Bangalore Gayana Samaja is one of the oldest institutions, promoting classical arts, in the city. The 45th annual conference of the Samaja concluded in the last week of October. For Carnatic music buffs, this was a week-long feast of lecture-demonstrations (lec-dems as they’re refered to) in the morning and concerts every evening.
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Each year, the conference also bestows the prestigious ‘Sangeetha Kalaratna’ award on a musician. This year’s recipient was the violinist Mysore Mahadevappa.
The second concert of this year’s conference was by T V Shankaranarayanan (TVS) on Monday, October 21. Sankarnarayan’s vocal recital was marked with rich classicism and vibrancy. The torrential flow of kalpana swaras throughout the concert for nearly every song, was vintage TVS.
Beginning with a Ganesha sloka in Aarabhi, he presented his own composition “Vigneshwara” in rupaka tala. The kalpana swaras sung for the pallavi of the song where some patterns were reminiscent of the swaras in the Pancharatna kriti of the same raga were energising. It also brought home the fact as to why students of Carnatic music need to learn the Pancharatna kritis and varnams as they serve as a foundation for singing swaras later.
The ragamalika “Ee pariya sobhagu”, a composition of Purandaradasa Vittala in ragas Saranga, Hindoilam and Hamsanandhi was an instant hit with the home crowd. Shudha Dhanyasi is a popular raga with composers, has five notes and is also known as Udayaravichandrika. A brief exposition of Shudha Dhanyasi was followed by the Tyagaraja kriti “Enthanerchina”.
“Smarajanaka shubha charitha” in raga Behag is a composition of the Travancore maharaja, Swati Tirunal. Though Behag usually appeared in the latter half of classical concerts owing to its light classical feel, now performers are presenting this raga during the main part of the program, sometimes even as a main piece. Following the Behag piece, “Sahasrakara mantithe”, a composition of Muthiah Bhagavathar on the mother Goddess in raga Vachaspati was briskly rendered.
The pièce de résistance was Bhairavi. Several facets of the raga came forth in an imaginative flow and the Tyagaraja piece “Thanayuni brova” was beautifully presented. In this song, the composer entreats the mother (Goddess) to protect her child (devotee) as the latter seeks refuge in her. The staunch support by veteran accompanists, Mysore M Nagaraj on the violin, Shrimushanam V Raja Rao on the mridangam, and Ranganatha Chakravarthy on the ghatam took the concert experience to a whole new level.
To get a sense for TVS’s singing style, you need to listen to him singing a viruttam. A viruttam is a devotional verse or verses that usually precedes a song. It has no beat and is sung in extempore style in one or more ragas.
I don’t know if it’s the rains or the concert being on a weekday, but the hall was not houseful as it ought to have been. TVS, like others of his ilk, is a musician from an earlier generation and there is so much to learn and imbibe from his music for students and connnoiseurs.
The advantage of listening to a large number of long-time performers such as TVS, is the exposure to different baanis (styles) and sheer range of songs, old and new. The listener’s own creative abilities and skills, whether raga alapana, kalpana swaras, or neraval, can be honed further. The take-away for the die-hard music lover, the student and other performers is usually of immense value and TVS’ concert was one such rewarding experience.