he added an extra challenge by shifting the line to be on taka thalli eddam. Adithya included a lot of nice sarvalaghu patterns, in addition to challenging and mathematical patterns within those sarvalaghu patterns. Anirudh’s veena responses to all of these were equally skilled, where each sarvalaghu pattern was matched with as much spontaneity and speed. Adithya ended with a simple eddam-to-eddam korvai and concluded his piece afterwards. Throughout the piece, Akshay Suresh’s accompaniment on the mridangam was extremely kinetic, appropriately matching the mood of the krithi and its ragam.


Sumanth Mahalingam (Vocal):

Following Adithya’s performance was a rendition by Sumanth Mahalingam on the vocal, Srishiva Manikantan on the violin, and Rajeev Devanath on the mridangam. Sumanth began with an alapana in the ragam Hindolam, where he took to a very phrase-oriented style involving classical phrases one might hear. This made the alapana easily enjoyable to many in the audience. Srishiva’s accompaniment on the violin for this was equally melodic as he brought a lot of bhavam and jaaru-based phrases through his alapana response. Following this, Sumanth proceeded to render Tanjavur Sankara Iyer’s mAl marugan, a varnam set to Adi Talam. In the varnam, Sumanth took to the challenge of 2nd speed in the charanam of the varnam, while also bringing out all the phrases with care. Following this, in the interest of continuing Hindolam, Sumanth proceeded to a viruttam in Hindolam, followed by the charanam of maa ramanan. Throughout both songs, Srishiva Manikantan’s accompaniment on the violin helped enhance the bhavam and free-flowing aspect of Hindolam completely. Rajeev Devanath’s accompaniment, particularly for the 2nd speed portion of the varnam, was spirited and enthusiastic throughout, which helped bring a complete sense of vivacity and liveliness to the stage.


Deetshana Parthipan (Vocal):

Following Sumanth’s rendition was a performance by Deetshana Parthipan on the vocal, accompanied by Alaap Rag on the violin and Sachin Venkat on the mridangam. Deetshana rendered Arunachala Kavirayar’s krithi in Vasantha, kaNDEn kaNDEn kaNDEn sIthayai, set to Adi Talam. Following this was Papanasam Sivan’s claasic, kapAli, in ragam mohanam, set to Rettakalai Adi Talam. Both renditions was very brisk and well-handled by Deetshana, especially as she displayed a good control of layam and voice overall. This good control in general helps give more clarity and depth to the krithis at hand. Throughout the performance, Alaap Rag showed that even without a spot for manodharmam, he could display quite a bit of skill in highlighting the best of phrases and bringing out the jaaru-based aspects of each ragam. In both renditions, he showed a high amount of musical mastery and sense through his playing on violin. In addition to Deetshana, Sachin Venkat’s accompaniment on the mridangam was complementary to the style given. His equally brisk and involved accompaniment helped enhance the performance overall.


Smrithi Swaminathan (Vocal):

Following Deetshana’s performance was a rendition by Smrithi Swaminathan on the vocal, Vandana Chari on the violin, and Arush Gopal on the mridangam. Smrithi rendered PaTnam Subramanya Iyer’s jewel in Kalyani, Nijadasa Varada, set to Rettakalai Adi Talam. In her performance, Smrithi helped display yet another aspect of the diverse ragam (while a different aspect was showcased by Priyanka), one involving more brigas and complex gamakams. It was a good touch to the rendition to bring in a non-repetitive or overlapping style/framework of a Kalyani krithi as it helped bring out various dimensions of the vast ragam. Vandana was in perfect synchronization with Smrithi throughout the rendition as she played and matched every last gamakam given, thus making the performance feel wholesome. To complete it, Arush Gopal’s mridangam accompaniment was calm and well synchronized with both the vocal and violin.


Vishrant Prabhu (Veena):

After Smrithi’s rendition was a solo by Vishrant Prabhu on the veena and Srihari Srinivasan on the mridangam. Vishrant began with Dikshitar’s auspicious composition, Gananayaka Bhajeham Bhaje, composed in ragam Poornashadjam and set to Deshadi Talam. The rendition was expertly handled, especially for a challenging ragam like Poornashadjam where a lot of the swarams skip in the aarohanam, making sure to challenge any instrumentalist to handle those skips with utmost care. Following this rendition was a crisp and melodious alapana in Lathangi, where Vishrant managed to cover the entire scope of the ragam within a minute, particularly the high swaram sustenance and melody. Papanasam Sivan’s lovely composition, Piravaa Varam Thaarum, in ragam Lathangi, set to Adi Talam was thereafter rendered. Throughout the performance, Srihari Srinivasan’s tireless accompaniment on the mridangam, where he constantly varied his tone and energy to fit the line or piece being sung, gave a great deal of spirit to the performance. He concluded the Lathangi piece with a nice samam-to-samam mora-korvai in the end, where the korvai included a tisra nadai switch in each iteration.


