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Carnatic Chamber Concerts: December 10, 2017, Review

Authored By: Sashwat Mahalingam


A great Carnatic singer once noted that when a musician takes a certain set of ideas or innovations on to the stage, their true professionalism shines in how they make the most complicated of ideas simplified, understandable, and accessible to the audience, as well as how they take the simplest of ideas and enhance on them to make them more elaborate, intricate, and eye-catching to the audience as well. The latter can be summarized in a concept called “beauty of simplicity”, where one can take the most basic of principles and turn it into something interesting, innovative, and/or special. Each of the performers in the December 2017 CCC event demonstrated this capability for enhancement as they took a baseline thought and elaborated on its importance or its significance through manodharmam as well as through rendition in general.

Harshita Kuchibhotla (Vocal):
The afternoon began with a performance by Harshita Kuchibhotla on the vocal, accompanied by Alaap Rag on the violin and Shreyas Garimella on the mridangam. Harshita commenced with a varnam in ragam Malayamarutham, set to Adi Talam. Within the purvAngam (the first half), she covered sama kAlam, tisra nadai, and mEl kAlam, all taken at a relatively fast pace while demonstrating good voice control throughout. Following this was Annamacharya’s composition, Brahma Kadigina Panamu, in ragam Mukhari, set to Adi Talam. In contrast to the brisk varnam, Harshita emphasized a lot of Mukhari’s tranquilizing tonal effect while singing at a medium pace throughout. Throughout both pieces, Alaap made it a point to highlight the best of Mukhari and Malayamarutham phrases, while Shreyas provided a balanced/well-paced accompaniment on the mridangam.

Anirudh Natarajan (Vocal):
Following Harshita’s performance was a rendition by Anirudh Natarajan on the vocal, Tanisha Srivatsa on the violin, and Umesh Gopi on the mridangam. Anirudh rendered parAtpara paramEshwara, a composition of Papanasam Sivan in ragam vAchaspathi, set to Deshadi Talam. Anirudh showcased a more unique variety of vAchaspathi by taking the song at a moderate pace throughout. Tanisha’s accompaniment on violin throughout was fluid and provided good emphasis on jaarus, while Umesh’s accompaniment on the mridangam displayed a high amount of clarity and focus.

Amirtha Srinivasan (Vocal):
Following Anirudh’s rendition was a performance by Amirtha Srinivasan on the vocal, Vishaka Ashok on the violin, and Ambika Ramadurai on the mridangam. Amirtha began with an alapana in the ragam Sriranjani, janya of the 22nd melakarta Kharaharapriya. In a brief amount of time, the alapana showcased various classical phrases that gave enough depth to the ragam overall. Vishaka’s response on the violin was equally wholesome, as she displayed the same/similar conventionality while creating an exuberant ambience/mood throughout. Amirtha then proceeded to render Tyagaraja’s Brochevarevare, set to Adi Talam. Throughout the krithi, Amirtha showcased a lot of interesting/varied sangathis with an addition of kanakku patterns noticeable in the swaram makeup of each sangathi. While Vishaka continued to highlight/enhance the same tonal brightness of the ragam throughout, Ambika provided a very synchronized accompaniment on the mridangam that helped highlight the rhythmic intricacies of each sangathi/avarthanam.

Gohitha Venkluri (Veena):
Following Amirtha’s performance was a performance by Gohitha Venkluri on the veena and Ashwat Subbaraman on the mridangam. Gohitha began with Mysore Sadaashiva Rao’s composition, srI kAmakOTI pITasthithE, in ragam Saveri, set to Adi Talam, accompanied by a Saveri alapana that showcased the best and most bhavam-filled of its phrases. Following this was a VijayaviTThaladaasa composition, sadA enna hrudayadalli, in ragam Behag, set to Rupaka Talam. Throughout both compositions, Gohitha made it a point to accentuate dulcet phrases that appealed to the audience best. Ashwat’s accompaniment on the mridangam throughout was calm and appropriately adjusted throughout.

Sudiksha Vaidyanathan (Vocal):
Following Gohitha’s performance was a rendition by Sudiksha Vaidyanathan on the vocal, Urmika Balaji on the violin, and Vivek Arvind on the mridangam. Sudiksha rendered Tyagaraja’s Vinayakuni Brova, in ragam Madhyamavathi, set to Adi Talam. Throughout the krithi, Sudiksha brought out an abundance of good brigas and gamakas, such as those of vadi-samvadi notes (harmonious notes), all displayed with her good voice capacity. She then proceeded to render a few rounds of swarams on the anupallavi, where she brought out aesthetically interesting Madhyamavathi phrases and sarvalaghu patterns. Urmika’s responses to these were creative and melodically intricate throughout. Vivek’s accompaniment on the mridangam was very lively throughout. Following a simple korvai he proceeded to render a mora-korvai to top it all off.

