H K Venkatram & Murad Ali Khan – Sree Rama Seva Mandali – April 24, 2017

April 24 is Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday and his 44th Birthday will be remembered for a grand century scored by the Carnatic Violin & Hindustani Sarangi Jugalbandi of Sri H K Venkatram (HKV) and Ustad Murad Ali Khan (MAK), at the Fort High School Grounds, under the aegis of Sree Rama Seva Mandali.

HKV and MAK performed with Sri K V Prasad on Mridangam, Pt. Ravindra Yavagal on Tabla and Sri Guruprasanna on Khanjira.

  1. Sami Ninne – Sree Ragam (Varnam)
  2. Adamogi Galade – Charukesi
  3. ? – Poorvi
  4. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Kalyani / Yaman
  5. Bhagyada Lakshmi / ? – Madhyamavathi / Bhoopal Todi (?)
  6. Vaishnava Jana to
  7. Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram
  8. Mangalam

The concert was planned in such a way that HKV and MAK played solo for 30 minutes each followed by the most awaited Jugalbandi.

A brisk start to the evening in the form of Sree Raga Varnam in two speeds set the stage for some soulful music to follow. Charukesi is one of my most favorite and haunting (for good) ragas. Soul stirring aalapana by HKV left the audience in awe and the krithi that followed was Adamodi Galade, one of the remarkable compositions of Saint Thyagaraja. It ended with some interesting patterns of kalpana swaras, in multiple nadais, with all three wonderful percussionists embellishing them through their anticipations.

MAK took off to play a short & a very soothing Poorvi aalap, and followed it up with a composition. Ravindra Yavagal provided great accompaniment to the composition and the swaras that followed. The timber of the wonderful instrument Sarangi and the atmosphere already created earlier by Charukesi made it more lively!

Time for Jugalbandi. It started with Kalyani and Yaman and gradually transitioned seamlessly to a few ragas, the scales of which are similar in both styles of music. Hindolam / Malkauns and Keeravani (which is common name in both styles) were the pairs to follow, with short aalapanas before coming back to Kalyani / Yaman. Tanam / Jod was only in Kalyani / Yaman and there were many “wow” moments that kept audience enthused all the way. Pallavi Rama Rama Kalyana Rama Raghurama Maampaahi is set to Adi Talam. Ragamalika swaras followed in BegadaNalinakanthiPilu (Kapi) and couple of other ragas which I couldn’t identify, before ending it in a grand way in Hamsanandi / Sohini. HKV played the swaras till the AtiTara Sthayi Shadjamam that left audience spell-bound and marked a fitting end to a wonderful RTP. I understand it must be very complex and the way MAK played swaras at high speeds was a treat to watch and listen! Tani Avarthanam by K V Prasad, Guruprasanna and Ravindra Yavagal was quite exciting though it was a tad long. They had to beat all the odds created by the sound guy and they did it with finesse!

The next piece is a Jugalbandi in compositions that were somewhat similar. Bhagyada Lakshmi in Madhyamavathi was the pick from Carnatic and I don’t know the composition from Hindustani music. The ragam sounded a bit like Carnatic Bhoopalam. A couple of famous Bhajans Vaishnava Jana To and Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram followed, before concluding the concert with Mangalam in both systems of music.

It indeed was a beautiful concert to be remembered for long long time. This was my second concert (only) of the Rama Navami season (which is very less by my standards) and all I can say is the sound system needs a lot of improvement. Sree Rama Seva Mandali has been doing a great service to the cause of music every year but the sound has been a bit of a problem many a time. I hope it too gets improved over time, as does the quality and lineup of concerts every year!

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Kumaresh & Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh – Times SwarSangam – March 12, 2017

A packed hall of the beautiful Chowdaiah Memorial Hall witnessed a great concert with new compositions, lovely experiments and innovative climaxes! Sri Kumaresh (K) and Smt Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh (JK) presented a fabulous “Strings Attached” concert with Sri Patri Satish Kumar on Mridangam and Sri Trichy Krishnaswamy on Ghatam.

  1. Kalyani
  2. Kaanada
  3. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Shanmukhapriya & Nattakurinji

As I parked my car at the auditorium, a soulful Kalyani aalapana by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman had just started on my audio system. In a hope of the ragam getting continued inside the auditorium, I turned it off and got off the car. Guess what! The first ragam of this concert was a delightful Kalyani. What a sheer coincidence it indeed was!! Both K and JK presented a very soothing aalapana! Lovely composition took off and I was wondering what it was as I never seemed to have heard it before. Thankfully for the benefit of people like me, K announced it was a “Strings Attached” special composition! The composition sounded as beautiful as Goddess Saraswathi! Kalpana swaras in a variety of combinations enthused the audience a lot.