Twisha Sundararajan (Vocal):

Following Vishrant’s solo was a performance by Twisha Sundararajan on the vocal, Sanika Pande on the keyboard, and Rahul Swaminathan on the mridangam. Twisha began with an alapana in Hindolam. Rather than taking to the phrase-oriented alapana, Twisha’s alapana gave a more elaborate stance on the ragam, thus bringing out its other dimension. Her alapana consisted of various moments of buildup and elongation that made the alapana different from the previous performer. Being it the first time the keyboard was introduced to CCC, the tonal effect it gave was new, but nice, to everyone in the audience. As opposed to other musical instruments, the keyboard presents the extra challenge in the sense that as a more Westernized instrument, playing continuous and smooth phrases proves difficult and requires extra skill. Throughout her response alapana, Sanika made a point to take up many difficult and challenging jaarus only to handle them with ease. Additionally, she took advantage of the keyboard features to help emphasize the flat notes and phrases very well, giving it a different, but enjoyable type of tonal quality. Following this, Twisha proceeded to render Papanasam Sivan’s well-known composition, mA ramanan, set to Tisra Jathi Eka Talam. For her manodharmam elaboration, Twisha decided to do swarams on the pallavi, handling it confidently while introducing many different elegant swaram patterns including those in tisra nadai. Sanika’s response swarams helped greatly emphasize the sarvalaghu aspects of the kalpanaswaram art in manodharmam, while Twisha emphasized gamakams and complex gamakam structure a bit more. This was followed by a korappu utilizing a tathom,tathom,tathom pattern followed by successive increases in karvais, which was then followed by a nice eddam-to-eddam korvai. Rahul’s accompaniment on the mridangam was very greatly improved from before as he played with extreme dynamism and flexibility. He concluded the performance with a mathematically complex mora-korvai at the end.



Shashank Mahesh (Vocal):

Following Twisha’s performance was a rendition by Shashank Mahesh on the vocal, Vittal Thirumalai on the violin, and Pranav Tirumalai on the mridangam. Shashank began with a viruttam in the ragam Lalitha. The viruttam was full of expression and energy as Shashank tested the pliancy of his voice through an extensive variety of enjoyable phrases. His mature voice helped enhance the vividness and color of his viruttam overall. Following this was a short alapana response by Vittal Thirumalai on the violin. Vittal displayed an extreme progression in his accompaniment and art as he showed his musical knowledge in the Lalitha alapana. His response helped bring out all the “aha” phrases of Lalitha that audiences alike could recognize and appreciate the most. Following this was none other than Dikshitar’s rendition, Hiranmayeem Lakshmim, in ragam Lalitha. Throughout Shashank’s performance, energy dominated and took the stage spirit to the next level. Shashank then attempted to take a very elaborate niraval on Geetha vadhya vinodhinim. His niraval was extremely free-flowing, creative, and enjoyable to everyone as he reached every last phrase and octave of Lalitha possible to elaborate on. Vittal was equally able to bring out the same morale and spirit in his response to Shashank’s niraval, which in turn kept everybody in the audience standing on their feet to anticipate the next idea coming. Finally, adding even more to this spirit was Pranav Tirumalai’s accompaniment on the mridangam, where each phrase he played for was enhanced with enthusiasm and spark.


Ananya Devanath (Vocal):

Following Shashank’s rendition was a performance by Ananya Devanath on the vocal, Apurvaa Anand on the violin, and Akshay Aravindan on the mridangam. Ananya began with an alapana in the grand ragam Thodi. The infinite scope of this ragam paves way for a lot of elaboration and phrase-oriented creativity, and Ananya did not disappoint in delivering either aspect. Throughout her alapana, she utilized the flexibility and energy of her voice to bring out the most complex phrases of this ragam whenever possible. Apurvaa’s response on the violin provided a nice contrast to this as she brought an equally challenging and in-depth, but more calm and toned down version of Thodi to the stage. Both aspects were equally good. Following this, Ananya rendered Kumara Ettendra’s rare composition, Gajavadana Sammodhita, set to Rettakalai Adi Talam. For her manodharmam elaboration, she chose the line Vasuthatha Pura for niraval and swaram. The niraval between both the vocalist and violinist was unrestricted throughout. Both artists managed to keep the niraval brief while also covering a large variety of Thodi phrases and aspects. Following this were multiple rounds of mEl kAlam swarams. The swarams were very spontaneous and showcased a lot of impromptu skill between both Ananya and Apurvaa. Topping it off was a nice korappu encasing a lot of kanakku and experimentation, including gradually increases in korappu divisions (such as 5-swaram phrases with notes in between each 5, then 6 swaram phrases with notes in between each 6, etc.). Throughout the performance, Akshay Aravindan displayed an enthusiastic sense of accompaniment through his playing on the mridangam, and concluded the performance with a nice samam-to-eddam mora korvai including a nadai change in each iteration of the korvai.