Sruthi Bhamidipati (Vocal)
Following Sudiksha’s rendition was a performance by Sruthi Bhamidipati on the vocal, Vandana Chari on the violin, and Srihari Srinivasan on the mridangam. She began with the Kambhoji varnam, Tharuni, set to Adi Talam. In the varnam thrikalam, Sruthi handled 2nd speed very well as she displayed a good voice range and a gentle tone throughout. Folowing this was Himagiri Thanaye, a composition of Harikeshanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar in ragam Suddha Dhanyasi, set to Adi Talam. The Suddha Dhanyasi was handled with equal gentleness and professionalism from beginning to end. Vandana’s accompaniment on the violin was emphatic and well-mirroring throughout, while Srihari’s accompaniment on mridangam was dynamic enough to further enhance the stage mood.

Sahiti Annadata (Vocal):
Following Sruthi’s performance was a performance by Sahiti Annadata on the vocal,  Aishwarya Anand on the violin, and Pranav Tirumalai on the mridangam. Sahiti began with an alapana in Kedaram, where she emphasized a lot of slow and jaaru-based phrases in particular. Aishwarya’s response to this was equally stirring and eye-catching. Following this was Purandara Dasa’s composition, Hari Narayana, set to Adi Talam. For her manodharmam, Sahiti chose to do swarams on the pallavi, all of them in keezh kalam to be able to display Kedaram’s true aspects in its slower speed, which was successful in its attempt. Aishwarya’s responses to each of these were all filled with expressiveness. Following this was Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar’s krithi, Anudinamu, in ragam Begada, set to Rupaka Talam. Throughout both krithis, Pranav showcased a high amount of mastery with his polished accompaniment on the mridangam, including a nice mora-korvai for the Kedaram piece following the swarams.

Srishiva Manikantan (Vocal):
Following Sahiti’s rendition was a performance by Srishiva Manikantan on the vocal, Apurvaa Anand on the violin, and Rahul Swaminathan on the mridangam. Srishiva began with an alapana in Madhyamavathi. In his alapana, Srishiva displayed various appropriate aspects of the raga rasa and made it a point to use many canonical phrases to achieve this. Apurvaa’s violin response was with equal proficiency as she brought out the unique aspect of Madhyamavathi’s mellifluous phrases. Following this was Dikshitar’s Dharmasamvardhani, set to Rupaka Talam. Srishiva’s rendition of the krithi overall was bold and mature throughout as he brought out a briga-based form of Madhyamavathi. For manodharmam, he took up the charanam line, mAdhava sOdari, for niraval and swaram. For niraval, from a few brief slow rounds Srishiva transitioned into 2nd speed where he covered enough of Madhyamavathi’s depth in various octaves, as did Apurvaa. Swaram-wise, the entire set of exchanges was in mEl kAlam, where a good set of swaram patterns/intricacies dominated each round of swarams. Apurvaa’s equally complex responses incorporated unique phrases and helped bring out yet another dimension of the ragam as well. The korvai that topped it all off exemplified an increasing set of matrais in the poorvAngam per iteration, while to mathematically balance it out a decreasing set of matrais in the uttarAngam per iteration.  Rahul’s accompaniment throughout was thoroughly involved, and he showcased a nice samam-to-eddam mora korvai at the end.

