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Carnatic Chamber Concerts - March 11th 2018 CCC Summary

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

Introduction by Sashwat Mahalingam:

It is important to note how various ragams in the Carnatic world vary in how well they are known, used, or elaborated on in any sort of concert or collaborative effort. A clear example of this is the classification of six “grand” or “main” ragas in Carnatic Music. These ragas include Thodi, Shankarabharanam, Kalyani, Kambhoji, Kharaharapriya, and Bhairavi, and are undoubtedly the most “famous”/commonly used ragams for elaboration as main pieces, sub main pieces, or Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi’s in a concert. Consequently, there tends to be (in a way) a spectrum of ragas that range from “extremely rare or unheard” to “well-known and well-used”, with ragams such as Purvikalyani, kANaDA, Dhanyasi, etc. ranging close to the “well-known” side and ragams such as Kaikavasi, Chitrambari, and Veeravasantham ranging close to the “unheard” side. One of the ways to be able to establish uniqueness in a concert is to be able to utilize such less common/popular ragas and elaborate/showcase them throughout. In the March 2018 CCC, many of the performers took to performing more “secondary” ragas/krithis, either ragas that were somewhat known to an extent but not commonly/extremely elaborated on (“trendy”, if you will), or ragas that were not well known at all. The overall uniqueness enhanced by this theme made the event fascinating, spectacular, and entertaining.

Madhumita Ramkumar (Vocal) by Shreya Virunchipuram:

This month’s event commenced with a bold performance by Madhumita Ramkumar accompanied by Vishnu Srinivas of the violin and Vivek Arvind on the mridangam. They started with Jalajakshi, a varnam in Hamsadhwani by Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaiyer, set to Adi thalam. Next, they presented Sri Gopalakrishna Bharathi's popular composition, Sabhapathikku in Abhogi, set to rupaka thaalam. Vishnu’s violin playing was smooth and involved throughout, while Vivek’s involved mridangam playing further enhanced the rhythm of the compositions.

Siddharth Sharma (Vocal) by Srishiva Manikantan:

Siddharth’s vocal performance was accompanied by Shivani Venkataramanan on the violin and Sachin Venkat on the mridangam. Siddharth rendered a heart-warming classical composition of Saint Thyagaraja, Endhuko Ni Manasu in Kalyani, 65th melakartha raga set to Adi talam. Siddharth delivered the attractive raga beautifully in his bold commanding voice. He brought out the bhavam of the raga through his sangathis filled with nuances. Shivani, the violinist, equally demonstrated her skills by matching the raga bhavam in every aspect. Percussionist, Sachin did an excellent job with his brisk accompaniment
throughout the performance.

Arundhati Calambur (Vocal) by Sashwat Mahalingam:

Following Siddharth was a performance by Arundhati Calambur on vocal, Srishiva Manikantan on the violin, and Shreyas Garimella on the mridangam. Arundhati commenced with an alapana in the ragam Arabhi, one of the five ghana ragas (the other four being Nattai, Gowla, Sri, and Varali). Given the scope of this ragam Thyagaraja sets for this ragam in his illustrious pancharatna “Sadhinchane”, Arabhi gives room for a large capacity of phrases and patterns, many of which were utilized by Arundhati. Some unique prayogams from the Arabhi geetham were also incorporated into the showcase, including those with brigas and vadi-samvadi (harmonious notes) occurrences. An equally creative response was brought from Srishiva, where the elaboration of sancharas and the emphasis on patterns played a huge role in contributing to the overall quality of the alapana. Following this was a brisk rendition of Maharaja Swati Tirunal’s krithi, pAhi parvatha nandini, set to Adi Talam. Similar to the alapana, the use of briga-based phrases was a dominant factor in many of the sangati variations Arundhati rendered. For her manodharmam, Arundhati chose to take swarams on the pallavi, proceeding straight to rapidfire mEl kAlam exchanges. Following a few sarvalaghu patterns with some vadi-samvadi were tisra nadai swarams, in which pancharatna phrases were directly integrated to make the overall effort interesting. Srishiva did no less than match this effort with his equally extensive kanakku patterns and incorporations. After a brief koraippu and an ascending swaram essay was a short korvai. Throughout the performance, Shreyas provided a swift, well in-sync accompaniment on the mridangam (in particular, he gave a very energetic response to the tisra nadai swarams that were rendered during manodharmam). He delighted the audience with a short thani involving chatusra nadai, tisra nadai, and a combination of those two in the mora-korvai.

