Dear Budding Musicians,
Hope everyone is having good fun learning our bhajans and practising them at home 🙂 We recently had our grand music festival in Sydney which I wish to talk about in detail in this post, focussing on the artists and their choice of compositions.
The three day music festival in Sydney organised by Swaralaya is a treat to all Karnatic Music lovers. Featuring some of the tier-1 musical talent, it’s the best music show in town. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that it’s Sydney’s own mini version of the December season in Chennai. And not just music, the food and the various bright silk sarees too depict the pomp and grandeur that Chennais music festival brings with it. This year was quite special, in both commemorating the centenary year of MS Amma and Swaralaya organization’s 10th year completion.
So without much ado, let me try to give you an overview of the concert highlights of this year.
The day started off with a replacement concert for Bombay Jayasree who dropped out last minute. Chitravina Ganesh did a neat job. Impressive especially was his Shri raga varnam. After this was OS Arun who was a total surprise package to the audience. While people generally had a feeling it would be Bhajan Sandhya style , he not only stuck to the traditional concert format but also stunned the audience with completely different dimensions of ragams. Noteworthy and still lingering in my mind is his aalapanai in Rasikapriya, singing the popular Koteeswara Iyer composition Arul seyya venum ayya. Every word of the Krithi was full of bhAvam. J.Vaidhyanathan sir’s mridangam support needs no introduction nor words of praise, as captivating as ever. Sydney’s own Kishan Jeyendran did a commendable job on the Tabla.Not only was Arunji’s uccharippu(pronunciation of words) full of Bhakti but also he was a total performer in true sense of the word! Such a pleasure to have watched him sing. He concluded his singing with a popular Vittal Bhajan called Theertha Vittala where he left the audience high by having them sing along with him the divine name of the Lord. Ah, splendid!
Following O.S. Arun was Sikkil Gurucharan. After the energy that Arun left us with, GCs soft and smooth voice took time to sink into our hearts. The aalapanai in Naganandhini set the tone for the concert. An intricate Pallavi in Varali with Ragamalikai including different nadais was neatly done as well. He finished off his concert with a handful of Mahakavis compositions which were nothing but a sheer bunch of delight!
The day’s grand finale, and truly grand sheerly because of the authencity that Sangeetha Kalanidhi O.S. Thyagarajan sir brings to the table. A seventh generation musician from Saint Thyagaraja’s family, OST sir treated everyone to some of the choicest krithis of the saint composer. Gems like Theliyaleru(Dhenuka), Marubalga(Sri Ranjani), Ihaka velasina(Balahamsa), Vina Radhana Manavi(Devagandhari) and Rama Deivama(Surutti) were on display. Following these, the main piece of the night, an extremely elaborate and wholesome Thodi was rendered. And the time wasn’t enough we felt, as he could have kept us mesmerised with his extempore of swarams which the violin maestro Embar Kannan had to keep pace with. Overall, a true delight and Muruganin maru peyar(Behag) was like a beautiful cherry topping for the concert.
The second day began with a mega dance musical Yadhava Madhava which illustrated Lord Shri Krishna’s tale right from his birth to adulthood and all the leelas he did in between. The children and ladies who performed were just jaw-droppingly stunning !! After lunch, Carnatica brothers sang a selection of not so common krithis from a variety of composers ranging from Mysore Maharaja(Sri Jaladharam Ashrayamyaham) to Ramanathan Sivan’s ekkAlitthulum maravene in Nattai Kurinji. They finished off with a beautiful thillana tharAna in Valaji ragam.
Post tea break, the hall was resonant with two lovely instruments – the violin and the veena by the husband and wife duo – Ganesh and Jayanthi. Strings attached as they called it, was an absolute pleasure to the audience. The low, husky notes of the veena totally complemented the high notes and shrill tones of the violin. A lot of lightning speed patterns(Raga Pravahams) in Nattai which were an absolute afternoon treat and the calming Kanada that followed were both unforgettable. Clearly this was music anyone would enjoy after a stressed day at work on an infinite loop 🙂
The evening’s much awaited and exciting event was TM Krishna’s concert. A full house of audience welcomed TMK, holding their breaths for what would follow. Starting with Kamboji Tiruvadi Charanam in what I can best describe as an elephant’s gait, made everyone feel relaxed. The talented Kanjira player Sri Sundar Kumar got a chance to play the thani after TMK sang neraval up to the higher Pa which was beautifully built up.
