Abhishek Raghuram – Yamini 2020 @ IIM Bangalore – Jan 25, 2020

My first concert of 2020 is indeed a special one, by a special artiste, in a venue that always has a special place in my heart! Abhishek Raghuram delivered a feast for Yamini 2020 at IIM Bangalore, with HM Smitha on Violin, K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Giridhar Udupa on Ghatam. This Yamini is a different one for me, for I am used to coordinating and running all around in the previous few years and but this time I was able to listen to and enjoy the music that flew with no bounds!

  1. Swara Raga Sudha – Sankarabharanam
  2. Emi JesitheNemi – Todi
  3. Sarasa Sama Dana – KapiNarayani
  4. Balagopala – Bhairavi
  5. Thillana – MohanaKalyani

Magical Sankarabharanam phrases flew from Abhishek’s voice as he was doing sound check and it was no surprise that he took that ragam as his first piece of his concert and Yamini 2020! The grandeur of the ragam was brought out in a very few phrases in the brief aalapana. Thyagaraja’s masterpiece Swara Raga Sudha was sung in a sublime way. The Kalpana Swaras in both speeds were brilliant and Smitha had returned very well.

Very different and fresh shades of yet another grand ragam, Todi, were brought out by Abhishek, in a detailed aalapana. He was immersed in the ragam and he also made sure the packed Open Air Theatre of IIM Bangalore was too completely! Abhishek suddenly transitioned to a krithi while singing the aalapana and that was a pleasant surprise for all. The krithi, yet another Thyagaraja’s composition was very rendered soulfully. Swaras in both speeds were sung at Kantiki Menu and Smitha yet again showed her brilliance in responding to Abhishek’s swara patterns. Jayachandra and Udupa played subtly to enhance the beauty of the composition!

When Abhishek is in full flow, nothing stops him. He took up yet another ragam for a detailed expansion in KapiNarayani. An outstanding aalapana by him was summed up eloquently by a short and sweet return by Smitha. The famous Sarasa sama dana bheda danda chatura was rendered beautifully with an enticing Niraval followed by excellent round of Kalpana Swaras. Tani Avarthanam by Jayachandra and Udupa drew great applause from audience.

Abhishek was not done yet. There is a reason why I called this concert a feast!! He sang yet another detailed expansion of ragam Bhairavi bringing out the beauty of it with chaste phrases. Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s masterpiece, Balagopala became the pièce de résistance of this concert!

The concert ended with a Thillana of his maternal granduncle, Maestro Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, in raga MohanaKalyani.

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh – Music Academy – Dec 30, 2019

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh presented a splendid concert at the Annual Music Festival of the Music Academy, Chennai, with K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Trichy Krishnaswamy on Ghatam.

  1. Varnam (Vanajakshi) – Kalyani
  2. Aparadhamunanorva – Rasali
  3. Kadaikkan Vaithennai – Begada
  4. Emanine – Mukhari
  5. Ramachandram Bhavayami – Vasantha
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Keeravani
  7. Pibare Ramarasam – Ahir Bhairav
  8. Thillana – Khamas
  9. Kamakshi Lokasakshi – Madhyamavathi

The concert started on a divine note with the famous Adi Tala Varnam, Vanajakshi, in Kalyani ragam, in a very unhurried way. A rare Rasali aalapana followed. Thyagaraja’s krithi AparadhamulaNorva was presented with poise and the scintillating kalpana swaras set the tone for the rest of concert.

It was time for the beautiful Begada to be engulfed at the Music Academy. Jayanthi presented the ragam and some of the sangathis around Madhyamam were for the Gods, by the Goddess! Blessed were all of us mortals, who happened to be there in the Music Academy that evening! A Tamil composition of Ramaswamy Sivan, Kadaikkan Vaithennai was amazing. Jayanthi played brilliant swaras to sum up what was a delightful Begada!!

A brief soul stirring Mukhari aalapana was followed by Subbaraya Sastry’s composition Emanine ni mahima telpudunamma. Indeed, it is very difficult to delineate the power (mahima) of Goddess Kamakshi and the greatness of Jayanthi’s playing. The composition ended on a sedate note to keep the audience guessed which ragam was going to be picked next.

Vasantha is one of the all-time favorites for most of the rasikas and artistes. The moment Jayanthi started a phrase or two of it, I could hear whispers of “Vasantha” and happy faces around in the Music Academy. Jayanthi presented the ragam with a sublime flow of magical phrases. Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s masterpiece Ramachandram Bhavayami followed and the Kalpana Swaras weaved the beauty of the ragam and her virtuosity in right blend to make it memorable. Jayachandra Rao and Krishna played extremely well to enhance the beauty of her presentation.