Gaurav Rajan (Veena) by Anirudh Ramadurai:

Next, in the day’s line up, was a veena performance by Gaurav Rajan, accompanied by Anirudh Rao on the mridangam. Gaurav started his performance with Papanasam Sivan’s composition, Unnai Allal, in the ragam Kalyani, set to Adi thalam. With clean fingering, Gaurav brought out the sweetness of the Kalyani ragam very well. He then went on to play Saint Tyagaraja’s popular krithi, Upacharamu Jesevaru, in Bhairavi, set to Rupaka thalam. Throughout the
presentation, Gaurav played the compositions with ease, while weaving out different shades of both the ghana ragas and doing justice to the sangathis of the sahithyam. Mridangist, Anirudh’s playing was steady and provided apt support to Gaurav.

Akshay Suresh (Vocal) by Srishiva Manikantan:

Akshay’s vocal performance was accompanied by Vishaka Ashok on the violin and Vaibhav Prakash on the mridangam.  Akshay rendered one of the finest compositions of Sri Poochi Srinivas Iyengar, Parama Pavana Rama in the raga Poorvikalyani, a janyam of the 53rd melakartha, Gamanashrama, set to Adi talam. Akshay’s rendition displayed his voice flexibility through a variety of phrases that were aptly picked for the melodious raga. Vishaka, the violinist followed the song very well with clarity in her notes. Percussionist, Vaibhav did an excellent job complementing the vocalist.

Rahul Swaminathan (Vocal) by Srishiva Manikantan:

Rahul’s vocal performance was accompanied by Aishwarya Anand on the violin and Shrikanth Shivakumar on the mridangam. Rahul has chosen a famous composition of Sri Papanasam Sivan, Thunai purindharul in raga Varamu (Suddha Hindholam), 22nd mela Karahapriya janyam set to Deshadi talam. Rahul started with a bright raga alapana showcasing different shades of Varamu combined with good range of lower and higher octaves. Aishwarya’s response on the violin was excellent that demonstrated her knowledge and familiarity with the ragam. Rahul did few rounds of 1st and 2nd kalam niraval in anu charanam line, “Pathitha pavana” followed by swarams. He chose to sing mEl kalam swarams with interesting patterns that lead to a nice samam korappu and samam-to-edam korvai. Aishwarya’s response to korappu and swarams was very quick and creative. Shrikanth’s support on the mridangam was outstanding. He followed the krithi and swarms with full of energy and involvement. His tani at the end was absolutely enjoyable.

Urmika Balaji (Violin) by Shreya Virunchipuram:

Following Rahul was a soothing, yet brisk violin solo performance by Urmika Balaji supported on the mridangam by her on the spot accompanist, Pranav Thirumalai. Urmika started off with a pleasant aalapanai in the raagam Urmika, a janyam of Simhendra Madhyamam (57th melakarta). Her aalapanai vividly detailed the nuances of the raagam. . This was followed by “Entani Vinavintura”, a composition of Sri Pallavi Sesha Iyer, in thisra gathi adi talam. She rendered crisp and bright kalpana swarams at the first line of the anupallavi, pantambulEla nApai, in both keezh kaalam and mel kaalam, concluding with a korvai.  Throughout the rendition, Pranav’s enthusiastic accompaniment on the mridangam highlighted the lively thisra gathi of the composition. He concluded with a brief mora-korvai.

