P. Unnikrishnan @ Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai

Venue: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Main Auditorium, East Mada St., Mylapore, Chennai

Date: 29 Nov 2006

Organizer: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan & Kala Pradarshini

Vocal: Sri P.Unnikrishnan

Violin: Sri S. Varadarajan

Mridangam: Sri Srimushnam Raja Rao

Ghatam: Sri N. Guruprasad

List of songs:

1) sAmI nI tODI (varnam) – pantuvarALi – Adi – vINai kuppaiyer (O)

2) sarasIruhAsana – nATTai – Adi – puLiyUr doraiswAmy iyer (S)

3) nI irangAyenil – aTANA – Adi – pApanAsam sivan

4) kAmAkshI kAmakOTi – simhEndramadyamam – rUpakam – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (ANS)

5) murugA murugA – sAvEri – misra chApu – periyasAmi thUran

6) inta sOwkhya – kApi – Adi – thyAgarAja (AST)

7) dikku teriyAda – rAgamAlikA – Adi – subramaNya bhArati

8 ) rAdhA samEthA – misra yaman – Adi – ??

9) karAravindEna (viruttam) – rAgamAlikA

kalyANa gOpAlam – sindhubhairavi – kanDa chApu – nArAyaNa tIrtar

10) eppO varuvArO – jOnpuri – Adi – gOpAlakrishna bhArati

11) kurai onrum illai – rAgamAlikA – Adi – c.rAjagOpAlachAri

12) puLLi kaLAbamayil – kAvaDi chindu – Adi – aNNAmalai reDDiyAr

13) vijayagOpAlatE (mangaLam) – suruTTi – Adi – nArAyaNa tIrtar

(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)
Detailed raga alapanas were done only for simhEndramadyamam and kApi. Both these alapanas were very well done by Sri Unnikrishnan and later elucidated succinctly and in a very beautiful fashion on the violin in less than half the time by Sri S. Varadarajan. Sri Unnikrishnan showed some very good prayogas in these alapanas. When Sri Unnikrishnan sang “nI irangAyenil” and then started the simhEndramadyamam alapana, it looked as though he is going to sing the songs from his earlier commercial recording release “Anandam” one by one. But luckily, he didn’t sing “unnai allAl” and took up “kAmAkshi kAmakOTi”. I was also relieved when he took up kApi for the main piece and was happy I didn’t have to hear him sing karaharapriyA again, which has been kind of his favorite these days. He has sung almost the same karaharapriyA alapana with graha bhedam done using rishabam, gAndhAram and madhyamam as shadjam one after the another in many of his concerts now. I have heard two of those concerts in Chennai itself in the last 2 months. I heard from a friend of mine that he repeated the same thing in a concert in Delhi a few days back.

Sri Varadarajan on the violin proved why he is one of the best violin accompanists in the field today. He was clearly a class apart. Sri Srimushnam Raja Rao on the mridangam was his usual self, blasting his way to glory at times while playing with sowkhyam for the most part. Sri N. Guruprasad on the ghatam was allowed to prove his mettle (in fact I must say allowed to play the ghatam) only in the taniavartanam which comprised of the chatusra and the kanDa naDais.

Priya Sisters @ Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai

Venue: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Main Auditorium, East Mada St. , Mylapore, Chennai

Date: 28th Nov 2006

Organizers: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan & Kala Pradarshini

Vocal: Priya SistersHaripriya & Shanmukhapriya

Violin: Sri M.A. Krishnaswamy

Mridangam: Sri Pathri Satish Kumar

Khanjira: Sri B.S. Purushottaman

List of songs:

1) sAmI daya (varnam) – kEdAragOwLa – Adi – tiruvOtriyUr tyAgayyA

2) shakti gaNapatim – nATTai – rUpakam – harikEsallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (S)

3) mApAla velasika – asAvEri – Adi – thyAgarAja

4) sundarEshwarA nIyE tuNai – maNirangu – rUpakam – pApanAsam sivan (AS)

