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Carnatic Chamber Concerts: January 14 2018 Event

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

Introduction (Sashwat Mahalingam):

It was discussed earlier how contemporary musicians have identified that simple ideas alone can be enhanced in many different ways to appeal to the audience and make the stage experience wholesome. Looking at the opposite side of the spectrum, another consideration to give thought to is that of complex ideas in our music. These ideas could include complicated/laya intensive thrikalam concepts, kanakku ideas in different nadais, tonal experiments such as graha bhedam, etc. As important as it is to ensure that some uniqueness is displayed when presenting our music, it is equally important to consider how these complex ideas can be simplified (while still maintaining the same base concept) to be easily presented to the audience in an enjoyable manner. The January 2018 CCC event marking the community’s 9th anniversary showcased many performers, including special slots with impromptu accompanists (known as “On-The-Spot slots”), that were able to display their ability to simplify these intricate concepts during each of their stage presentations.

Meenakshi Iyer (Anirudh Ramadurai):

The event began with a performance by Meenakshi Iyer on vocal, Srishiva Manikantan on violin, and Shreyas Garimella on mridangam. Meenakshi started her performance by singing a virutham, “japA kusuma sankAsham” in honor of Surya Bhagavan tuned in the ragam Sourashtram on the occasion of Makara Sankranti/Pongal.  This was responded to with equal skill by Srishiva on the violin. Meenakshi continued on the 9th anniversary/pongal theme and presented Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s Navagraha Krithi’s, Suryamurthe Namostute, set to Chatusra Jathi Dhruva Thalam. She took up the challenge of doing both first and second speed swarams at the pallavi line. Throughout the performance, Srishiva shadowed the vocalist with his thoughtful accompaniment on the strings, while Shreyas provided steady accompaniment on the mridangam.

Tanisha Srivatsa (Sashwat Mahalingam):

Following Meenakshi Iyer was a performance by Tanisha Srivatsa on vocal, Deeksha Venkateswaran on the violin, and Srihari Srinivasan on the mridangam. Tanisha began with a short but bright alapana in Mohana raga, properly displaying its canonical phrases throughout her solo. This was responded to with equal skill and orthodoxy by Deeksha on the violin. Following this was GN Balasubramaniam’s composition, Bhuvanatraya, in ragam Mohanam, set to Adi Talam. Throughout the krithi, Tanisha displayed a good vocal range through the various sangathis throughout pallavi, anupallavi, and charanam. For manodharmam, she chose to do swarams on the pallavi of the song (samam eddam). Following two brief keezh kalam rounds, Tanisha transitioned to quick sarvalaghu mEl kAlam rounds. The sarvalaghu involved showcased various vadi samvadi phrases of Mohanam while also involving intricate mathematical patterns. These patterns were well elaborated on throughout by Deeksha in her swaram responses. Srihari’s mridangam accompaniment was emphatic and well synchronized throughout, and included a nice mora-korvai at the end following Deeksha’s korvai.

Viresh Kumar (Srishiva Manikantan):

Viresh Kumar’s vocal performance was accompanied by Sahas Ramesh on the violin and Ramanan Ganesan on the mridangam. Viresh rendered a classical composition of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, Veenabheri in Abheri, 22nd mela Kharaharapriya janyam set to Adi talam. He delivered the most attractive raga with full of bhavam. His voice had a commendable reach with a pleasant tone and was well modulated. His sangathis filled with nuances made the
audience thoroughly enjoy his rendition. Sahas, the violinist handled the raga and sangathis with amazing clarity. Percussionist, Ramanan did an excellent job complementing the vocalist.

Shashank Venkat (Srishiva Manikantan):

Shashank Venkat’s violin performance was accompanied by Rahul Swaminathan on mridangam. Shashank started with a short alapana on the bright raga, Abhogi, 22nd mela Kharaharapriya janyam. The raga alapana was followed by the most popular krithi of Saint Thyagaraja, ‘Manasu nilpa’ set to Talam Adi. He played the krithi with full of melody weaving different shades of raga and sangathis craftily. He traveled the highest and lowest octaves with effortless ease, giving the performance an elevation. He handled the raga with ‘no panchamam’ on strings very well. The krithi was followed by wonderful mEl kAla swarms with korvai on pallavi containing appealing phrases expanding raga bhava. Percussionist, Rahul did an outstanding job of adhering to the required pace of the song. He followed various sangathis and swarm phrases with appropriate nadai variations.