Shrikrishna Shivakumar (Vocal):

Following Ananya’s peformance was a Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi by Shrikrishna Shivakumar on the vocal, Hrishikesh Chary on the veena, and Avinash Anand on the mridangam. Shrikrishna began with an alapana in Shankarabharanam, where each phrase was delivered with full bhavam and expression, while also retaining Shankarabharanam’s defining qualities and tones. Hrishikesh’s response was as equally skillful as he matched every nuance with precision and melody. Both styles involved a fluctuating type of alapana where constantly the mood would vary, for example at one point complexity of phrases is full on scale, while at another point the tone was varied appropriately to bring out the right elements of melody and tune and balance everything out. The thanam that followed was a rather interesting, rhythmic form where Avinash accompanied on the mridangam in addition to Shrikrishna’s and Hrishikesh’s back-and-forth responses. While it is challenging to try and consolidate thanam to a certain fixated rhythm for a long period of time while also trying to bring out melody as much as possible, it is equally challenging for a mridangist to accompany such an endeavor, as he/she must take care to stick to the rhythm that the vocalist decides on every round. This challenge was handled professionally by Avinash throughout. Regarding the thanam itself, not only was the rhythm challenge added, but so was a ragamalika attempt, where Shrikrishna and Hrishikesh alternated between Shankarabharanam, Kiravani, Hamirkalyani, and Hindolam. Following this exciting set of exchanges itself was the Pallavi (composed by Vidwan Sri. Neyveli Santhanagopalan), which was set to Sankeerna Jathi Triputa Talam, chatushra nadai, with a 6-matrai eddam (counting in mEl kAlam). The sahityam was Shankara paramEshwari (Shankarabharanam), SarvEshwarI vANI (Kiravani), sannuta kalyANi (Hamirkalyani), mAninI maragathAngI (Hindolam). Before niraval, Shrikrishna attempted thrikalam for keezh kAlam, chatushra tisram, and mEl kAlam, while also adding off-eddam tisra nadai combinations that end on the various ragam splits in the pallavi. While even one ragam, especially in a pallavi, can be challenging to handle niraval in, a four-ragam pallavi quadrupled the challenge for both the vocalist and vainika. Needless to say, the niraval was handled with great mastery and bhavam, and gave an even greater challenge as the utharangam was constantly changing ragams to Ranjani and Dhanyasi in addition to the Hindolam setting. After niraval, the swarams that followed were a huge highlight to the RTP. Not only were ragams transitioned in between to fit the various eddams of the pallavi, but also were extra thrikalam and kanakku challenges added in. Interestingly, the 4-ragam pallavi that is already meant to be ragamalika had an extra ragamalika section (Dhanyasi, Ranjani, and Reethigowla) in swarams as the utharangam was changed to fit each ragam when the swarams were rendered. Throughout the Pallavi, Avinash’s accompaniment came with high confidence and skill, modeling that of a professional. Every last kanakku was caught on point, and as a nice addition, after a challenging 7-ragam korvai rendered by Shrikrishna, a mora-korvai from samam-to-eddam was added to conclude the Pallavi. Overall, the execution was well planned and thought out.

 


In general, each performer and their respective performances at the event showed that they have the musical capacity, knowledge, and dedication to master the execution and all aspects that go with it when considering a performance/concert. All the performances were complete, wholesome, and satisfying to the audience and the respective rasikas. While crediting their hard work, it is important to note the flow of musical knowledge that occurs when one comes under the guidance of a guru, as not only does a guru teach a student how to sing, but also how to excel in presentation, attitude, and innovation. Logically, it would follow that the parents of all students play a large role in this system as well, as not only do they give us the resources and time we need to learn music, but they also give the benefit of being able to speak from a listener’s point of view on our singing in general. Finally, because experience and progression in the musical field can only come with continuous participation in concerts and activities, it would follow that the organizations situated here in the Bay Area, which like CCC are completely dedicated to the development of youths in the Carnatic Music field, are highly significant and should be acknowledged in the growth of our music here in North America.

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