The pièce de résistance of the evening was the Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Keeravani. The ragam was so soulful that I had tears in my eyes at the end of it. The depth of the ragam is brought out in the elaborate ~13 minute aalapana marked with chastity and her control over the grand instrument, the Saraswathi Veena. Towards the end of ragam, Jayanthi played some magical phrases for almost a minute without using her right hand, that will be remembered for long long time. Mellifluous Tanam was the pinnacle of the evening. It is usually considered very difficult to expand Tanam for more than a few minutes but Jayanthi is an exception! She played Keeravani Tanam with outstanding ability for close to 14 minutes!! Pallavi was in Adi Talam (2 kalai) which Jayanthi played in three different ragas as well, MalayamaruthamAarabhi and Behag. Jayachandra and Krishna complemented her presentation very well. After playing the Pallavi in 4 speeds, she played some brilliant swaras in all 4 ragas to sum up the grand RTP with an alluring Korvai. Tani Avarthanam was very good and received great applause from the audience. Atypical of Chennai rasikas, the audience were stuck to the seats even while and after Tani Avarthanam – such is the effect Jayanthi’s music was on the them!

A brief sketch of Ahir Bhairav followed by enchanting Pibare RamaRasam and Thillana in ragam Khamas brought the magical end to the concert. The curtains were down with a richly deserved, long standing ovation after Jayanthi played her trademark Mangalam, Shyama Sastri’s Kamakshi Lokasakshini, in Madhyamavathi!!

Some concerts get etched into the heart forever and this concert by Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh stands to be one among them.

Wishing everyone a very happy new year 2020 and an eventful decade!!

Lalgudi GJR Krishnan & Vijayalakshmi – Chennai Fine Arts – Dec 28, 2019

Lalgudi Siblings, GJR Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi, presented a delightful concert at Srinivasa Sastry Hall for Chennai Fine Arts, with J Vaidyanathan on Mridangam and T Radhakrishnan on Ghatam.

  1. Varnam – Bahudari
  2. Kanchadalaayatakshi – KamalaManohari
  3. Nadadina Maata – Janaranjani
  4. Enthani vinavintu ra – Urmika
  5. Atukaradani – Manoranjani
  6. Srinivasa Tava Charanam – Kharaharapriya
  7. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Charukesi
  8. Chinnanchirukiliye
  9. Thillana – Behag
  10. Pavamana Suthudu – Sourashtram

The concert started with a beautiful Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Thilllana in Bahudari. A quick outline of KamalaManohari by GJR was followed by Dikshitar’s KanchaDalaayatakshi. Some sangathis were simply amazing, and the swaras that followed were top class.

Viji played a delightful Janaranjani aalapana. It is so amazing how the Lalgudi bani gets the best of the ragam in such a short time! Thyagaraja’s composition Nadadina Maata was brilliant. GJR played a soulful Urmika which is very rare. Pallavi Seshaiyyar’s composition Enthani vinavinthu ra was a classic!

A brisk Atu karadani in Manoranjani served as a filler before the main ragam of the evening. Viji presented an elaborate & chaste Kharaharapriya and the feeling can’t be described in words. The aalapana showed the greatness of Lalgudi Bani to bring out raga essence, the beauty of the grand ragam and the her virtuosity, everything bundled into a sublime package! Papanasam Sivan’s Srinivasa Tava Charanam was enchanting and kalpana swaras were a treat to the audience. Interesting korvai brought this masterpiece a perfect end! Vaidyanathan and Radhakrishnan added great beauty to the presentation. Their Tani Avarthanam was quote engaging!

Charukesi is one of my favorite ragas and the Lalgudi school is actually responsible for that! GJR’s presentation of the ragam was soul stirring. Some of the phrases will haunt me for some time. It is difficult to hide the emotions when someone plays Charukesi with such intensity intertwined with great virtuosity in bowing and fingering – the artistes on stage were no exception! The pin drop silence in the small Srinivasa Sastry Hall enhanced the mood created by the magical hands of GJR Krishnan. A quick Tanam where both GJR and Viji complemented each other, was outstanding! As always, Viji sung the Pallavi before the duo played some delightful Niraval on it. The Kalpana swaras were played in ragamalika – DharmavathiKhamas, Hamirr Kalyani?Huseni before ending the grand RTP back in Charukesi. A memorablee RTP indeed and what more to ask for, when it is one of your favorite ragas!!

