T M Krishna – Sree Ramaseva Mandali – April 22, 2018

It started drizzling heavily as I was about to leave for the concert and I was contemplating if I should go ahead in the rain or not! In the hindsight, I made a good choice as T M Krishna (yet again) delivered an outstanding concert for Sree Ramaseva Mandali, with H K Venkatram on Violin, K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and B S Purushottam on Khanjira.

  1. Nagna Vipina Nagna Gagana – Kalyani
  2. Janaki Pathe – Kharaharapriya
  3. Manava Janma Doddadu – PoorviKalyani
  4. Nee Maatale (Javali) – PoorviKalyani
  5. Aanandeshwarena Samrakshitoham – AnandaBhairavi
  6. Vatapi Ganapathim – Hamsadhwani
  7. Brovamma Tamasamele – Manjhi
  8. Ragamalika Slokam followed by Vaishnava Janatoh

TMK was in a T20 mood as he hit a sixer with the first ball. A brief sketch of Kalyani followed by Nagna Vipina.., a composition that is part of Shishira Modha by Putina Narasimhachar. Brilliant Niraval!! HKV played an amazing Kharaharapriya and the Papanasanam Sivan‘s composition that followed had a top class Niraval yet again, at Sakala Mahidendra Nilamani Nibha Shareera paahi saketha naayaka.. and ended in some exhilirating swaras.

PoorviKalyani by TMK was meditative, with no Violin following him in the aalapana. The silence between the phrases was elevating it to a different level. I was expecting (rather hoping) Meenakshi Memudam Dehi but the composition happened to be Purandara Dasa‘s Manava Janma Doddadu. I believe he wanted to continue the same mood of the majestic ragam for some more time and requested HKV to play Tanam in PoorviKalyani. Both TMK and HKV did a beautiful Tanam before the former took off a rare Javali from nowhere and it was fabulous. The transition was interesting.. Tanam to Javali and back to brief Tanam again to end the PoorviKalyani for the night.

TMK announced that he was singing Ananda Bhairavi in Dikshitar‘s Sampradaya. It was so lilting and soulful, both from TMK and HKV. It was not the typical AB that is sung in concerts and had some Mukhari like passages which was interesting. A brief Hamsadhwani aalapana surprised everyone. How many times can you get to hear the one and only Vatapi Ganapathim as a main piece in a concert?! It was languid in typical TMK’s style including the swaras. Jayachandra Rao and BSP played wonderfully all through the concert and presented an enchanting Tani Avarthanam. BSP was outstanding!

Shyama Sastri‘s Brovamma in Manjhi is an icing on the cake. It was soul stirring and more importantly the way TMK presented, took the concert to a different level. I am not sure why there was a brief pause while singing the Charanam, but it appeared so timely and just provided the silence that made the impact effective.

The concert ended with a ragamalika Slokam followed by Vaishnava Janatoh, which he initially presented in a different ragam and eventually transitioned into the popular version of it.

Sound system played quite well luckily and had no hiccups. It was pure music with no disturbance for 3 full hours, which drenched the packed house of the huge pandal in the Fort High School Grounds!!

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Ronu Majumdar & H K Venkatram – Sree Ramaseva Mandali – April 18, 2018

The collaboration between ace flautist Ronu Majumdar and senior Violinist H K Venkatram happened to be a memorable one indeed. They performed Jugalbandi for Sree Ramaseva Mandali, with Arjun Kumar on Mridangam and Rajendra Nakod on Tabla.

  1. Vatapi Ganapathim – Hamsadhwani
  2. Manavi Alakincharadate – NalinaKanthi
  3. ? – Bageshri
  4. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Charukesi
  5. Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram

A meditative Hamsadhwani aalapana started the proceedings in an auspicious manner, with Ronu playing the ragam in typical Hindustani style and HKV in the chaste Carnatic way. They took the Pallavi and Anupallavi of Vatapi Ganapathim as the common composition and played some exquisite Kalpana Swaras. Wow!!.. the concert couldn’t get a divine better start than this!

HKV played an amazing NalinaKanthi before presenting the famous composition of Saint Thyagaraja, Manavi Alakincharadate in his typical style with some brilliant sangathis. The Kalpana Swaras were mellifluous and in a variety of patterns that left everyone in awe. Arjun Kumar enhanced the presentation very well.

Ronu played a soulful Bageshri before moving on to a lovely composition in Teen Tal. The extempore elaboration of the ragam in the form of Swaras was a treat for the audience. Rajendra Nakod played well to complement Ronu.

