The Ragam Tanam Pallavi was in full flow. Nodding my head contentedly, I happened to see the artiste’s parents sitting a little away from me. And it occurred to me that Tiruvalluvar might have been inspired by a similar sight to write his famous couplet about what makes a parent most happy: undisputed evidence of their offspring’s accomplishments. And Archana Murali did just that for her parents on 5th February at the Krishna temple in Muscat. A chance attendee would have found it difficult to believe that this was her first ever solo performance. He or she would have thought yet another star of Carnatic music had come visiting the city.
As the curtains went up, one could see a young, somewhat nervously smiling girl, barely in her teens. But all that was forgotten by the time she finished her opening varnam in Vasantha ragm and launched into Papanasam Sivan’s “ganapathiye” in karaharapriya.
The chittaswarams were crisp and brisk, setting the mood of the concert. “Palimpa” in aarabhi followed, followed by “Muruga” (Periyasami Tooran) in Saveri where she gave ample evidence of her ability to handle a tisranadai talam. She had the attention of the audience fully by now.
When she took up a partimadhyama melakarta Dharmavati for alapana next, I was impressed by her choice. The alapana was elaborate, yet free of any shades of Madhuvanti. Udupi S. Srijith who accompanied on the violin gave a masterful and melodious reply. She went on to sing the popular “bhajana seya rada O Ramuni” of Mysore Vasudevachar.
After a brisk “Maakelara” in Ravichandrika, Archana launched into her main piece of the day, “ Koluvamare” in Todi. In the alapana she revealed her understanding of the wide range offered by Todi. Perhaps because the stage was very warm due to the bright lights, she found her throat going dry when she explored the lower octaves.
The kriti was handled like an expert, and she gave generous opportunities to her senior colleague on the violin, like a seasoned expert! The Tani avartanam that followed, with Muscat’s own Nandagopal on the mridangam and Trivandrum Rajesh on the ghatam, was impeccable, and added glory to the concert, which, by now, had the audience totally engrossed.
Nandagopal, a mentor of sorts for young Archana, produced yet another brilliant exposition on the mridangam, reinforcing this reviewer’s opinion that he belongs in the prime time slots in Chennai’s major sabhas. Rajesh was very impressive with his laya suddham, on his incredibly melodious instrument. This Tani will be remembered for a long time by all those who witnessed it.
For a first timer, wrapping up the concert with a few tukkadas would have been more than acceptable. But Archana had no intensions of being a mere beginner. She went on to prove her mettle by singing a short “bantu reethi” in Hamsanadham which she cleverly chose to start at the anupallavi, and followed it up by a surprisingly elaborate RTP in Kapi.
In both the alapana and tanam, she and Srijith regaled the audience with phrases soaked in bhava. The pallavi itself was not remarkable in its phraseology, but Archana scored again in the ragamalika, exploring charukesi, Misra Sivaranjani and Kalyani to her credit. By now, the concert had gone on for about two and a half hours. Archana has a wonderful voice, and it held steady to the very end, which came after another thirty minutes or so of soulful singing: Papanasam Siva’s “nambi kettavar evarayya” in Hindolam, the popular Maand piece “Muralidhara”, and the Purandara Dasa kriti “ Innu day barade” in Kalyana Vasantham.
She wrapped up her concert with Lalgudi Jayaraman’s lilting thillana in Karnaranajni to a standing ovation by the much impressed, and very discerning Muscat audience.
To have the fortune of being born to parents who are both excellent musicians is one thing, but to have the commitment and application to score so well in her maiden concert, deserved the accolade she got.
Well done Archana! Here is another Middle Eastern Star ready to light up the Chennai sky in the annual seasons to come!