A beautiful Chinnanchirukiliye which was presented with great bhavam was one to cherish for long time! The concert ended with a composition of their Guru, Thillana in Behag, followed by Mangalam in Sourashtram!

The Hall was quite small in comparison to other Chennai sabhas that helped the audience to sit closer to the audience and the sound system was just perfect that really helped us enjoy and savour the concert!

Kumaresh & Jayanthi Kumaresh – Girinagara Sangeetha Sabha – Feb 3, 2019

Kumaresh and Jayanthi Kumaresh presented a wonderful concert for Girinagara Sangeetha Sabha, with K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam, Giridhar Udupa on Ghatam and Pramath Kiran on Morsing, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Sabha!

  1. Vanajakshi (Varnam) – Kalyani (Adi)
  2. Strings Attached Composition – Chakravakam
  3. Sri Dum Durge – SriRanjani
  4. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Behag

The concert started with a brisk Kalyani Varnam in the higher speed. After a brief soulful aalapana in Chakravakam, it was a creation of Kumaresh & Jayanthi that followed, exhibiting the complete range of the Violin and the Veena. Their compositions are so lilting, appear so simple and have the distinct characteristic, that can perhaps be called Strings Attached mudhra, which is inexplicable in words!

A chaste SriRanjani was the next in line. K & JK’s methodical exposition of this ragam is always a treat to listeners! Muthuswami Dikshitar’s masterpiece, the enchanting Sri Dum Durge was presented amidst a few dozens of students who were sitting on stage to accommodate space for people who were otherwise standing in the hall to listen to their magical presentation! I am fortunate to be one of them witnessing their fingers dance on the respective fingerboards, from the close quarters!! Scintillating SriRanjani swaras poured making it one of the most cherished presentations.

Pallavi in the RTP is usually prepared well in advance by most, if not all of the artistes. Here there is a twist – it was decided that Jayachandra Rao was going to challenge them with the pattern of his choice and they compose a Pallavi on the stage and present it!! A beautiful Behag ragam and sublime Tanam by the duo was the highlight of the evening. Some of Jayanthi’s glides and pauses are mind boggling and Kumaresh’s intense Tanam left us all yearning for more! Jayachandra played a brilliant solo in Misra Chapu highlighting the pattern of Pallavi and the duo responded with an amazing extempore Pallavi. There was no regular Tani Avarthanam segment as such – Udupa and Pramath too played their solos after the Trikalam and Swaras section respectively. Jayanthi played Saveri and Kumaresh played Reetigowla swaras. The duo ended the majestic RTP with a flurry of swaras in different ragas followed by a lovely pattern back in Behag. A spontaneous standing ovation for more than a minute just highlighted how much everyone appreciated and enjoyed the music.

Kumaresh and Jayanthi concluded their concert with a medley HarivasanamKamakshi Lokasakshi and a bit of Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma.

150 minutes of pure and divine music gave an exhilarating experience to everyone. The whole hall was full even at the end of the concert at around 9:20 PM speaking volumes about their music by itself!

Yamini 2019 – IIM Bangalore – Jan 25, 2019

We had a successful Yamini overnight at IIM Bangalore on Jan 25, on the occasion of the 70th Republic Day of India, for a 16th consecutive time!

The overnight started with a brilliant Guru Vandana by Vidwan Ghanakanta Bora. His co-dancers Smt. Anwesa Mahanta and Kum. Sanghamitra Bora have been very good, elevating the whole performance. The piece depicting the fight between Rama and Ravana indeed left the audience spellbound! They had very good musicians who added the aesthetic aural beauty to the concert! It indeed was a great and fitting start to Yamini 2019!

The mesmerizing siblings, Vidwan Lalgudi GJR Krishnan and Vidushi Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi presented a sublime concert. It was Pushya Bahula Panchami, the day Saint Thyagaraja attained Moksha and they played some splendid masterpieces like GnanaMosaga raada (raga PoorviKalyani), Ganamurthe (raga Ganamurthi) of the Saint. It is very fitting that they performed on this day, as they belong to the direct Shishya parampara (lineage) of Saint himself! A mellifluous elaboration of raga Mohanam followed by yet another masterpiece of Thyagaraja, MohanaRama, was indeed a treat to listeners. One of the senior most Carnatic Musicians and living legend, Sangitha Kalanidhi Prof. Trichy Sankaran played some exquisite Mridangam strokes to beautify their presentation all the way. I may say, Prof. Sankaran and Lalgudi bani (gharana) are perhaps made for each other! Sri K V Gopalakrishnan on Khanjira provided a great support. They played some popular compositions like Raghuvamsa Sudha on request and ended aptly with a Thillana composed by their Guru, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, in raga Desh. The standing ovation at the end of their concert was very long and befitting!