Charukesi is one of my favorite ragas and no wonder I was overwhelmed by their choice of the raga for the Jugalbandi. In my opinion it is one of the most interesting ragas, which gives happy feel in the first half of the notes S R2 G3 M1 and pathos feel around Dhaivatham and Nishadham in the latter half P D1 N2 S. One of my favorite musicians calls it a happy-sad raga! Soul stirring aalap and pristine Tanam was presented by both HKV and Ronu taking turns and the entire huge pandal was filled with the typical mood of the wonderful ragam. Pallavi was set to Adi Talam and was presented in a few wonderful patterns before moving on to the Ragamalika section. Ronu played NandMishra Pilu (?) and HKV played Revathi and Hamsanandi. The swaras played by both were melodious and energetic, with HKV playing till the Ati Tara Sthayi Shadjam in Hamsanandi before winding up the RTP with some scintillating swaras back in Charukesi. Tani Avarthanam by Arjun and Rajendra was top class and we didn’t know the time at all as we progressed this beautiful journey. The brief vote of thanks from the organizers perhaps reminded the audience it was already 10 minutes past 9 PM.

The concert ended with Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram played in multiple speeds. It was also nice to hear Ronu singing the composition too. He is absolutely a multi-faceted musician!

An amazing concert and the first collaboration between the two wonderful people and artistes, H K Venkatram and Ronu Majumdar, was a great success. May there be many more such collaborations for the benefit of audience who crave for melodious music!!

T M Krishna – Srivani Vidya Kendra – April 15, 2018

I am extremely delighted to have witnessed one of the best vocal concerts in the recent past. T M Krishna performed for Srivani Vidya Kendra’s RamaNavami festival with H K Venkatram on Violin, ArunPrakash on Mridangam and Guruprasanna on Khanjira.

  1. Thyagaraja Palayasumam – Gowla
  2. Ragam Tanam Krithi (Gopanandana Valaripu) – Bhushavali
  3. Nee mattume en engil – Mishra Kaapi
  4. Enduku Peddala vale Buddhi Iyyavu – Sankarabharanam
  5. Sagara Sayana Vibho – Bageshri
  6. Amar Janmobhumi

A brief outline of Gowla followed by the Thyagaraja Palayasumam, kicked off the concert in a grand way. Close to 25 minutes of pure bliss, with excellent Niraval at Bhogadiprada Srinagara sthila bhusuradhi vinutha valmika linga… and the delightful Kalpana swaras in three speeds. Arunprakash and Guruprasanna played excellent all through, subtly embellishing the melody.

A short Bhushavali ragam and Tanam by both TMK and HKV was sublime. The song Gopanandana followed by the brisk swaras lit up the entire auditorium.

TMK demonstrated his rich voice culture in more than 3 octaves, with a soulful Mishra Kaapi aalapana. He possibly reached the highest possible note on human voice (you never know, only he can better that next time) which left everyone in awe. As pristine as that, were his sancharas in the lowest octave too. He finally allowed the audience to take a breather after his awe-inspiring effort in presenting the ragam. Though there was no Violin return, it was already fulfilling by then. It was a composition of Perumal Murugan, set to tune beautifully by Arunprakash.

HKV was requested to play some ragam and he chose the grand Sankarabharabam! It is easily be one of the best renditions of the majestic ragam, that I have ever heard on the Violin. The composition Enduku Peddala vale buddhi iyyavu was first started by HKV and later continued by TMK. He had presented in an interesting pattern of Niraval (@ Veda Shastra Purana Tatvarthamu..) in three stages, separated by short bursts of Tani. Soukhyam is rarely found these days in the vocal music with the focus primarily on the power-packed concerts but TMK’s concerts are always different. Niraval in three speeds was not just lilting and soothing but also built the intensity in a way that left the audience mesmerized. Brilliant Tani Avarthanam by Arunprakash and Guruprasanna was enjoyed by everyone. It was already more than 1 hour into Sankarabharanam by then and we never felt even an iota of boredom. It was just the music at it’s very best!

A soul stirring Bageshri followed by MDR’s composition Sagara Shayana Vibho just elevated the concert to greater heights. These days it has perhaps become mandatory that TMK ends his concerts with his trademark Amar Janmobhumi, with the requsts pouring in for the same almost everywhere!

Overall, a classy typical TMK concert, with no hurriedness whatsoever and presenting the best of the music to the audience in the entirety, will be remembered for long long time. One has to appreciate the way TMK makes his accompanying artistes (or, co-artistes as he often wants them be called) feel the importance in a concert that they rightly deserve! May the tribe only increase…

Kanyakumari – Srivani Vidya Kendra – April 12, 2018

Kanyakumari presented a blockbuster concert at Srivani Vidya Kendra with Vittal Rangan on Violin support, Bangalore Praveen on Mridangam and Bangalore Amrith on Khanjira.