Siddharth Srinivasan (Anirudh Ramadurai):

Shashank’s violin solo was followed by an impromptu slot performance performed by Siddharth Srinivasan and team. Siddharth presented a rich alapana in Sri ragam, peppered with of vadi-samvadi phrases. This was mirrored beautifully by Violinist Urmika Balaji who then played an equally erudite solo, even though it was an impromptu accompaniment.  Siddharth then proceeded to sing Sri Kamalambike, a Dikshitar Navavarna krithi, another thoughtful choice to commemorate the 9th year anniversary of CCC.  For manodharmam, Siddharth chose to do swarakalpana at the pallavi line. He showed a variety of swarams, which included first and second speed, as well as a challenge of thisram,  violinist Urmika’s extempore responses were well appreciated by the audience.  Throughout the performance, mridangist Sriram Subramanian kept up an impromptu yet confident and spirited accompaniment on the mridangam.

Vittal Thirumalai (Srishiva Manikantan):

Vittal Thirumalai’s vocal performance was accompanied by Apurvaa Anand on the violin and Akshay Aravindan on the mridangam. Vittal rendered a popular composition of Saint Thyagaraja, ‘Sogasuga mridanga’ in Sriranjani, janyam of 22nd mela Karaharapriya set to talam Rupakam. Vittal started with raga alapana demonstrating different shades of the raga with good range of lower and higher octaves reflecting his voice modulation. Apurvaa’s response on the violin was very quick and showcased her familiarity with the ragam. She faithfully reproduced all the sancharas and the clarity of the notes bowed out was admirable. Vittal did few rounds of niraval in both madhyama kalam and mEl kalam on pallavi line ‘sogasuga’ followed by swarms. He sang mEl kalam swarms with an organized pattern followed by an interesting korvai. Akshay’s response on the mridangam was outstanding.  He built an impressive rhythmic structure in his tani avartanam with all the laya phrases falling into place.

Sashwat Mahalingam (Anirudh Ramadurai):

Subsequent to Vittal’s performance was another unique impromptu performance by Sashwat Mahalingam on vocal, Aparna Thyagarajan on violin, and Pranav Tirumalai on mridangam. Sashwat began his performance with a very vibrant alapana in Kedaram, which was echoed equally well on the violin by Aparna. When we all thought that Sashwat was going to perform a krithi in Kedaram, he instead took up the challenge of showcasing the Navaragamalika Varnam, Valachi Vacchi. The Navaragamalika Varnam consists of nine different ragams which include Kedaram, Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, Begada, Kambhoji, Yadukulakambhoji, Bilahari, Mohanam, and Sri was aptly chosen as a tribute to CCC which is celebrating its 9th anniversary.  After singing the poorvangam in Sama kalam, he went again and performed it in Kizh Kalam, Chatusra Tisram, Sama Kalam, Tisra Nadai, and Mel Kalam combined.  After singing the entire varnam, Sashwat surprised the audience with niraval and swaram in the charanam in Kambhoji, Pada Saroja. For the korrappu and korvai, he did in ragams DhanyaSI, CharukeSI, and KaikavaSI, all ending the ‘si’ in honor of CCC! . His korvai was done in these three ragams, as well as in Kambhoji. Aparna did a fantastic job accompanying Sashwat in her impromptu accompaniment and handled the challenges presented on stage. Pranav’s support on the mridangam throughout matched the energy of the vocalist and violinist.  Overall, it was inspiring to watch the trio give a wonderful performance.