Vidushi Manjusha Kulkarni Patil presented a brilliant concert starting with a detailed aalap of raag JogKauns, and a bandish in Vilambit EkTaal and TeenTaal. Sri Prashant Pandav on Tabla and Sri Vyasmurti Katti on Harmonium  played very well complementing her melody. A soulful and enchanting aalap and jor-jhala in Sohni left the audience spellbound. She concluded the concert with a folkish dadra and a couple of Abhangs, on request.

Pt. Debasish Bhattacharya presented a soothing and a detailed JogKauns. He demonstrated the beauty of the raag in a languid way and was very well received by the audience at 3 AM!! Pt. Ravindra Yavagal played extremely well to enhance the presentation and it was all happy faces at the end of the concert!

Trichur Brothers, Vidwans Srikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan are the recent YSNA awardees and we are extremely happy to have hosted their debut performance for SPIC MACAY. Their much anticipated concert started with a soulful Syama Sastri’s Swarajathi masterpiece, Kamakshi, in raga Bhairavi. Brisk Vatapi Ganapathim Bhajeham in raga Hamsadhwani brought their energy out and the audience were enthralled with a variety of compositions for the next hour or so. Their father, Sri Trichur Mohan, yet another senior Mridangam artiste, played exceedingly well and L Ramakrishnan on Violin and Kovai Suresh on Ghatam provided great support. They concluded their concert with some of the popular pieces, ChinnanchirukiliyeVande Mataram and the famous English notes song composed by Sri Muttaiah Bhagavathar, having been inspired by the band in the Mysore kingdom, and popularized by his prime disciple and one of the most important musicians in Carnatic music history, Sri Madurai Mani Iyer.

Note – Concert info extracted from the e-mail sent to all core volunteers of SPIC MACAY by me, in the capacity of the event coordinator.

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh – Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira – Jan 5, 2019

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh gave an astounding concert at Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira Sankranthi Music Festival, with K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Giridhar Udupa on Ghatam.

  1. Chalamela (Varnam) – Nattakurinji
  2. Pancha Matanga – Malahari
  3. Nannu Vidachi Kadalakura – Reetigowla
  4. Niravadhi Sukhada – RaviChandrika
  5. Amma Ravamma – Kalyani
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Malayamarutham
  7. Sri Rama Chandra Kripalu – YamunaKalyani
  8. Thillana – Desh
  9. Kamakshi Lokasakshi – Madhyamavathi

My first concert of 2019 started with a beautiful elaboration of one of my favorite ragas, Nattakurinji. Varnam Chalamela had some interesting variations for last two Ettugada swaras and the start couldn’t be better! A brief sketch of Malahari followed. She distinctly highlighted Sa-Ri-Ma-Ga-Ri-Sa-Ri-Ga-Ri-Sa phrase to bring out the raga flavor in a very short span. I am sure it also helped illiterates like me to easily guess the ragam without further thinking! Dikshitar’s krithi Pancha Matanga was played very well. Mellifluous swaras in Malahari were indeed a treat!

A chaste elaboration of Reetigowla was heavenly. I am fortunate to hear the ragam again in a second consecutive concert of Dr. Jayanthi that I attended. Nannu Vidachi Kadalakura is generally sung in a languid style and is supposed to be very difficult to present on any instrument and this rendition was the best one can hear an instrument sing the composition! Lord Rama would certainly never move anywhere while she played!! Jayachandra followed her very well to beautify the presentation!

A brisk Niravadhi Sukhada was a surprise! The krithi gives a lot of scope to explore in the lovely ChittaSwaram which Jayanthi did, but her variations at start of Charanam Mamava Marakata.. were simply unbelievable! The muktayi at the end of swaras was simply god(dess)ly. She played some outstanding sequences before leading to Mamava Marakata.. back at Madhayam on higher octave!!

Soulful Kalyani was the main piece of the concert. The elaboration was very different and with some of the phrases Jayanthi explored the full octave, which was a crash course of sorts in exploring the queen of ragas! Yet another Thyagaraja’s masterpiece Amma Ravamma was presented beautifully. Some exquisite round of swaras which were repeated well by Jayachandra and Udupa in a sawal-jawaab fashion were concluded with a grand & interesting korvai.