5) sarasijanAbha sOdari – nAgagAndhArI – rUpakam – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

6) dEvAdi dEva – sunAdavinOdini – Adi – mysore vAsudEvAchar (AS)

7) thAyE Ezhai – bhairavi – Adi – pApanAsam sivan

8 ) sarOja daLanEtri – shankarAbharaNam – Adi – syAma sAstri (ASNT)

9) vEdam bevvani – rEvati – Adi – annamAchArya

10) aiyyE methakaDinam – punnAgavarALi – Adi – gOpalakrishna bhArati

11) nityAnandakarI (viruttam) – sindhubhairavi

      sarvEshwari jagadIshwari hE mAtru rUpa mahEshwarI – sindhubhairavi – misra chApu – ??

12) srI chakra rAja – rAgamAlikA – Adi – agastya

13) kurai onrum illai – rAgamAlikA – Adi – c. rAjagOpAlachAri

14) uyyALa lUgumA srI satya sAi – yamunAkalyANi – kanDa chApu – rAjEshwara rAo

15) pavamAna (mangaLam) – sOwrAshtram – Adi – thyAgarAja

(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)

Very good raga alapanas done especially for sunAdavinOdini and shankarAbharaNam. Post-shankarAbharaNam part of the concert, which comprised of thukkadas, was executed very well. Rasikas’ requests for “uyyALa lUgumA” and “kurai onrum illai” were honored. Taniavartanam was played in the chatusra and sankIrNa naDais.

The season is on

Chennai December Music Season 2006 is on !! Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has already started its concert series and its just a matter of a few days before other Sabhas follow suit. Its sad though that I would be missing out on a significant number of concerts as I have to be away from Chennai for quite some time this December :-( .

Please click here for concert schedules.

Neyveli Santhanagopalan @ Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai

Venue: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Main Auditorium, East Mada Street, Mylapore, Chennai

Date: 26 Nov 2006

Organizers: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan & Kala Pradarshini

Vocal: Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan

Violin: Sri M.A. Sundareswaran

Mridangam: Sri Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam

Khanjira: Sri Mayavaram Somasundaram

List of songs:

1) chalamEla (varnam) – darbAr – Adi – tiruvOtriyUr tyAgayya

2) girirAja sutA – bangaLa – Adi – thyAgarAja (S)

3) sObillu – jaganmOhini – rUpakam – thyAgarAja (OS)

4) subramaNyEna rakshitOham  – sudha danyAsi – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (OS)

5) sItApatE – kamAs – Adi – thyAgarAja (ANS)

6) vAnchatOnu – karnaranjani – Adi (tisra gati) – harikEsanallur muthiAh bhAgavathar

7) swara rAga sudhA – shankarAbharaNam – Adi – thyAgarAja (AST)

8 ) Adum ….. (viruttam) – bAgEswari

Eru mayil Eri (tiruppugaZh) – bAgEswari – kanDa chApu – aruNagirinAta

9) vasudEva sutam (viruttam) – shudha sArang

sanchara dadara – shudha sArang – Adi – jayadEva

10) karpagamE – madyamAvati – Adi – pApanAsam sivan

11) pavamAna (mangaLam) – sOwrAshtram – Adi – thyAgarAja

mangaLam kOsalEndrAya (mangaLa slOkam) – suruTTi

(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)

I went to the concert with very low expectations but was rewarded with music of the highest quality. Sri Santhanagopalan was in prime form throughout. His “subramaNyEna rakshitOham” is still ringing in my ears. The kalpana swarams he put at “venkatEshwara nAma rUpENa” were simply out of the world and resembled the way Sri T.N. Seshagopalan would have sung them. The raga alapanas were so pure. The best part was the step-by-step sangathis Sri Santhanagopalan put for each song. He was very apprecative of all the other artists on stage and was a picture of complete involvement when he sang. The way he appreciated the lyrics while singing clearly showed that he understood the songs completely. Overall, a very enjoyable experience. If this form of his continues, each concert of his this season is just going to be an absolute listeners’ delight.