  1. Mahaganapathim – Naata
  2. Nenendu Vetukudura – Karnataka Behag
  3. Mamava Pattibhirama – Manirangu
  4. Bhavayami Raghuramam – Ragamalika
  5. Nanuganna Talli – Kesari
  6. Ennallu Urake – Subha Pantuvarali
  7. Sarasa Sama Daana – KapiNarayani
  8. Mokshamu Galada – Saramati
  9. Raghuvamsa Sudha – Kadana Kutoohalam
  10. Ragam Tanam Krithi (Dinamani Vamsa) – HariKambhoji
  11. Karadara Barabarade – ?
  12. Muralidhara Gopala – Maand
  13. Pibare Rama Rasam – Ahir Bhairav
  14. Venkatachala Nilayam – SindhuBhairavi
  15. Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma – Madhyamavathi

Mahaganapathim in Naata, especially the Kalpana Swaras that built up the intensity gradually, just gave a glimpse of what was in store for the next 2.5 hours. A soothing Nenendu Vethukudura settled the things up. Sound was a little unstable initially but it gradually got better.

My request of the day was honoured in the form of Mamava Pattabhirama in Manirangu. A brief raga sketch followed by the krithi was nice. It was followed by all-time favorite Bhavayami Raghuramam. I must thank her for accommodating both my requests! Kanyakumari did justice to all ragas… SaveriNattakurinjiDhanyasiMohanamMukhariPoorviKalyani and Madhyamavathi, through beautiful aalapana and Kalpana swaras, seamlessly transitioning to one from the other and ending in Saveri. A quick Nanuganna Talli was a delight, and Praveen played superbly here to complement her.

A soul stirring Subha Pantuvarali aalapana was presented by Kanyakumari and supported well by Vittal. A rare Thyagaraja Krithi Ennalu Urake ended with scintillating kalpana swaras. After playing a quick Sarasa Sama Dana, she talked for a few minutes. She mentioned about how instrumental concerts have to be given equal weightage vis-a-vis Vocal and appealed to both the audience and organizers to support instrumental music. She also specially thanked H K Venkatram, who is one of the organizing members of the festival for lining up a good number of instrumental concerts.

Mokshamu Galada was soulful. The highlight of the evening was Raghuvamsa Sudha, that followed after a brief aalapana of Kadana Kutoohalam. She played many variations of the Anupallavi and Chitta Swaram, which was presented in slow, medium and fast speeds. Percussion team spiced up the presentation as well, so much so, that everyone looked so drained after that one piece!!

After a brief Ragam and short Tanam in HariKambhoji, she took up Dinamani Vamsa instead of a Pallavi. Mellifluous swaras yet again were enticing. Tani Avarthanam was short and played very well by Praveen and Amrith.

The concert ended with a few small quick pieces. Overall, a great concert though percussion was felt a tad louder sometimes. However, there can’t be major complaints about it and sound system also was kind to the artistes and audience!

Lalgudi GJR Krishnan & Viji – Sree Ramaseva Mandali – April 9, 2018

My first concert of the season at the prestigious Sree Ramaseva Mandali, at Fort High School Grounds happened to be a stupendous concert by the Lalgudi Siblings, GJR Krishnan and Viji, with Trichy Harikumar on Mridangam and Giridhar Udupa on Ghatam.

  1. Varnam – MohanaKalyani
  2. Rama Bhakti Samrajya – SuddhaBangala
  3. Ramachandram Bhavayami – Vasantha
  4. Rave Himagiri Kumari (Swarajathi) – Todi
  5. Hechcharikaga Raa Raa – Yadukula Kambhoji
  6. Sri Venkatesa – PhalaManjari
  7. Eduta Nilichithi – Sankarabharanam
  8. Sobhillu Saptaswara – Jaganmohini
  9. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Dharmavathi
  10. Baaro Krishnayya – RagaMalika
  11. Thillana – Sindhu Bhairavi
  12. Pavamana Suthudu – Sourashtram

The concert started with MohanaKalyani varnam by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman. It sounded as pleasing as the famous Thillana the Maestro composed in the same ragam! It went on with some incredible music marred by the sound system that frustrated the artistes and audience alike! Swaras in SuddhaBangala were lovely. Ramachandram Bhavayami was beautiful with some exquisite swaras.

Viji played an amazing and elaborate Todi ragam and the song that followed, was a pleasant surprise for the audience. The Syama Sastri’s masterpiece Swarajathi was soul stirring. Trichy Harikumar played appropriately with gentle touch that enhanced the beauty of the presentation. A quick Hechcharikaga raa raa followed before a brief PhalaManjari outline by GJR. Again a rarely heard song, Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s composition, Sri Venkatesa was presented which ended with mellifluous kalpana swaras.