Malayamarutham was another surprise of the evening! Ragam was classy with distinctly showing Nishadham in many ways. It was indeed one of the sublime renditions of the ragam that I ever heard! Tanam was meditative putting audience into a trance, that featured lovely transitions to AbhogiBilahari and back to Malayamarutham. She also sang the Pallavi set to Khanda jaathi Triputa Talam and concluded it with amazing swaras in all three ragas. Tani Avarthanam by Jayachandra and Udupa was interesting.

Sri Rama chandra kripalu was enchanting and upon Udupa’s request she played a Thillana, composition of Lalgudi Jayaraman in Desh, before ending the concert with her trademark Syama Sastri’s composition Kamakshi Lokasakshi.

It was heartening to see the crowd overflowing and some of them sitting outside the premises to listen to Dr. Jayanthi. A packed house till the end of the concert just speaks volumes about how much of an inspiration Jayanthi has been for the youngsters!

Wish you all a happy 2019!!

Saketharaman – The Music Academy, Chennai – Dec 26, 2018

Saketharaman presented a wonderful concert in the company of Akkarai Subhalakshmi on Violin, Anantha R Krishnan on Mridangam and Anirudh Athreya on Khanjira, at the Madras Music Academy.

  1. Palayasumam – Arabhi
  2. Sundaratara deham – Pantuvarali
  3. Amba Neelambari – Neelambari
  4. VaraNarada – VijayaSri
  5. Marakathavalli – Kambhoji
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Varamu & Saveri (dwi-raga)
  7. Aadu Chidambaramo – Behag
  8. Tirupugazh – Hamir Kalyani

Saketh started the concert with a slokam in Arabhi followed by Syama Sastri’s composition Palayasumam. Thyagaraja’s composition Sundaratara deham in Pantuvarali was very good, with a short yet intense niraval at ragadi samharam raghavam udaram followed by some scintillating swaras and nice poruthams. Both Akkarai and Anantha complemented Saketh well.

A very beautiful aalapana in Neelambari was a treat to the audience. These kind of ragas in slow pace actually add a great variety to the concerts! Having started with a slokam yet again, Manikyaveena.., he brought out his typical soulful rendition of Ponnaiah Pillai’s composition Amba Neelambari in a lovely fashion! A brisk VaraNarada served as a nice filler and lifted the energy in the auditorium. Flashy swaras in a variety of interesting patterns were to be savoured.

A languid Kambhoji aalapana by Saketh was simply outstanding. Akkarai also returned well but it was a bit too long. Dikshitar’s masterpiece Marakathavalli was presented very well. Niraval could have added more beauty. Some very nice swara patterns and poruthams were an absolute treat, with a brilliant korvai structured around Ga and Ma to sum it up. Akkarai returned swaras well with Anantha and Anirudh beautifying them too. Tani Avarthanam was played well but was eternally too long (close to 30 min). I think the co-artistes should keep a check on the time to allow the concert to happen as per the main artistes’ plan and not get carried away with the moments on stage. We were hardly left with 45 minutes to witness the much awaited RTP and other songs.

Saketh started with an amazing Varamu aalapana and transitioned well to Saveri. Violin return could have been shorter again. After elaborating each ragam separately, he sang small phrases alternating between two ragas in a very interesting manner. Certainly it is not the easiest of the jobs! He did similarly in Tanam as well. A dwi-raga pallavi with Poorvangam in Varamu and Uttarangam in Saveri with raga names in it, was composed very well. Varamulosagi Brovavayya Saveri Ragapriya Kaveri Rangayya was set to 35 beat cycle and the Talam chosen was innovative, 5 beats per cycle with kalapramanam decreasing in geometric progression! So first cycle will have 5 * 4 = 20 aksharas, second 5 * 2 = 10 and the last 5 * 1 = 5, with a total of 35. After an amazing Trikalam by Saketh, the swaras included both the ragas in each avarthanam followed by ragamalika swaras in Reetigowla and Kapi before concluding with an impressive korvai in two ragas! Outstanding stuff indeed to come up with such innovative ideas.

viruttam in Behag was followed by Gopalakrishna Bharatiyar’s composition Aadu Chidambaramo. The concert ended with a Tirupugazh in Hamir Kalyani and a traditional Mangalam.