Trichur Ramachandran’s concert on Saturday, June 24th for Madhuradhwani was easily a class apart and one of the most satisfying of concerts I have heard in recent times. The veteran had a stellar team comprising virtuosos M.Chandrasekharan on the violin, Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam on the mridangam and the relatively younger star B.S.Purushottaman on the kanjira.
Ongoing whitewashing and repair works at home unfortunately ensured that I was late to the concert. As I entered and settled myself sufficiently in the front, I realized that extensive niraval for the pallavi line marivErE dikkevvaru (Lathangi, Khanda chapu) was in full-flow.
Not without some dismay, I thought that this in all probability was the third or the fourth item in the concert.
What did I miss???
What did I miss? Definitely a GNB composition… Was it the Gavati varnam (oh no!), perhaps a varavallabha ramana (Hamsadhvani), or nAkabhaya (Natakurinji)…
Trying to shut out such thoughts seemed impossible at first for a few minutes. However the compelling niraval in the pallavi line drew my concentration to the concert. Having always heard and having myself sung niraval in this kriti of Patnam Subramanya Iyer in the anupallavi line, niraval at this new place (for me) was refreshing.
Quick-fire rapid swaras followed to which M.Chandrasekharan responded with alacrity. Trichur Ramachandran rounded off the swara segment with a short but delectable kuraippu by having the ending swara on M, P and D in succession, enhancing the interest considerably. True to his wont, M.Chandrasekharan replied with his own imagination, proving yet again, that the maha-vidwan with an experience of eight decades (or more) behind him, is as fresh, alert, precise and agile as ever.
A brief but very attractive alapana of Begada followed and the kriti was the Muthuswami Dikshitar masterpiece tyagarajAya namastE. For me the different pATHAntaram made the appreciation all the more keen. My revered guru T.R.Subramanyam’s version, I realized, was quite different and as Trichur Ramachandran befittingly rendered the kriti in a calm and unhurried manner, I was taken back to the year 1990 when some of us students of TRS had had the fortune of sitting behind him as he sang the kriti at the sanctum sanctorum at Thiruvaarur.
It was evident that the kriti was very much a part of Thirvaarur Bhaktavatsalam’s musical system. The way he played lovingly for each line especially in the charanam and in the madhyama kaalams of both the anupallavi and the charanam, accentuating the saahitya bhaavam ensured that the overall effect of the kriti was showcased in full glory. A short swara segment at the charanam’s madhyama kala line ‘’sakalAgama mantra tantra’’ was a fitting closure.
After that involved Begada, personally for me, the bonus was the item that came next. A very sweet raga sketch of Khamas by Trichur Ramachandran had me wondering as to what kriti it could be. Probably sujana jeevana, but no that couldn’t be, we’ve just had a rupaka kriti, so maybe seethapathe?
Bonus – Mysore Vasudevacharya!!!
He started off in the taara sthaayi, ‘’Indiraa ramana…’’ making me sit bolt upright with delight. Mysore Vasudevacharya! And that too, the extremely rare and the third Khamas kriti of the peerless composer from Mysore! Wonderful!!!
Khamas is synonymous with Mysore Vasudevacharya, thanks to brOchEvArevarurA. If rendered in a concert either by vocalists or instrumentalists, the audience’s interest is sure to be pepped up. A true ‘’kacchEri song’’ as my guru TRS would say. The sheer charm, beauty and appeal of brOchEvArevarurA with its wonderful chittaswaram, remains as fresh as ever.
Vasudevacharya has composed two other kritis in Khamas plus two jAvaLis and a tillAnA. One kriti is upEndramAsrayAmi santatam, a kriti that my guru TRS would revel in singing. He is said to have started his concert in Tuticorin with this kriti since that day the mridangam vidwan was Tanjavur Upendran! This was actually corroborated to me by vidwan M.A.Sundareswaran recently.
