21 December, 2013
It became a grand beginning for Gayathri Venkatraghavan who is endowed with considerable prowess in music. The first and fitting song was Jagadhanandhakaraka, the Naattai Pancharathnam. On its footsteps came Sri Maha Ganapathi Ravathumam (Dikshithar, Gowlai).
Let us skip her “order” of rendering and travel to her main item, Nattakurinji. We had the aesthetic delight of listening to a class alapana of this raga that came at a pace, yes even the alapana could become alaap, which did the artiste and raga proud. Apart from the sangathis that caressed you with its languid tempo there were those edge-of-seat brigas that were sung with the level of confidence that made you wonder the extent to which this artiste has sunk herself into music. She succeeded in building an atmosphere that was meditative. The ending of the alapana suggested that the thanam was in the offing. And it did come. As one was expecting a pallavi, Swathi Thirunal’s Navarathri Krithi, Paahi Janani Santhatham, was sung.
One remark would not be out of place here. This rasika is not for the Mridangam accompanying the Thanam. Thanam is a stand-alone beauty and the layam accompaniment is viewed by this rasika more as interference than an embellishment. It is not to question the Kerala tradition, but as the saying goes, “I have spoken and thus saved my soul”.
And now back to the “order.” Arabhi was elaborated as a preface to Thyagaraja’s Nadha Sudharasam with a neraval at Dhara Bhajane Bhagyamura and afforded the rasikas an opportunity, a “bhagyam”, to be one with Thyagaraja. The lovely elements in this neraval were the finishes that were rendered with apt mukthaippus. Known for her penchant for viruthams she sang Kunitha Puruvamum and quietly slid into the song Aadiya Paadhame Gathi Endru (Gopalakrishna Bharathi). Both of these came up in Varali. Virutham singing is an art by itself and Gayathri has all mastery over this. With another bhava-heightening piece Vande Vasudevam (Sri, Annamayya) the vocalist lent balance and proportion to this concert.
Did you notice anything? There was an unstated agenda. The ragas chosen were Nattai, Gowlai, Arabhi, Varali and Sri - ragas that are termed as gana-ragas, and in which Sadguru’s Pancharathna Krithis have been made.
Charumathi Raghuraman on the violin was as faithful as a shadow could be to the real figure (Gayathri Venkatraghavan) and had her moments of grace that the audience realized and applauded voluntarily. She gave chaste alapanas of Arabhi and Nattakurinji that reverberated with bhava.
Neyveli Narayanan on the mridangam and K V Gopalakrishnan on the Khanjira is a combination that works with a wonderful chemistry. They answered remarkably well during the swara sessions adopting intelligent alternating (between the mridangam and the Khanjira) methods and thus contributed to the overall elevation of the concert.