Ashwat Subbaraman (Sashwat Mahalingam):

Following Sashwat was an on-the-spot slot performance by Ashwat Subbaraman on the vocal, Aditya Satyadeep on the violin, and Avinash Anand on the mridangam. Ashwat started off with a bold Sriranjani alapana, which extracted the most challenging of phrases and exercised his vocal capacity to the fullest. Aditya’s impromptu response to this feat was an equally satisfying solo as he (within such short preparation time) reciprocated with an equal amount of spirit and energy. Ashwat then proceeded to render Saint Tyagaraja’s well-known jewel, Marubalka, set to Adi Talam. For his manodharmam, he chose niraval and swaram at the anucharanam line, “dari nerigi”, three matrais eddam from samam. Even with the quick pace, the niraval was enjoyable as both Ashwat and Aditya gave the ragam a sense of grandeur like its melakarta janaka ragam, Kharaharapriya. The swaram rounds involved pure rapidfire sarvalaghu, with a noted minimal amount of repetition and a maximum amount of creativity, topped off with a swaram essay and a korvai. Avinash’s accompaniment on the mridangam throughout was tireless and brisk, matching the overall enthusiastic stage dynamic. Towards the end he included a mathematically intricate mora-korvai from samam-to-eddam.

Kaushik Hariharan (Sashwat Mahalingam):

Following Ashwat’s performance was a 30-minute Ragam Tanam Pallavi by Kaushik Hariharan on the vocal, Geeta Shankar on the veena, and Santhosh Ravindrabharathy on the mridangam. Kaushik began with an alapana in the ragam Kambhoji that utilized many classical as well as expanded, pattern-based phrases that spanned various octaves of notes. Geeta’s response on the veena was equally mellifluous as she highlighted an equally traditional, but somewhat unique (with respect to the structures of phrases) dimension of the ragam. Given Kambhoji’s place in Carnatic Music as one of the 6 grand ragas, the other five being Bhairavi, Kalyani, Sankarabharanam, Thodi, and Kharaharapriya, the standard for elaboration and scope for it is very high, and was well fulfilled/met in both alapanas. The thanam exchanges between them was equally commendable. Taken at a medium pace, the thanam involved many new rhythmic patterns throughout that provided a sense of uniqueness to distinguish it well enough from the previous alapana. Following this was the pallavi. The pallavi was set to a double-nadai variation of Khanda Jathi Triputa Talam, with the laghu (hence any aksharam before aaradhi) in chatushra nadai and the dhrutams in kanda nadai (the commemoration to CCC’s 9th anniversary was by taking chatushra nadai, which is 4 matrais/beat, and kanda nadai, which is 5, and adding them to obtain 5+4=9). The sahityam was “sundara sUryamurtE namostutE, susheela suprasanna samrakshatE”, and the pallavi was taken 4 matrais from samam. Following many rounds of detailed niraval was the thrikalam, taken in keezh, sama, and mEl kAlam eddams. The succeeding swarams in both keezh and mEl kAlam by Kaushik provided a huge variety of ideas as many swaram exchanges involved kanakku on various eddams (such as mEl kAlam to aaradhi, other sahityam within the pallavi, etc.). Each of these swarams were well responded to (with a unique aspect of originality) by Geeta. Concluding was a ragamalika korappu taken on eddam, where each raga was taken with extensive detail and outline, while there was a preserved sort of freshness/novelty every time a new raga was added in. The ragams involved were Surya, Amrithavarshini, and Bowli. Following this was a nice porutham-based eddam-to-eddam korvai. Throughout the performance, Santhosh provided a vigorous and unwearying accompaniment on the mridangam. Following the manodharmam elaborations he played a short tisra nadai thani followed by a samam-to-eddam mora korvai.

Conclusion (Anirudh Ramadurai):

To conclude, the January 2018 CCC event indeed marked the club’s 9th anniversary, which showcased many performers, including special slots with impromptu accompanists. CCC and its members are grateful to the gurus, who take all efforts to train their students and help them to get to their next level in their musical learning, applaud the parents who support their children in pursuing this artform, and sincerely appreciate the service of the volunteers who help run the event after event for the past 9 years.