Youthful Custodians of Culture

As announced in these columns recently, Nadopasana, a Muscat (Oman) based voluntary organization devoted to Indian classical music, staged a double concert on Saturday, the 25th March 2017. It featured two young and promising stars of the Carnatic genre. The morning session was a vocal concert by Nandini Neelakantan, while the evening session featured the vocal recital of Vignesh Ishwar.

M S Ananthakrishnan accompanied both artistes on the violin. All three artistes flew in from India, while the percussion accompaniment was provided by local artistes. The ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) very generously sponsored the travel of the visiting artistes. The whole thing was made possible by the encouragement and enthusiasm of HE Mr. Indra Mani Pandey, the Ambassador of India to Oman.

Both Nandini and Vignesh are in their twenties. At the end of their concerts, I felt in the depths of my heart that Carnatic Music as a cultural treasure and tradition was safe for the next many centuries, if these two youngsters were to be seen as yardsticks. This was not a parade of memorized kritis and swaraprastharams, not a mere show of virtuosity and voice range, but a true reflection of commitment to an art form born out of choice, even of passion for the music. Both of them revealed an understanding of the nuances of music which belied their age.

GN Balasubramaniam, who is considered by most authorities as a watershed phenomenon in the world of Carnatic music, was 18 when he gave his first concert on stage. These youngsters are not much older, and yet were able to hold the audience at the Krishna Temple, Muscat, spellbound throughout their concert – be it heavy kritis or thukkadas. A scintillating Kalyani by Nandini, and a superlative Todi by Vignesh spoke the same message – a complete understanding of the raga Lakshana, and a manodharma in doing niraval and swarams that was nothing short of awesome.

Even in the selection of items for the evening, as well, both showed a maturity that was way beyond what many of us “senior” rasikas expected from such youngsters (see below for details). The pieces chosen were not populist keertanas aimed at pleasing the masses. Yet, impress they did: Nandini’s Theerada Vilayattu Pillai, the ultimate expression of a father’s love for his daughter written by Bharathiyar, the Tamil Maha Kavi, left many in the audience with a lump in their throats, such was her bhava.

The Bageshri piece Sagara sayana vibho would have had its composer, the legendary MD Ramanathan, clucking away contentedly from his divine abode for sure. Between her and Ananthakrishnan, they showed their mastery of the Sruti Bedham technique, by transcending briefly from Kalyani to Suddha Dahnayasi during the alapana – not an easy feat by any standards. Nandagopal, elder brother of Nandini and her first source of inspiration and introduction to music, was in his usual brilliant elements, something that the Muscat audience have come to expect of him. The applause after his thani laid to rest any questions about who was the darling of the local crowd!

 

Nandini Neelakantan

 

Vignesh, for his part, made full use of his voice, showing flashes of brigas at breakneck speed, without in any way compromising melodic content. He also demonstrated his depth of understanding of the maestros. His concert was laced liberally with anecdotes about the composers and the great masters who had popularized the kritis he sang. He demonstrated how Madurai Mani Iyer or GNB would have handled the swaras for the ever-so-pleasing Kapi Narayani (sarasa sama dana) – after himself giving an excellent account of kalpana swaras. It prompted this reviewer to sit and listen to the kriti sung by various artistes after returning home, and realize how little I had observed of them in all these years! His humility in underscoring the contributions of the great stalwarts in Carnatic music reflected how and where he viewed himself in the broad sense of the Carnatic tradition – a sterling quality which he would do very well to nurture and adhere to. Vignesh’s elaborate Todi (Koluvamaragade by Sri Thyagaraja) was followed by a short tani by Srinivasan. Srinivasan’s style a mellow, soft and suave one rendered an able support through the concert.

 

Vignesh Ishwar

 

Both Nandini and Vignesh exhibited another quality which is often overlooked as a success factor – the art of team work. Both of them ensured their accompanists were always in the limelight, by repeatedly showing appreciation for their efforts.

Not that Ananthakrishnan would have gone unnoticed otherwise. With his astute anticipation of the vocalist’s moves, and the ability to explore the higher octaves with the single finger technique, he showed how he has established himself as the scion of the Parur family of violinists. That he seamlessly shifted pitch from accompanying a female to a male voice within the space of a few hours, spoke volumes about his oneness with his instrument. Of especial note were his repartees to Nandini’s Jayanthasri (Marukelara) and Vignesh’s Poorvikalyani (Deva deva jagadeeswara).

Summing up the two concerts of the day, everyone agreed that this trend of multiple concerts could well see Muscat transforming itself into a Cleveland or a second Chennai – something that would be very welcome to the growing Carnatic music fan following in Oman! Nadopasana, an abecedarian just the other day, is indeed making great strides in its very first year.

Morning Concert: MJ Nandini (Vocal) – MS Ananthakrishnan (Violin) – N Nandagopal (Mridangam)

Dinamani Vamsa – Harikamboji – Adi – Tyagaraja
Ninnu Joochi – Saurashtram – Patnam Subramania Iyer
Mamayurameedail Erivaa – Bilahari – Mazhavai Chidambara Bharati
Mayamma – Ahiri – Adi – Syama Sastri
Viruttam followed by Venuganalolnii – Kedaragaula – Rupakam – Tyagaraja
Marukelara – Jayathasri – Adi – Tyagaraja
Neetu charana pankaja – Kalyani – Adi – Swati Tirunal
Thani avarthanam
Theerada vilayattu pillai – ragamaika – Adi – Bharathiyar
Sagara sayana vibho – Bageshri – Adi – MD Ramanatahan
Aliveni – Chenchurutti – Adi – Swati Tirunal
Thillana – Sindhubhairavi- Lalgudi Jayaraman

Evening Concert: Vignesh Ishwar (Vocal) – MS Anathakrrishnan (Violin) – Delhi Srinivasan (Mridangam)

Ragasudha rasa – Andolika – Deshaadi – Tyagaraja
Sri Mathrubhutham – Kannada – Misra Ekam – Dikshitar
PUrvi KalyAni – Deva Deva Jagadeeswara – Adi – Swati Tirunal
Sarasa sAma Dana – Kapii Narayani – Adi – Tyagaraja
Koluva mara – Todi – Adi – Tyagaraja
Thani Avarthanam
SApasya kausalyA – Jonpuri
Viruttam (Sayankale Vanante) ragamalika (Mohanam, Kapi, Surati)
Rase Haari miha – AshtapaTi – Maand – Adi – Jayadeva
Thiruppugazh – HamsAnandi
Mangalam

Author: Dr Koduvayur M Harikrishnan

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