Rasikalay, 2nd May 2010. Venue: Little Chalfont Village Hall, Amersham, London (UK)
Vasundhra Rajagopal’s concert for Rasikalaya, London was soaked in classicism. The post-concert feedback from the audience is that Smt. Vasundhra made a lasting impression with not only her sruti suddham and sahitya suddham but also bani suddham. She is the leading torch-bearer to her bani from Sri Culcutta Krishnamurthy, Sri TR Subramaniam, and the lineage of Kotiswara Iyer. She announced that she tried to accommodate as many requests as possible and if the audience heard a mix of strange combinations, it was due to this. It also helped that Rasikalaya is a sabha that promotes madi sampradaya sangeetham!!
It was a soothing Sahana which started off the concert. It is refreshing to hear a different spin on praising Vathapi Ganapathi. Smt.Vasundhra knows how to bring the intricacies of this raga during the kriti, with incremental sangathis, and the swarakalpana. With Dhatu swaras such as rpmp, Sahana was further accentuated. The SS PP DD prayoga also is a beacon to this raga.This is in praise of the Ganapathi at Tiruvarur.
Up next was the evergreen classic in Khamas, where Tyagabrahmam re-affirms his beliefs in the words of the Lord. The niraval and swarakalpana at Prema Juchi Napai was excellently done.
Asaveri was a request from the audience with a kriti in Misrachapu and they got a composition from Rama Natakam. Not having heard an alapana in Asaveri for quite a while it was a rare treat.
I heard the first few notes of the next ragam and my initial thoughts were that the traditional Pantuvarali will be rendered as the first pratimadhyama sub-main. Then came a googly in the form of the vivadi Nishada then it was a case of using Ka-Ta-Pa-Ya adi sankhya to find the ragam. The vivadi nishada was emphasised and the reply given by the violinist evoked praise both from the artiste and the rasikas. This is the first that I heard Dhavalambari being elaborated and a composition from Kotiswara Iyer’s Kanda Ganamudam was rendered. “Davalambary was an indication of her ability to handle a rarely heard pratimadyama melakarta with vivadi swaras”. The swarakalpana was at the raga name in the charanam. The fidelity to tala was a testament to her laya prowess.
Himigiri Tanaye served as good filler between two heavyweight pieces. As it is GNB’s centenary year, this kriti was also very apt. Interspersing Maharaja Swati Tirunal’s Bhogindra Sayinam also kept the rasikas attention rapt.
The absence of both varnam and tillana was not felt and was definitely over-compensated by the presence of many gems (“maNis”) sprinkled throughout the concert especially the Manirangu alapana. Her alapana of manirangu was the hallmark of the concert with a beautiful delineation, steering clear of the usual pitfalls of letting in madhyamavati or sri ragas to disturb the listener’s mind. Balu Raghuraman’s reply was equally ecstatic!”.
Then a wondrous Bilahari! “she was able to bring to supreme heights even the generally plain ragaas like Bilahari which until her exposition I never thought had so many sangatis.” Prayogas involving the madhyama and nishada ensured that this emotionally rich raga made its parent ragas proud!! The main piece was a shade under 40mins but it was pure gold.
The tani in Adi 2 kalai, lasted about 6mins, showcased the talents of the percussionist who enjoyed the concert as much as the rasikas did.
The pasuram was “Araadana amudam podhinda koil” and detailed the importance of the koil and that koil was Tiruvarangam. Another example of Smt.Vasundhra’s vidwat was the way she emphasised Tiruvarangam using the same octave and notes as “ranga” in Rangapura Vihara, heavily hinting on the kriti to follow.
It was about 2hrs 20mins into the concert and we were in for another treat. The RTP in Ranjani was simply amazing. The raga was beautifully sculpted by the vocalist and an able reply was delivered by the violinist. The tanam had a steady gait that possessed sowkhyam. The pallavi in Khanda Jathi Triputa (2 kalai) started on the little finger. The sahitya was “Ranjani Niranjani Namami Rasikalaya Jana Mohini”. The arudi was after Namami. The sahitya of the pallavi was a demonstration of the ingenuity of the artiste paraphrasing GN sir’s immortal Ranjani kriti twining the lyrics with the name of the Sabha. As soon as the uttaranga containing the sabha name was sung, you could hear the appreciation of the rasikas. What followed was a raga mala that comprised commonly heard and rare Ragas: Kanada, Revati and VAsanti. These ragas were elaborately expanded upon to show their full swarupam.
Some rasikas got VAsanti confused with Bhupalam and Smt.Vasundhra later clarified the grammar of the raga to a few inquisitive rasikas.
The ugabhoga went along the lines “dhyanamu krita yuga dalli, yajana yagnamu threta yuga dalli, dhana vaantaka devata archana dvapara yuga dalli, kali yuga dalli ganamu” recommending the way to attain Godhead in the various yugas. It is said that in Kali yuga, the way to moksha is through nama smaranam. Smt.Vasundhra’s ugabhoga reflected these sentiments. A beautiful and soulful Sindubhairavi to conclude a masterpiece of a concert.
The accompanists Balu Raguraman on violin and Somasundara Desigar on the Mridangam gave able support to make the concert lively.
As the saying goes well done is half done, and kudos to the organizers Rasikalaya on their successful launch of a new Sangeetha Sabha with this sparkling concert. The elite audience is a bonus to them and best wishes in their efforts.