The third kriti of Vasudevacharya is indirAramaNa, also set to Adi tala. As Trichur Ramachandran rendered the kriti and I listened enraptured, the realization yet again, what a fertile imagination and genius for composing Mysore Vasudevacharya had been endowed with. All the three kritis of Vasudevacharya in Khamas begin on the taara sthaayi shadja and yet there isn’t an iota of similarity between any of them. As Trichur Ramachandran ended the short kriti, I could only sigh in contentment and happiness. Another kriti to learn! The obsession with his creations became only stronger!
Todi – Infinite, Inexhaustive, Bountiful
A neat EmanipogaduturA in Viravasantam (a favourite of GNB and MLV) set the stage for the main item. As Ramachandran began his Todi alapana, sitting as part of the audience I didn’t quite know what to expect.
As musicians and rasikas, we hear Todi quite often. It’s perhaps one of the most commonly rendered ragas, so much so that a few rasikas actually feel that it could become an overdose. I have personally had an organizer telling me before I began my concert, that if I dared to sing Todi, he would switch my mikes off !
Having said all that, the true reality is that Todi is a raga that can never EVER sound stale! Trichur Ramachandran’s Todi was an attestation to this.
As he unravelled Todi in his presentation, it became quickly evident that this was not going to be a superficial presentation of the raga. On proceeding to the portions above the Madhya sthaayi panchamam, a few phrases rendered with the plain gaandhaaram won spontaneous appreciation from M.Chandrasekharan.
I would like to think that that was the catalyst! There was no looking back after that in my opinion – Trichur Ramachandran literally unleashed sanchara after sanchara, replete with plain gaandhara and nishaadam notes and took Todi to an astonishing and exalted level. As I have written in some of my previous experiences of listening to concerts, words are truly inadequate to describe the glorious exploration of the Todi that evening and the effect it had on the audience.
As Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam joined Trichur Ramachandran when the latter commenced with the scholarly kaddanuvAriki of Tyagaraja, it was evident that like the previous tyAgarAjAya namastE, this kriti is also part of the mridangam maestro’s being. As Ramachandran executed the myriad sangatis that this kriti is replete with in all the three parts – Pallavi, Anupallavi and the Charanam, Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam literally made the mridangam sing along by perfectly joining in with all the sangatis. It was sheer delight and pleasure to listen to the veterans.
After the niraval at the customary ‘’baddu tappaka’’, and the corappu at ‘sa’ was also executed at the ¼ eduppu as the entire kriti.
Before commencing his tani, magnanimous as ever, and completely mindful of the fact that the super-senior doyen M.Chandrasekharan was in full form that evening, the artist and the rasika in Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam made him deferentially request the violin ace to play the korappu segment.
M.Chandrasekharan, initially hesitated citing, ‘’nAzhi AyiDuttE’’ to which the mridangam maestro promptly responded with his broad characteristic grin, ‘’ungaLukku ellamE exempt!’’
Voila! And then we fortunate audience were treated to M.Chandrasekharan plunging into his version of Todi through swaras and korvai.
Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam in his taniyaavardhanam went straight into a wonderfully executed Tisra nadai (it was nearing 9:00 PM and so he probably dispensed with the chatusra nadai) and his kuraippu with B.S.Purushottaman, when the latter responded precisely to his challenging one avartanams, half and then quarter avartanam teermanams was truly thrilling. This thrill continued seamlessly through the entire kuraippu that finally ended with the mridangam and the kanjira exchanging just one aksharam with one another in the last segment. The synchronization between them was marvellous – akin to an edge-of-the-seat denouement.
Post the main item, the GNB-MLV staple Kaaranam kETTu vADI (Poorvikalyani) and Muralidhara Gopala (Maand), ended the concert.
To me this concert was a representation of what Kuccheris must have been a few decades ago. It was verily the representation of another era. However, the significant fact to be noted, as I’m sure the audience overall would have taken back with them, is that such concerts are STILL possible to be provided, savoured and talked about. Life may have become fast; however good, aesthetic, non-fast food fare can definitely be enjoyed even today, depending upon the artists and provided it is presented well.
And most of all, provide inspiration for us.
Trichur Ramachandran’s concert for Madhuradhwani was definitely that.