Janani and Mythri Sekar (Duet Vocal):
Following Srishiva’s solo was a duet performance by Janani and Mythri Sekar on the vocal, accompanied by Yogitha Balasubramanian on the violin, and Avinash Anand on the mridangam. Beginning with a Kalyani alapana, Mythri started off by showing the slower-paced, spaced out Kalyani phrases that would help ease the audience into the ragam’s traditional/orthodox structure before displaying one’s creativity/general understanding of it. After a thorough elaboration in the maadhya sthayi, Janani took over from the nishadam onwards and began a venture into the taara sthayi, where she covered many complex and briga-based/fast-paced phrases throughout that brought out a creative aspect of Kalyani as well, making the alapana satisfying for the audience overall. The detailed effort was met with an equal match as Yogitha took on equally traditional Kalyani phrases, proceeding towards a more steady and melodiously creative aspect as she progressed further in the response. Following this was Tyagaraja’s jewel, Etavunara, set to Rettakalai Adi Talam. After krithi, the duet proceeded to niraval and swaram on the anupallavi, sIta gaurI. After exploring a variety of Kalyani gamakas, both vocalists proceeded to a rather unhurried 2nd speed niraval, which was nice to hear overall. The violin’s response was equally good sounding. Each of the kalpanaswarams displayed a lot of rhythmic ideas in both keezh and mEl kalam, especially those of kanakku in the latter speed. They then finished with a swaram essay and a eddam-to-eddam korvai. Avinash’s accompaniment throughout was kinetic and spirited, especially during the manodharmam efforts.

This month’s Feature-a-Guru segment which followed the previous duet was a detailed lecture on the use of nadais in krithis and manodharmam elaboration (mainly kalpanaswaram), a thorough session led by Vid. Sri. Gopi Lakshminarayanan and his students. The presentation covered various types of nadais commonly usable for manodharmam elaboration, such as kanda nadai, keezh kala tisra nadai, and mEl kAla tisra nadai. An important point was emphasized in the presentation, that on how there are only a few permissible ways to allow such manodharmam to occur and be technically correct, such as the riskiness of doing kanda nadai in a misra chapu thalam since each avarthanam is not structured in a multiple of 4 matrais, hence the kanda nadai would not land properly until 2 avarthanams are completed. Divisibility is the main method to be trusted here, as each nadai used is technically acceptable as long as it can be divided into each avarthanam without mathematically technical issues. This presentation was extremely useful as it not only encourages us to explore and elaborate where we can, but also to be wary and cautious of where to draw the line in order to make our renditions as successful as possible. We would like to thank Gopi Uncle for highlighting this specific aspect of our music and providing the ideal scenarios for us to better gain an understanding of it.

Adithi Suresh (Vocal):
The final performance of the day was Adithi Suresh on the vocal, Ananya Devanath on the veena, and Sriram Subramanian on the mridangam. Adithi began with an alapana in Mukhari. In her alapana, Adithi displayed the most steady of Mukhari phrases, bringing out the right amount of the raga’s flavor throughout. Bhavam dominated the majority of these phrases, allowing for an enjoyable and well-appreciated result from the audience overall. Ananya’s response on the veena preserved the same pleasantness, while taking a slightly more phrase-based approach characterized by more split up but still dulcet elaborations and slightly quick phrases towards the end, hence giving Mukhari an extra element. Following this was Tyagaraja’s krithi, Ksheenamai, set to Rettakalai Adi Talam. For the manodharmam, Adithi chose the charanam line, Eti jesina jagan, for niraval and swaram rounds. In the niraval, with little flaw both Adithi and Ananya covered a brief but weighty range of Mukhari sancharams before proceeding to 2nd speed niraval. The challenge of 2nd speed was not only well-handled, but also enhanced with the use of rhythmic patterns throughout. The swarams that followed incorporated really interesting sarvalaghu patterns in both keezh and mEl kAlam, particularly patterns consisting of 4 or 8 matrais. After creative kanakku from both Adithi and Ananya was a samam-based korappu with a samam-to-eddam korvai including porutham towards the end. Sriram’s accompaniment on mridangam throughout was very enthusiastic and energetic, as he implemented a nice misra nadai thani and a mora-korvai towards the end of the performance.

In retrospection, each of the musicians who took the stage today demonstrated an elaborate concept or thought that had an underlying principle to it, showing how that which is simple can be turned into something truly unique to hear. The innovation and experience that needs to be there for this to happen doesn’t come only from a performer’s own creativity, but also from the constant guidance of his or her guru, who everyday makes sure to not only teach us the ways and compositions of our music, but also feeds our intellectual capability and pushes us beyond the boundaries to explore the vast varieties of Carnatic Music that we haven’t ventured into yet. Continuing the push is the parents of each performer who not only ensure that a student can optimize his or her time everyday to further progress in this art, but also that that student continuously expands their efforts by the day through concerts, workshops, etc. to ensure the best musical experience possible. FInally, venues such as CCC and the volunteers who make each event of it possible make it absolutely certain that such innovation and musical passion has a place to be displayed, appreciated, and further nurtured by the community of musicians and rasikas here in the Bay Area.