The following is a write-up & thoughts about the recently concluded Bharat Sangeet Utsav 2007 written & sent to us by S. Sivakumar.
Bharat Sangeet Utsav 2007
Even the sun has no choice except to toe the line – rise early and set late - as does the music season in Chennai. The music festival occupies more space and spreads from September and extends well into January and if you thought you had missed some particular artiste there is always scope to fulfil your desire sooner or later.
Carnatica and Sri Parthasarathi Swamy Sabha together got up a mega event in Chennai, the Bharat Sangeet Utsav - 2007. This was held at Narada Gana Sabha from November 1st to 11th.
The event was inaugurated at a function at the Hotel Residency Towers on Oct. 31st, where after a brief inaugural attended by social eminences and danseuse Sudharani Raghupathy, violin maestro T. N. Kishnan floored the invited guests with a two-hour cameo of pristine pure Carnatic Music.
At Narada Gana Sabha next day, the real fest began with Mangala Isai (Nagaswaram) by Bangalore Kothandaraman followed by the lighting of the Kuthuvilakku by Fred Kaplan of the US Consulate in Chennai. The stage was a spectacular set up done by Thota Tharani (of opulent cine-sets fame). The fresh flowers – Maruvu, Dhavanam,Thulasi, Saamandhi and Malli – lent it a natural glow. The effort in decoration really combined with good taste and imagination to make the stage look beautiful, yet simple. And it was in sync with the minds of the protagonists.
The main concert of the day was by T M Krishna, with Ramanujacharyulu on the violin, Sangita Kalanidhi Umayalpuram Sivaraman on the mridangam and Sunder Kumar on the Khanjira. No prizes for guessing who the star attraction was – Sivaraman of course. Krishna sang a fine neraval at Vedha Sasthra Purana (Sankarabharanam) and Sri Sivaraman's accompanying and his thani with Sunder Kumar had its own reverberative quality. Following the concert was a dance special – Ashtapadhi by Swarnamalya and Shrijith Nambiar - love-lyrics portrayed through the medium of dance. Mrs. Anuradha Sriram was the singer and was on debut, we were told, for a dance performance, and there was ease and elegance in her singing. But then, was impeccable English chosen on the plea of catering to an International audience?
Day two saw Sikkil Gurucharan performing, with Nagai Sriram on the violin, Mannargudi Easwaran on the mridangm and Purushothaman on the Khanjira followed by a Hindustani concert by Ashwini Bhide Deshpande whose sonorous voice exhibited a range that was wide and stunning. Vishaka Hari’s Sangeetha Upanyasam, the talk of the town, was an overflowing full house performance. Contrast this with the frivolous serials on TV – unending stories which leave a message that the normal housewife can maneuver – to – kill and is endowed with men and material for this brutal task. People therefore are visibly fed up and would want to extricate themselves from these idiotic non-varying idiotic shows that repeatedly sully the mind and shred the soul. The audience strength is an indirect measure of this frustration. The wages of watching TV is death and let us therefore redeem ourselves by listening to Vishaka Hariji.
Came Day three and an all-important educative symposium on Voice Culture and Singing Styles was held. The participants were Sri T V Goplakrishnan, Dr. Shriram Parasuram, Dr. S A K Durga and two hindustani exponents Smt. Ashwini Bhide and Smt. Kalapini Komkali. The vidwans narrated their experiences, methods they willy-nilly adopted to reach where they were now, cautioned against imitative singing, and the futility of endless practice sessions, judicious use of your own voice and fielded questions from Dr. Prapancham Sitaram and others. Smt. Ashwini mentioned the 303 shot where the swara is supposedly at the centre and we (that should read they) hover around the periphery and make attempts to hit the bull’s eye.
Sowmya always has many things up her sleeve.That gentle breeze that blew as an alapana of Durbar - the varnam had started even before the alapana had ended, “Evvare”, a special ekaika krithi of the Sadguru in Gangeyabhooshani (a listeners request!), an alapana of Hamsanandhi that invited a review that it had Hindustani sprays and then a Thodi as Thodi should be. RK (i.e. R K ShriramKumar) was on the violin.We had the unobtrusive J Vaidhyanathan on the mridangam and a fresh “scholar” in music, Dr. Karthik on the Ghatam.
Unnikrishnan’s concert that followed (both from the same Guru, Dr. S. Ramanathan) was after his own style. The accompaniments were Varadharajan on the violin, K V Prasad on the mridangam and B S Purushothaman on the Khanjira.
On day four Smt. Kalapini Komkali (daughter and disciple of the illustrious Kumar Gandharv) gave a morning concert with her deep bass voice which seemed only to illustrate the kharj riyaz (mandhara sthayi) regimen she had been into. She had spoken of this elaborately on the previous day about this practice.
Pandit Suhas Vyas son of Sri Vyas (Guru of Sriram Parasuram) sang in the next slot followed by Aruna Sairam’s concert with Padma Shankar on the violin, JV on the mridangam, Karthik on the Ghatam and Manian on the Ganjira. Sanjay landed with an alapana of Poornachandrika and a rarely sung krithi of GNB, VaradhaniGunanalina. Unnai Allaal Vere Gathi (Kalyani-Sivan) was rendered with complete accent on Bhava. He had Nagai Muralidharan on the violin and Mannargudi Easwaran on the mridangam and K V Goplakrishnan on the Ganjira and these percussionists together gave a highly competitive thani.
