Nothing Like Listening to a Live Concert!

J.A.Jayanth’s Mali Memorial Concert for the BGS Trust

I missed the first two items and I had to scan the near housefull auditorium in order to find a suitable seat.  I didn’t get the seat of my choice but settled for sitting on the right side slab of the Arkay Convention Centre.  Not the best view of the stage but at least it was near enough to observe “stage dynamics”!

Jayanth had just begun Tyagaraja’s grand kriti Paramatmudu and I was immediately struck by a myriad of factors and emotions.  His maturity, aesthetics, understanding of the medium and the command over the instrument was phenomenal.  Paramatmudu was meticulously rendered in the slow and deliberate kaalapramaanam and Jayanth took care to showcase all the hues and glory of this wonderful kriti.  It was a highly moving rendition.

Kalyani alapana was built-up step by step and once again I was surprised by Jayanth’s sheer feel for the aesthetic.  After an excellent alapana sans any gimmicks he rendered the relatively less-heard Sive Paahimaam of Tyagaraja with intricately built swaras at the pallavi.  Unsurprisingly S.Varadarajan responded with the expected aplomb – both in the alapana as well as in the swara sallies, particularly in the multiple nadais.

Two Mali favourites followed – Tyagaraja’s Ninnuvina (Navarasa Kannada) and Meevalla Guna Dosha (Kapi).

Jayanth played the anupallavi of Ninnuvina completely in the mandhara sthaayi.  Without doubt the flute sounds wonderfully appealing in the mandhara sthaayi and when he negotiated the various sangatis of ‘kanulaku nee sogasento’, it created a beautiful effect.  There’s definitely something extremely captivating about the mandhara sthaayi and the flute seems to be ideal to make detailed forays into this octave.  Happily Jayanth is aware of the potential of the mandhara sthaayi and the effect it can create!

A brief sketch of Kapi and a crisply rendered Meevalla with an array of multiple nadai swaras paved the way for the main item.  When Jayanth started Kapi, I had sort of resigned myself to the fact that this rather populist raga was going to be the main item.  However when he started Meevalla, after the sketch of the bhashaanga raga, it aroused the anticipation of a major heavy-weight to come.

And we were not disappointed. Kambhoji alapana was built up slowly and once again, Jayanth took enough time to explore fully the mandhara sthaayi.  The icing on the cake was at the closure of the expansive alapana when he switched to the long flute and played the mandhara sthaayi again for a few minutes.  Sheer joy.

Varadarajan responded fittingly as a senior artist and he rounded off his extremely scholarly Kambhoji alapana by playing the quintessential kaakali nishaada prayogam S N, P, in the lower octave with a beautiful jaaru.  Small wonder that it generated the instantaneous applause!

Muthuswami Dikshitar’s magnificent Sri Subramanya Namaste was rendered in all its glory and rather surprisingly, Jayanth rendered the charanam in the same tempo as the pallavi and the anupallavi.  Generally the charanam of this composition is usually rendered in the madhyama kaalam.  One principal reason being that the pallavi and the anupallavi are very involved and intense and demand a lot from the musician to render it really well.  It has not been said in vain that Muthuswami Dikshitar’s kritis are equivalent of being a coconut.  The effort of prising away the outer layer i.e. removing of the husk, plus the effort of breaking open the shell, collecting the coconut water carefully (we may add – without spilling!) and *then* scraping and separating the actual coconut for consumption does call for considerable labour!  Learning, practising, polishing and finally presenting a Muthuswami Dikshitar kriti calls for these levels of efforts unlike a Tyagaraja kriti which is equated with just popping a grape into the mouth (draaksharasam), and a Syama Sastri kriti being akin to a kadali phalam (a banana) where one just has to make the small effort to peel away the skin before enjoying the fruit.

Hence the charanam of this double kalai rupaka tala kriti, after the involved and demanding pallavi and the anupallavi, is usually rendered in madhyama kaalam probably to sustain audience interest and to perhaps prevent it from becoming an overdrive.

However Jayanth’s rendition of the charanam in slow tempo belied that notion and he kept the vast audience completely in his grip as he rendered the charanam and finally closed the kriti with playing the pallavi in three speeds.

Multi-faceted and veteran – the one and only T.V.Gopalakrishnan (TVG) supported Jayanth with the understanding and feel for the aesthetic as possible only by someone of his caliber.  TVG sir being a very accomplished vocalist is well-known and this factor plays a major role in enhancing the success of any concert that he is part of.  His intricate corappu in Misram stood out.  Another highly acclaimed and star senior Tripunithura Radhakrishnan on the ghatam followed TVG like a shadow with just the right doses and extremely sensitive and thoughtful playing.

TVG also took it upon himself to speak about the concert after the taniyavardhanam.  He pointed out Late Shri T.S.Sankaran’s prowess, his relationship with his Guru the virtuoso Mali and the latter’s complete dependence on his faithful disciple, his (Shankaran’s) career and the fond hope of the grandfather that his grandson should come up well in the field.  Befittingly TVG praised Jayanth overall and blessed him.

Bottom-line – a live concert is always a live concert!  The experience of listening to a concert live can never be captured with even the best quality recording or webcast.  The observations of the stage dynamics, the camaraderie shared between the artists themselves, the relationship created and sustained between the artists and audience and most of all, the camaraderie and rapport shared by the audience amongst themselves truly make up a unique experience!  Little details like Jayanth when he realized that he just *had* to resort to the long flute to play those mandhara sthaai strands of Kambhoji made the audience smile and cemented further the rapport that was already built.  These small but precious nuances that become fond memories can only be experienced live.

Keep going Jayanth – stay focused, and continue to nurture your already existing passion and enthusiasm!

About Mohan Santhanam

Carnatic vocalist, based in Chennai. Disciple of Late Shri T.R.Subramanyam (TRS).
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2 Responses to Nothing Like Listening to a Live Concert!

  1. Kamini says:

    Sri Subramanya Namaste is one of my all time favourite songs! I have heard K.V. Narayanaswamy sing it several times and it used to move me to tears. Love your analogy of the coconut, grape and banana!

  2. KVN had surely made Sri Subramanyaya Namaste his very own! Though I must admit the coconut-grape-banana analogy isn’t originally mine, Kamini, but thank you! 🙂

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