Varsha Shankar (Vocal) by Anirudh Ramadurai:

Following Urmika’s thundering presentation was an on-the-spot performance by Varsha Shankar, accompanied by Aditya Satyadeep on the violin, and Sriram Subramanian on the mridangam. Beginning with an intricate alapana in Vachaspati, Varsha brought out her innovativeness in creating phrases throughout the range of octaves covered. Aditya’s impromptu response to this was equally erudite. Varsha then rendered Swati Tirunal’s popular composition, Pahi Jagat Janani, set to Adi Talam. For her manodharmam, she chose to do both neraval and swaram at the anupallavi line, “mohanadaragaatri”. Both, Varsha and Aditya displayed their knowledge of trade-mark phrases in Vachaspati, and their creativity and comfort in the rendition of the ragam. For her kalpanaswarams, Varsha implemented an organized style of first speed, second speed, and kanakku patterns with fitting retorts by Aditya. Sriram’s accompaniment on the mridangam was tireless and brisk throughout, and he supported both Varsha and Aditya
very well through the krithi and the manodharmam expositions. Overall, the trio did very well for the impromptu challenge.

Ranjani Ravindrabharathy (Vocal) by Sashwat Mahalingam:

The concluding performance for the day was a Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in ragam Dharmavathi by Ranjani Ravindrabhrathy on the vocal, Hrishikesh Chary on the veena, and Santhosh Ravindrabhrathy on the mridangam. The ragam Dharmavathi in itself is a relatively uncommon one with few compositions to exhibit its exquisiteness, hence making it a fairly challenging ragam for RTP, one that the trio handled well. To begin, Ranjani’s alapana maintained a high standard for 5 minutes straight as she took to displaying her extreme vocal flexibility and range throughout. The melody and expressiveness on the whole was a combination of this and the abundance of original phrases that utilized many structures of elongation to make the effort sound appeasing to hear overall. Hrishikesh’s response to this was of an expert-level skill as he promoted the same amount of innovation and mellifluousness. Bhavam-filled, his alapana encased the use of various skippy-like phrases that caught the audience’s eye and received their admiration. Following this was the tanam, which was rhythmically brisk-paced overall. The tanam exchanges were very commendable as both Ranjani and Hrishikesh continued to demonstrate multiple forms of rhythmic complexity in a continuous flow, ensuring that these patterns didn’t waver or lose their substance in a single place. A particular highlight was the sped-up tanam on the tara sthayi rishabam, in which Ranjani showed even more vocal capacity and control. The pallavi for the performance was “nee dayai puri parandhAmavathi dharmavathI nikila lOka jananI”, set to Trinadai Tisra Jathi Ata Talam, with the first laghu in chatusra nadai, the second one in tisra nadai, and the dhritams in kanda nadai. Following an unhurried niraval that covered a vast range of octaves and ideas was the thrikalam, where keezh kAlam, chatusra tisram (very much a challenge to maintain sharp control over in multi nadai pallavis), and mEl kAlam (and not in a single place was the grip on talam lost or shifted). Both the swarams presented and the responses by Hrishikesh placed a high value on dulcet-sounding phrases that were very much enjoyable, followed by swarams on different eddams of the pallavi in different kAlam's, and one oru-thalli swaram (keezh kAlam but shifted off by one mEl kAlam matrai) for mEl kAlam. Following this was the rAgamalika, with Saramathi (where Hrishikesh’s swaram essay was simply stunning), Vachaspathi, Neetimati, and Revathi, where the the sahityam was changed for each ragam. Concluding the manodharmam was a complex korappu followed by a eddam-to-eddam korvai. Throughout the pallavi, Santhosh’s accompaniment was breathtaking, as he incorporated a variety of different nadais and continuously maintained a high level of spirit and involvement (with not a single beat being missed). He concluded the pallavi with a short but complex mora-korvai from eddam-to-eddam.

Conclusion by Anirudh Ramadurai:

To conclude, the presentations of all the performers made the program into yet another fascinating, educative and entertaining event that CCC always promises its members month after month.