Sri Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam was as usual in prime form. He played complex sollus at terrific speeds with ease and just blasted his way through. Sri Mayavaram Somasundaram who played the khanjira must be the oldest person on this planet I have seen in a while now. I think he must easily be in his 70s or 80s. What he played is commendable for his age and it led Sri Bhaktavatsalam to remark during the kuraippu in the taniavartanam: “Old is gold”.

Sikkil Sisters @ Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam, Chennai

Venue: Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam, 5, Thiagarajapuram, Chennai

Date: 25 Nov 2006
Flute Duet: Sikkil Sisters – Smt. Kunjumani & Smt. Neela

Violin: Sri M.R. Gopinath

Mridangam: Sri Pathri Satish Kumar

Khanjira: Sri K.V.R.S. Mani

List of songs:

1) sikkil singAravEla (varnam) – rItigOwLa – Adi – sikkil sisters

2) srI raghukula – hamsadwani – Adi – thyAgarAja (OS)

3) nATimATa marachitivO – dEvakriyA – Adi – thyAgarAja

4) dorakuNA – bilahari – Adi – thyAgarAja (AS)

5) Eti janma – varALi – misra chApu – thyAgarAja (O)

6) raghunAta nannu – suraranjani – Adi – ramanAtapuram srInivAsa iyengAr

7) srI kAntImatim – hEmavati – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (AST)

8 ) rAma nAmamE – dEsh – Adi – tanjavUr shankara iyer (O)

9) amudam Urum (tiruppugazh) – sindhubhairavi – Adi – aruNagirinAthar (O)

10) pavamAna (mangaLam) – sOwrAshtram – Adi – thyAgarAja

(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram,  T=taniavartanam)

It was a fitting finale to the Veterans Music Series organized by Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam. Sikkil Sisters, whose name is synonymous with the flute, gave a great performance at the Samajam. Age has taken its toll on the sisters, who walk and talk very slowly. However, once they take the flute in their hands, its only heavenly music that comes out. The sisters started the concert by welcoming the few people who were present in the name of an audience. They introduced their accompanists and spoke highly of each of them. A very good way to start a concert which is missing from the concert scene these days. They also announced the song details before every song they played, which again is very very essential in instrumental music concerts where it can become difficult for many at times to identify the song being played.

Detailed alapans were done for bilahari and hEmavati. Neraval was however not done for any song. Their rendition of the songs on the flute were so good that one could feel as though someone is sitting on the stage and soulfully singing them. Years of experience playing concerts together also meant that whenever both of them played, they played in perfect unison.

Sri M.R. Gopinath faithfully followed whatever they played. His individual essays of the raga alapanas very melodious. Sri K.V.R.S. Mani provided decent accompaniment.

But the true star of the day for me, yet again, was Sri Satish Kumar on the mridangam. He was, as usual, awesome … simply awesome. He is like a blotting paper. He quickly absorbs whatever the main artist sings/plays and immediately  translates them on the mridangam. He is a mridangam artist par excellence and one of the best accompanists I have ever heard. His imagination also knows no bounds. This can be seen for example in the way he plays the endings for songs quickly composing them based on how the song ends or based on a korvai which the main artists have sung/played or for example in the way he plays the ending korvai during the taniavartanam which just fuses into the beginning of the verse at which the taniavartanam had been given to him. He is sure to enter the hall of fame as one of the best mridangam artists of all times if he continues like this.

Dhoom 2 – Review

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If you go to the movie looking for some non-stop action, you might mostly end up disappointed. After all, Dhoom 2 is a bollywood movie and how can a bollywood movie that is looking to be a hit do without songs? And it is the songs that come in all sorts of odd places and start playing spoilsport. Many parts of the movie just drag on to add to the woes. There are a few good sequences …. for example the train robbery scene at the start, Hrithik’s escape after he commits the theft in the museum and the modus operandi of the theft itself.