Kaanada. Well, if God grants me a wish now, I would probably ask him what is the connection between me and this amazing raga! It just soothes me so much that I can never put in proper words. Yet another “Strings Attached” special composition in this ragam made by day! I am in love with this composition in Khanda Chaapu, the start of which sounded a bit closer to Sukhi Evaro in the same ragam. The composition ended with delightful kalpana swaras with some amazing follow-up by Satish Kumar and Krishna, to elevate the performance!

As we started to hear a soul stirring Shanmukhapriya, many including me thought it was RTP in that ragam. After the ragam was explored by both for very good amount of time, there came a twist. Nattakurinji took off from the hands of JK. I have heard it from her many times and I can easily claim, she owns the ragam. So this turned out to be a dwi-raga RTP and I may call it “Mysterious Duality” from here on (with permission)! Free flowing and fabulous Tanam by K and JK in both ragas had everyone on the edge of their seats. A beautiful pallavi was presented in both ragams mysteriously transitioning from one to the other and when the audience were expecting kalpana swaras, the stage was left for the percussion maestros. As they finished the typical initial avarthanam that had many wow moments, it was the time for kalpana swaras alternating between Nattakurinji by K and Shanmukhapriya by JK. I think the idea was to follow the same pattern an otherwise Tani Avarthanam would have concluded with. This experiment was interesting and the mukthayi was left for Satish Kumar and Krishna again to conclude their Tani and the RTP.

Standing ovation at the end of this RTP said it all! A wonderful concert with some refreshing ideas and new compositions was indeed a memorable treat on a Sunday morning!!

Bombay Jayashri & Shubha Mudgal – Times SwarSangam – March 12, 2017

A delightful Jugalbandi to end a wonderful double-header on a Sunday forenoon, by Smt. Bombay Jayashri (Carnatic Vocal) and Smt. Shubha Mudgal (Hindustani Vocal) served as a lunch feast for the packed audience of Chowdaiah Memorial Hall. Bombay Jayashri (BJ) and Shubha Mudgal (SM) performed with Sri Embar Kannan on Violin, Sri Manoj Siva on Mridangam, Sri Aneesh Pradhan on Tabla and Sri Sudhir Nayak on Harmonium.

  1. SubhaPantuvarali / Todi
  2. Sankarabharanam / Devgiri Bilawal
  3. Sree / Desi
  4. Madhuvanthi (?)

The concert started with soul stirring aalaps from both BJ & SM and they chose to present different compositions from each classical system, by trying to show similarities and dissimilarities in both systems with regard to the raga chosen (as quoted by SM). While I am an illiterate in Hindustani Music, I am just writing whatever I heard or perceived today at the concert from SM. This statement in no way intends to mean that I know anything in Carnatic Music! SM chose to sing a piece by her Guru Pt. Ramashreya Jha in Todi while BJ performed a rare krithi Nee samanamevaru lerani in SubhaPantuvarali by one of the greatest Carnatic Musicians, G N Balasubramanian. Both systems were weaved into a very beautiful structure, alternating between the wonderful musicians.

The second ragam was Devgiri Bilawal. The grand Sankarabharanam of Carnatic tradition closely moves with this raga (as quoted by BJ). Interesting to see the melodic instruments’ jugalbandi in this set, by Embar Kannan on Violin and Sudhir Nayak on Harmonium. Embar’s rendition of Sankarabharanam was pristine and well, my tryst with the ragam continues! While I don’t know the composition SM took up, BJ sang the beautiful krithi of Saint Thyagaraja, Swara Raga Sudha. Let me not try to explain about the renditions as I can never do justice to it. Soulful! Enough said!!

Time for Sree ragam and it’s closer sister Raag Desi. Muttuswamy Deekshitaar’s composition Sree Varalakshmi was presented by BJ while SM presented a composition of her Guru Pt. Ramashreya Jha. It sounded as if both systems of music are trying to showcase the richness of ragas owned, in a very lucid way. While it highlighted similarities, it also highlighted how they are dissimilar to each other too!

Tani Avarthanam as a start of the song was an innovative experiment, allowing the percussion artistes to demonstrate their ideas without being affected by the composition or the swara patterns that usually follow. Manoj Siva and Aneesh Pradhan did a fabulous job of presenting the jugalbandi of Mridangam and Tabla. The krithi that followed brought back fond memories of a recent jugalbandi by BJ and Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh that I attended. BJ took up Sadasiva Brahmendra’s Tunga Tarange Gange while SM presented a composition by Aneesh Pradhan. Earlier I heard the Hamsadhwani version of it, composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman and it is the Madhuvanthi version of it (composed by BJ herself) that was presented in this concert. This composition marked a perfect end to a Jugalbandi, like Ganga flowing all the way till South and perhaps meeting Godavari, to make all the lands fertile in the process!

TOI did a great job of bringing great combinations in this jugalbandi festival and my first “vocal” jugalbandi can’t get any better than featuring two stars of both traditions!