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Rasika – Meera Venkatram

Review of Odakathur Mutt concert, Bangalore by Meera Venkatram

He started the concert with Sami daya juta varnam in kedaragowlai.

The todi alabanai meant he was going to sing my song. He said he would. GNB had popularised it and I was never satisfied with anyone else sing it. But with Saketh, his rendition brought tears to my eyes. So from the heart. ” Ethanayo koti janmam” was the neraval point. The todi that emanated was just superb. The violin- morsing combine added so much to the neraval. As for Kalpana swarams, they were a superb combination of maths and aesthetics. Can there be a more beautiful “ga” than the one in thodi?

The next song again was a request from me but I was very embarrassed when he announced it as my request. I wished the Earth swallowed me up! This was a krithi never sung these days. It was a blast from my past, taught to me by my aunt. There was a rain of Vijayanagari and then the alabanai ended on a high note. HNBhaskar is second to none and his vijayanagari proved it. Inimai. The song was Mahanubhava Thyagaraja and Thiruvotriyur thyagaiyyar was the composer. Goosepimples literally, as he was singing it. The kalpana swarams were high energy -reaching a crescendo. Bhaskar also responded so well. Their camararderie was there for all to see.

Anandabhairavi alabanai was his pleading with God. He cajoled the notes into producing nectar, while retaining the veeram of the ragam. Bhaskar’s foray into the well of Anandabhairavi yielded rich melody. Closed eyes, he transported the audience to heaven. “Thyagaraja yoga vaibhavam” the kshetra Tiruvarur krithi of Muthuswami Deekshithar was the keerthanai. In the pallavi itself there is that classic gopuchha yati at vaibhavam. In the samashti charanam the srotagata yati was enunciated so beautifully at prakasam. Well rendered

Thandai tai irundal was the fast paced one. Gopalakrishnan Bharathi himself would have been pleased with the rendition.

Kambodi alabanai was next built up step by step by step. Each syllable so enjoyable. To be felt. There is a paucity of words to express that feeling of being transported to another world. Of make believe may be. Where the world is united by music! He held the note at higher sa and paused for effect. Why do I feel his delineations are but prayers to the powers that be. He has a dialogue with a higher Being. Very successfully. There was a sudden grahabhedam into??? It was too fleeting. So I will let Saketharaman tell me what he did. He ended the alabanai at the higher sa after foraying several times successfully in the upper octave. When it was Bhaskar’s turn it was an inspired essay into Kamboji. thiruvadi charanam-enru naan nambi was the krithi though he started at
Marupadiyum ennai karuvadai kuzhiyil thalli Another GKB composition
Soulful neraval at aduthu vandu ennai- the harahara pulls you into a vortex. From the floating in the higher notes he went to the nether and again built up the tempo. The entire team was in perfect coordination.
The final neraval phrase was a sixer hit totally out of the ground. The thani avarthanam of Neyveli B Venkatesh to this song, was like a damroo playing to Lord Shiva. The morsing responded so beautifully. For Bhagyalakshmi, Her morsing is putty in her hands. The sounds she produced I have never heard ever before! Superb. Both the percussionists raised the level of the concert to great heights! Rudra thandavam!

E vasudha in sahana came up as a breather. The highlight were the chittaswarams. I was remembering GNB whose rendition I used to hear throughout my growing up years. I have run out of adjectives. Except for saying it was a soothing sahana.

Brindavana sarang alabanai was like a waterfall. The ragam itself has the power to reduce me to jelly and the very very inspired alabanai was a boon to my ever thirsty soul. Again this alabanai also ended on a high note.What vidwath! Between him and Bhaskar they ensured we were rivetted to our seats. I was listening closed eyes. Exquisite bowing.
The thanam was achingly sweet. As though sakshat Saraswathi is bringing it out from both vidwans.

One thing I have realised. At one point it is no more about the audience. It is purely a soul stirring quest and then it is no longer a display of talent -it is self actualisation for the artist. Whether it was Saketharaman singing in a high state of excitement. Or Bhaskar enjoying playing with closed eyes. Both the artists and Rasikas are immersed in the ocean that is music..
‘Ananda natana prakasham chit sabesham Chidambaresam ashrayami
Satatam” went the pallavi. It was brief and swarams followed in brindavana sarang, kedaram, poorvi kalyani, kedaragowlai and back to brindavani sarang.

The thukdas that followed were Chandrachuda Shiva, a Purandaradasa composition, and after a virutham- Petra thai tanai in saveri followed “maname kanamum maravade” in Karnataka devagandhari or should I say abheri. All too soon, the concert was over.

It is only when I write about artists who sing well, I am limited by the boundaries of my limited vocabulary.

Thanks Saketharaman and team! Sabash! Just keep ’em coming!