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I think Dhoom 2 in its present form might have been a total disaster had it not been for Hrithik Roshan. Who knows … it might still end up as one. Without Hrithik, it would have been kind of difficult to sit through those scenes that seem to just drag on endlessly and those songs that have such an ordinary music that even dolby digital can’t do anything. Hrithik simply overshadows Abhishek who just doesn’t look capable enough to match him in anything. I was just thinking in the movie hall that the director and his crew had made a good decision not to bring Hrithik and Abhishek together in any of the songs, when this song suddenly came up that has both of them. Abhishek looks just short of stupid in it. He really needs to somehow improve his dancing skills. They are woefully inadequate.

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Bipasha Basu has been totally wasted … her presence in the second half seems to be just to give Uday Chopra some female company he is badly in search of. Aishwarya Rai at least has some role to be played in the movie. That being said, Uday has acted well I must say. Some of his day-dreaming scenes that appear on screen whenever he meets Bipasha are really funny.

About the story …. well I am not going to play spoilsport by revealing whatever little is there of it. If you like Hrithik, you should just go and watch this movie …. and thats probably all that is there to it too.

(Pictures courtesy www.dhoom-2.com

Shashank @ Star Vijay Sangeeta Sangamam, Chennai

Venue: Sivagami Petachi Auditorium, Luz Church Road, Mylapore, Chennai

Date: 23rd Nov 2006

Occasion: Star Vijay’s Aashirwad Sangeeta Sangamam 2006

Flute: Sri S. Shashank

Violin: Sri Mysore Srikanth

Mridangam: Sri Parupalli S. Phalgun

Tambura: Smt. Shirisha Shashank

List of songs (partial):

1) jalajAksha (varnam) – hamsadwani – Adi – manmbuchAvaDi venkaTasubbaiyer (A)

2) Ananda naTamADuvAr – pUrvikalyANi – rUpakam – nIlakanTa sivan (AS)

3) nagumOmu – AbhEri – Adi – thyAgarAja (AST)

4) bArO krishnayyA – rAgamAlikA – Adi – kanakadAsa

…..

Sri Shashank took about 15 minutes before the concert began to make sure that the sound system was set to its best performance levels. He then started his concert with a beautiful outline of the raga hamsadhwani. This was followed by the varnam jalajAksha where he played the pallavi, anupallavi, mukthayi swaram, charanam and the chitta swarams in the normal and double speeds. The raga alapana of pUrvikalyANI that followed this was quite elaborate and done in parts by Sri Shashank and Sri Srikanth. Sri Srikanth’s essay of the raga was very melodious. Raga AbhEri was also elaborated nicely. I had to leave after bArO krishnayyA. I think Sri Shashank would have played one more composition after this as he was signalling for the same to the organizers.

While Sri Shashank played the flute at a very low pitch (I think it was 1″), the mridangam’s pitch was exactly one octave higher which resulted in metallic, tabla-like sounds emanating from it. Sri Phalgun played very well. He was, for example, able to exactly “play” the varnam on his mridangam in both the normal and the double speeds. His taniavartanam was short and sweet and the korvai he played to end it was very well framed so as to lead to the start of the portion of the song where taniavartanam had been given to him.

Two key takeaways for artists from the concert:

1) Sri Shashank took considerable time to get the sound system set right. He made sure that the accompanists also did a mic-test. He even asked the audience for feedback on the audio. Although some people around me were visibly annoyed due to the delayed start, this made sure that the listening experience was much better once the concert started. Many artists today start singing/playing once everyone is ready with his/her instruments only to realize immediately that all is not well.

2) Sri Shashank communicated well with the audience (in terms of telling what he is going to play or what he played etc or talking about the concert/ concert format itself before he started playing). This is something very few Carnatic artistes do. I feel that good communication with the audience is especially required in instrumental concerts and in concerts where not-so-well-known compositions are played.