Every classical music artiste faces, I think, the same dilemma after having finished the "AlApanai" of the rAgam.
Will the audience be in a mood to listen carefully to the structure and lyrics of a new keertanam? New kritis need to be introduced every now and then; the Trinity, though they are the pillars of Carnatic music, need to give way, occasionally, to the dozens of other talented composers who are creating beautiful songs of their own.
But new songs have to be introduced to the listening public now and then; only then do the many talented composers who create beautiful songs, be given an airing, and a hearing, and have a chance to become favourites themselves. If we always stick to the Trinity, how would Papanasam Sivan or Ambujam Krishna become popular?’
Will the audience be in a mood to follow the artiste into the nuances and lyrics of a new keertanam? That would demand a greater level of engagement from the rasikAs, and it is a nice decision as to whether the audience would like to do this, or like to sit back with the old, tested favourites, secure that though they are listening to the artistes’ unique interpretation, much of what is being sung is known.
This question is more vexing for solo instrumentalists, who have the further handicap of not being able to convey the lyrics to the rasikAs. Vocalists can bring tears to the audience’s eyes with moving words; instrumentalists must do it with the music alone. So the option of keeping to the well-known lyrics is very often taken.
This reflection was brought on by the concert that Sri T N Krishnan gave at the Gayana Samaja, as part of the Centenary Celebrations of Semmangudi Sri Srinivasa Iyer. Sri Krishnan chose to present old favourites, and there was the pleasure of listening to a leisurely, majestic "Ninnu VinA" in Reethi GowLai. Similarly after the HindOLam alApanai, Sri Krishnan chose to render "SAmaja vara GamanA", rather than expound a new kriti.
This tendency to stick with the tried and tested extended right up to the "thukdA"s, when "VenkatAchala Nilayam" was presented (Sindhu Bhairavi).
In a similar fashion, Vellore Sri S Rambhadran and M A Krishamurthy, on the mridangam and ghatam respectively, kept to the "sukham" of the gentle sarva laghu, and chose not to intrepret any complex or new rhythm patterns.
All this made for a very relaxing, satisfying concert, with the "pakka vAdyam" being just that, extending strength and support to the violin, and adding grace and appeal to the katcheri.⊕