Vidya Kalyanaraman’s concert was themed on Devi kritis


The young vocalist’s refreshing singing style and choice of ragas made the concert enjoyable

After almost 16 months, it felt nice to sit in an auditorium and listen to a kutcheri. Vidya Kalyanaraman’s concert at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Navaratri music festival brought alive the delightful experience that a live performance can be. Featuring only compositions on Devi, she lent variety by choosing kritis by different composers and did full justice to the 75-minute concert. Two fairly detailed ragas, kritis in different gaits, and measured kalpanaswaras made it a smart concert.

Even though Kalyani raga and Pallavi Gopala Iyer’s ‘Needu charana pankajamule’ were technically the centrepiece, a refreshingly rendered Kedaragowla alapana followed by Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Abhayamba panchami vibhakti kriti, ‘Abhayaambikaayah anyam na jaane’ was the more striking bit. Marked by clear diction and sung at an enjoyable pace, Vidya’s handling of every line in the charanam, brilliantly composed in single words, was indeed impressive. Violinist R. Raghul matched the singer in the neat Kedaragowla essay while in Kalyani, he highlighted the essence of the raga with sharp and elegant sancharas both in the raga essay and kalpanaswara segment.

Vidya’s akarams with jhanta prayogams during the alapana showcased her raga elaboration prowess. Going beyond the upper octave panchamam is tricky, and Vidya could have skipped it and instead explored the many melodious phrases in Kalyani’s madhya sthayi. However, she made good with the beautiful and detailed niraval in the charanam lines, ‘O jagajjanani manonmani’ with Raghul’s well-aligned sequences. Nellai Balaji’s brief thani was perfect for the short duration concert, and he managed to create quick sparklers and garner applause.

Pleasing swara patterns

Vidya opened the concert with ‘Amboruha paadame’, a varnam in Ranjani composed by G.N. Balasubramaniam with chittaswarams in pleasing patterns. She moved on to Ponnaiah Pillai’s composition ‘Mayaatheetha swaroopini’ in Mayamalavagowla. She picked up the pallavi line for swarakalpana and embellished it with a spate of patterns in Rupaka tala, both simple and complex. Nellai Balaji on the mridangam followed her creativity and the subtle cues exchanged between them resulted in an aural treat for the listeners.

‘Nannu kanna talli’ in Sindhukannada was the customary swift part of the concert, slotted between the two grand kritis in Kedaragowla and Kalyani. Vidya approached this sprightly ekaika raga composition by Tyagaraja with modesty, without overdoing the brigas.

The Tamil composition ‘Karunai deivame karpagame’ (Sindhu Bhairavi, Madurai Srinivasan) was a thoughtful choice both for the concert location, Mylapore, as well as for the ending lines ‘Nalamudan vaazha arulal vendum’, praying for the well-being of all.

The concert ended with Lalgudi Jayaraman’s formidable thillana in Maand invoking the grace of Kanchi Kamakshi.

The Chennai-based author writes on classical music.



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