Day Five witnessed Sherthalai Ranganatha Sharma’s concert, followed by O S Arun, with his lilting Bhajans and a special Jugal Sangeet with Vishwa Mohan Bhat on the Mohan Veena and Ravikiran on the Chitraveena
The next day we had a lively concert by Suryaprakash. He had good accompaniments in the form of Nagai Sriram on the violin and Raja Rao on the mridangam and E M Subramaniam on the ghatam.
Nithyashri dedicated her concert to Smt. D K Pattammal but the concert admittedly was a bit low key and lacked the “authoritative singing”, this popular artiste is known for. She was accompanied by Raghavendra Rao on the violin, Skandasubramaniam on the mridangam and Tiruchi Murali on the Ghatam.
Pandit Shivkumar Sharma played the Santoor and dedicated his concert to the late Sri Vishveswaran, his disciple. Sharmaji dealt with only one raga Jenjuti, but has the Santoor now become only an “effect” instrument?
There was some respite for the organizers as day seven and eight were declared holidays on account of Deepavali.
Back from Deepavali on day nine, Geetha Rajasekhar sang to the accompaniment of Mysore Srikanth and Sangeetha Kalanidhi Vellore Ramabadhran.
Prof.V V Subramaniam gave his interpretation and explained the purpose of each raga and tried to drive home the point that each raga is functional in nature. Someone in the audience in sotto voce said this “Is it really Bhaktha on the mridangam – not to be heard at all?” and so draw your own conclusions. We had V V S Murari as violin support and Vaikkom on the Ghatam.
Poonkuyil Pattammal, a thematic presentation on Sangitha Kalanidhi Smt. D K Pattammal by Smt. Gowri Ramnarayanan had Vijay Siva singing Pattammal’s popular melodies with Tamil narratives for each song by Gowri. Vijay Siva took utmost care to present the songs as pure-gold-versions to evoke memories of the original - fully and truly. He had RK on the violin and Manoj Siva on the mridangam. Poonkuil Koovum Solayil (Balama Aaye of K L Sehgal) was at its sweetest.
On Day Ten, some revelations were made. Getting on stage to perform needs a lot of preparation and if you are a serious student of music then you will have to pass through many stages before you reach this destination – the stage. Young stars were put through tests of many kinds and the “Carnatic Idol” was found and anointed. Read more of it in detail at www.carnatica.net
Gayathri Venkatraghavan’s concert was in the evening with Padma Shankar on the violin, Ganapathyraman on the mridangam and Guruprasad on the Ghatam. Sudha Raghunathan – did she try something experimental. You do not change your position vis a vis the mike but the voice thins and thickens. Contrast effect. It was something akin to the flute or the nagswaram emitting a full blown sound and a restrained sound depending on the controlled blow.
Let us march on to Day Eleven
The daring dynamic Ms Subashree Thaickachalam presented a “Ragamalika”, in the morning beat and had commissioned young playback singers for her show.
In the evening there was the Valedictory function and the release of a CD- Rare Padams and Varnams – A tribute to Brindamma, by Smt. Alamelu Mani and Mrs. Kalyani Sharma. His Excellency, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, graced the occasion with his presence and the connoisuer of art that he is, listened to Hariharan’s Ghazals for an hour or so.
Hariharan’s music has a certain all-embracing quality. Those who had gathered, irrespective of their standing as musicians or music lovers were willing to lose themselves for the entire 150 minutes, sumptuously applauding. What a finale! Remember the concept of TOMA (Top Of Mind Awareness) – Yes! This will remain at the top of everyone’s mind and really will become one of the many positive identification marks in the personality of Carnatica.
Statistics is not a dumb thing and it speaks. Eleven days (there were two holidays) – 17 carnatic music concerts, 4 hindustani concerts, 2 veteran violinists on stage, 2 veteran mridangists on stage, young stars on stage, an interactive symposium, carnatic idol talent hunt, a dance, a Harikatha - many bells were ringing to excite and enthuse you. Everyone was left in wonderment and were “even” in their appreciation. Some expressed it openly, while others had their hearts full - evidenced by their warm handshakes. Got reminded of VIBGYOR, of the words family, community, challenges, standards, adequacy et al and Carnaticas executive team Ramanthan, Sashikiran, Sowmya and the indefatigable Jayashri showed guts and seemed to possess a decent pulse rate. These “Combo” (to use the state of the art expression) events - if they were successful must have been discussed threadbare before they attained finality. Were there some hiccups? The mikemen were adequate, save the few minor flaws here and there and you could afford to ignore it. Other hurdles there could have been some but was never reflected in the sessions.
Hold it ! - the write-up is not over. These donor passes and all that - One word, the entire concerts and events were in fact free. It requires real tact and sagacity to achieve this. Do it the same way, if not in a better manner year after year. Oh! You've already started planning! Say Something! Here is a wish-list for the next programme. Let us have Hariprasad Chaurasia, Kalyanapuram Aravamudhachariar, K S Goplakrishnan, Panthula Rama, Manda Sudharani, Nedhanuri, Manjunath and Nagaraj and Pattabhiram Pandit .... Granted?