N. Ravikiran @ Nadabrahmam, Chennai

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

Date: 09 June 2007

Organizer: Nadabrahmam Music Journal

Chitravina: Vid N. Ravikiran

Violin: Vid M.A. Sundaresan

Mrudangam: Vid Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman

Khanjira: Vid B. Sreesundarkumar

List of songs:

1) sAmi ninnE (varnam) – pantuvarALi – Adi – shaTkala narasayyA (O)

2) tatvamariya taramA – rItigowLa – Adi – pApanAsam sivan (S)

3) sItammA mAyammA – vasantA – rUpakam – tyAgarAja (ANS)

4) nI dayacE – yadukulakAmbOji – Adi – tyAgarAja (A)

5) banTurIti – hamsanAdam – Adi – tyAgarAja

6) pArvai onrE pOdumE – suruTTi – Adi – UthukkAdu venkaTa subbaiyer (AST)

7) smara sundarAnguni (jAvaLi) – paras – Adi – dharmapuri subbarAyar

8 ) tharayin mAnuDar (tiruppugazh) – nIlAmbari – Adi – aruNagirinAthar

9) nI nAma rUpa mulaku (mangaLam) – saurAshTram – Adi – tyAgarAja

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

I wouldn’t hesitate to say that today’s was one of the best concerts I have attended in the last 2-3 months. What else can one expect when such a team gets together to perform? The artists, masters in their fields, were just brilliant. The way they cohesed as a team and took the concert to a different level altogether is something every performer and every rasika present should have got inspired from.

The concert that lasted less than 2 hours in all started with the pantuvarALi varnam “sAmi ninnE” which was played in two speeds. Then came Sri Papanasam Sivan’s “tatvamariya taramA“. The genius in Sri Ravikiran just shone through in the way he played this song. It was exactly as though someone was sitting there and singing the song in its full glory. Kalpana swarams were put at the pallavi line. I have read at many places that Sri Palghat Mani Iyer just used to lift the level of a song by his accopaniment. I was not fortunate to be born in his period to hear him live and have been only able to hear him through recordings. I feel that if there are a few people today who can truly lift the level of a concert by their accompaniment, Sri Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman is surely one of them, if not the only one. The way he accompanied for this song is commendable. What amazing tonal clarity. What choice of sollus to go along with different parts of the song. What a fertile imagination !!!!! I cannot do anything but salute his genius.

The third song was “sItamma mAyamma” which followed a short alapana of vasantA by Sri Ravikiran. Again Sri Ravikiran just brought the song alive in front of me with very good accompaniment from the team. Neraval was done and kalpana swarams were put at “paramEsha vashiSTa parAshara nArada shaunaka shuka“. Both Sri Ravikiran and Sri M.A. Sundaresan were very good here. During the last round of kalpana swarams, Sri M.A. Sundaresan and Sri Umayalpuram Sivaraman stole the show by playing patterns alternatively and then joining together to finish off with a simple but elegant kOrvai.

Before the next song began, Sri Ravikiran announced that the anupallavi has a reference to “nAdabrahmA” (nAda brahmAnanda rasAkriti gala) and connects well with the organizing music journal. He said he chose the song as he felt it would be appropriate for the anniversary celebrations of the journal. The yadukulakAmbOji alapanas on both the chitravINA as well as the violin were again melodious treat to the ears. When the caraNam started, the line “vara mrudu bhASa susvara maya bhUSa” was played in the lower octave by both Sri Ravikiran and Sri Sundaresan. Sri Sivaraman pecked the left side of the mridangam so beautifully while this was on and it just seemed like there couldn’t have been a better way to play for the lower octave rendition of this line. It looked all the more great as it came after a 32 aksharam ending he played at the end of the anupallavi which had some very good use of ghumukhis and was in contrast to the slow start of the caraNam line.

A fast paced “banTurIti” followed suit. The word “viyavaiyya” from the pallavi line was played on the chitravINA in one of the sangatIs with four rishabams from the upper octave and this sounded really good.

After “banTurIti“, Sri Ravikiran played “ni pa” once or twice and “ma pa” once before proceeding to adjust the shruti. I was just sitting at the edge of my seat waiting to hear the first few notes/patterns that would reveal what the main raga of the day would be … and the first phrase brought a huge smile on my face. It was suruTTi, one of my favorite ragas. The 10.5 minute raga alapana that followed on the chitravINa was just superb. That was not all. Sri Sundaresan then started his version of the alapana and just held me spellbound. His start rhymed with “shrI venkaTagirIsham AlOkayE” and that itself was enough to bowl me over. While I was thinking whether a tAnam would follow and was praying God that a big detailed kriti be taken up subsequently, Sri Ravikiran started playing “pArvai onrE pOdumE“. This is the first time I am hearing him play this kriti and the first time I am hearing this kriti being played slowly. You would just have to hear Sri Ravikiran play to appreciate how much better the kriti sounds at a slower speed. In my humble opinion, a much better grip is got on the raga this way by the artist and more time is given to the rasikas to appreciate the lyrical as well as the melodic beauty. Kalpana swarams were put at the pallavi line to some very good accompaniment by Sri Sivaraman and Sri Sreesundarkumar. This was followed by the taniavartanam and what a taniavartanam it was !!!! A live lesson for any percussion enthusiasts assembled there. It was a typical Sri Sivaraman style taniavartanam that had elements that could be appreciated by almost everyone. If the tonal quality, the perfection in the sollus and the ringing “aRai chAppu” were enough to take casual listeners to the seventh heaven, the complex patterns played with such perfection, clarity and ease could bring any knowledgeable percussionist into submission. What beautiful “chAppu“s and “aRai chAppu“s were there !!!! You have to listen to them to experience them. Words fall short of describing them. I can just say that I have not heard such clear, ringing “aRai chAppu” from anyone else’s hands till now. Sri Sreesundarkumar was also very very impressive. He negotiated fast phrases with unbelievable ease.

A moving rendition of the jAvaLi “smara sundarAnguni” followed the taniavartanam with Sri Umayalpuram Sivaraman starting off with Sri Kumbakonam Azhaginambia Pillai style fast paced “tha ka dhi na“s played by cutting the dhi. Whenever the special prati madhyamam (which I think was introduced to Paras by Smt. T. Mukta) came, Sri Sivaraman would play a vibrating “dhi” with special effects on the left side and it would sound perfectly in sync with the prati madhyamam. A tiruppugazh in nIlAmbari and the traditional mangaLam in saurAshTram brought the curtains down.

Sri Ravikiran said during a lec-dem by Smt. Rama Ravi during last December season: “Our brain is like a microscope. The more knowledge we gain in an area, the more sharper our brain and the more details we are able to observe and appreciate“. Attending such concerts just keeps reminding me of how true this is, of how much more there is to be learnt about the seemingly boundless ocean that Carnatic music is and how every bit of additional learning helps appreciate the nuances even more.

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