GJR’s Sankarabharanam made my day! Various special phrases that he played, with the swift bowing was a treat to the audience. But for the disturbance caused by the spoiler man of the match, the sound engineer, this would have remained one of the memorable explorations of the majestic ragam on the Violin! Trichy Harikumar played extremely well complementing the grand composition Eduta Nilichiti. We couldn’t hear a complete Tani from Udupa as he was visibly frustrated by the sound system already. However, Harikumar continued his brilliance all through the concert.

A brisk Sobhillu Saptaswara was a filler between the main composition and the much awaited Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi. Dharmavathi was presented extremely well by the siblings and GJR played a superb Tanam with some remarkable bowing. Lalgudis are known for their Pallavis in complex patterns and this was no different. Pallavi Sada Ramachandram Bhajeham, Janaka Sudha Ramana was in Khanda Triputa Talam with the first part (Poorvangam) in Trisram and latter half (Uttarangam) in Chaturasram and was presented in different patterns. Phewww… how difficult do they make the lives of students like me in understanding the Pallavi! Ragamalika swaras in SaveriReetigowlaBinduMaliniHuseni and Behag blossomed into a garland of flowers that beautified the Dharmavathi (Devi)!

My favorite Thillana, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman’s composition in Sindhu Bhairavi ended what was a sublime concert.

Sree Ramaseva Mandali has been organizing the festival for 8 decades now – a commendable thing in it’s own right but after seeing many concerts (especially instrumental) disturbed in the past, I appeal to the organizers to get a better sound system. The life of an instrumental concert is in the sound and a little more effort makes their efforts transform into the experience in a much better way.

Kumaresh & Jayanthi Kumaresh – Srivani Vidya Kendra – Mar 23, 2018

Srivani Vidya Kendra has been organizing the RamaNavami concerts for 26 seasons now and the lineup for 27th season looks very impressive too, with a good number of top stars performing in the month long festival. It is also heartening to see opportunities for the youngsters being given, for 30 minutes every day before the main concerts begin!

Kumaresh and Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh performed a scintillating concert, with K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Pramath Kiran on Tabla/Morsing.

  1. Sarasuda – Saveri (Varnam)
  2. Kanugontini Sri Ramuni – Bilahari
  3. Instrumental composition – Abheri
  4. Neekela Daya Raadu – Sarasangi
  5. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Saraswathi
  6. Muralidhara Gopala – Maand
  7. Thirupughal – Sindhu Bhairavi
  8. Kamakshi Lokasakshi – Madhyamavathi

Varnam Sarasuda in Saveri and the improvisations in the Chitta Swaras just gave a glipmse of what was in store for the next couple of hours!

A little sketch of Bilahari was followed by Saint Thyagaraja’s composition Kanugontini, that ended with some brilliant Kalpana Swaras. I think, they also played a nice Chitta Swaram (I never heard before) – the beauty was amplified by Kumaresh who played on a harmonic scale to it.

A beautiful Abheri aalapana followed. The composition they played was lilting and sublime, that made my day, having drove more than 20 km (mind you, in the Bengaluru traffic) to attend this concert! It must be one of the many instrumental melodies the amazing couple composed.

Sarasangi is an interesting scale that differs only in Nishadham from Charukesi and Dhaivatham from Sankarabharanam but gives a wonderful effect, altogether! The duo presented a classy aalapana before the nice unheard Ramaswami Sivan’s composition Neekela Daya raadu (thanks to Kumaresh for announcing) was played, that ended with some exquisite Kalpana Swaras.

Saraswathi is a ragam that has divinity in the name and the texture already. The evening couldn’t be better with divinity personified musician Jayanthi performing it in a divine way only she can! It is always a treat to listen to her Tanam and Kumaresh’s virtuosity left everyone in awe! Pallavi was again interesting, in Khanda Triputa Talam and the percussion duo of Jayachandra and Pramath played extremely well to enhance the beauty of the presentation. Tani Avarthanam was entertaining and the experimentation at the end of it with both melody instruments joining was extempore, gutsy and brilliant!

Jayanthi’s Guru, Smt. Padmavathy Ananthagopalan was invited to felicitate the artistes and the audience were treated with a spectacle for the lifetime – Jayanthi being felicitated by her Guru! It must have been an emotional moment for both the Guru & Shishya and the organizers must be appreciated for this great gesture!

There were a couple of compositions in Maand and Sindhu Bhairavi before the Syama Sastri’s composition Kamakshi in Madhyamavathi ended a super concert.

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!