Then came a Thanam in Gaulai(surprise #1) followed by Dudugu Gala in which he let Muruga Boopathy to play a thani aavarthanam. Shifting gears from there, the popular and cherished Manavinala kinchara in Nalinakanthi was rendered most beautifully. Could feel how delighted everyone in the hall was and see them grinning broadly from side to side. Following this, there was another thanam in Bhairavi where the Ragam singing was really gold standard. Though it was two thanams too much, Shyama Shastri’s sari yevaramma was enjoyable to say the least. After a solid Bhairavi, came Baro Krishnayya and a couple of audience requests including Pankaja lochana, Vagaladi bodhana, Kahaan ke patheek and Vaishnava Janatho. Overall a very satisfying end to Day-2’s proceeds.
The day started with Charulatha Mani’s Isai Payanam as a tribute to MS Amma. She is known for her skilful demos of ragas and krithis with their meanings so it was a bit of demoing plus singing all the while. Post lunch was the amazing Saketharaman who is really climbing up the ladder of a Karnatic musician’s worthiness and repute. His singing is becoming better with age like fine wine and Deva Deva Kalayamithe really set tone to the whole concert. Following right after was Brovamma in Neelambari – such a soothing rendition , cajoling Goddess Kamakshi. Sikkal Meviya, done as a tribute to MS Amma on her centenary year was feet tapping, filled with bhAvam and a Kambhoji treat to all music lovers. The aalapanai was neat and touched all the notes up to the higher octave Pa with clarity ; neraval too was brisk and precise. After this was a well-presented RTP in Sindhu Bhairavi with Khamas and Revathi ragams set to Thisra Jathi Ata Talam and finishing with a ragamalikai Sarangan Marugane.
As soon as Saketharaman’s concert finished, the audience were abuzz for coffee break and the much-awaited Ra-Ga’s performance on stage. The excitement was visible, with young and old and various ethnic groups getting ready to listen to their favourites. The concert started off beautifully with Maathe Malayadhwaja(dharu varnam in Khamas). A brisk viruttham Agara muthala etthendru in Nattai followed to set pace to the concert. Following this was the audience’s favourite Reethigowlai and the sisters’ favourite Ragarathnam Alikache which truly sounded like a 1000 ‘swaralaya’ garlands to the Lord. Annapoorne in Sama was a neat rendition. The main piece of the evening was in Simhendramadhyamam by Mysore Vasudevacharyar, ninne nammithinayya. The raga aalapanai included graha bedhams to Saveri with ri as pa and was highly detailed. True to their word, was a good piece for all students to learn from. The RTP started with ragam singing in Sahana. A galore of ragams including gowlai, saramathi, hamsanadham, brindavani-jog(both in graha bedham presentation), poorvikalyani were sung. A dwi-nadai pallavi in Khanda jathi triputa talam was presented. First half thisram and second half in chaturashra nadais. The glides across various ragams in changing nadais was lovely to follow as a rasika. They breezed through the whole pallavi effortlessly and finished the concert off with Eppadi Padinaro(Abheri) and Chala Vithoba (Abhang in Maruva Behag), which were both delightful.
The evening’s last program was a Jugalbandhi in Raga Charukesi by Mysore Nagaraj and Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. The raga elaborations of both parties were both characteristic of their own styles(one Hindustani and one Karnatic). Tabla by Himanshu Mahant was deft and JV on mridangam , needless to say was taking the audience along with him. Overall a heavenly experience for the listeners.
Here we are, all eagerly awaiting the next year’s concert season. Until then, enjoy listening to lots of music 🙂