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When Raga-Samay Proved To Be Time-Warped

Classical Indian tunes needn’t necessarily stick to time theory if pure aesthetics is of prime importance, going by a recent Carnatic-after-Hindustani session in spring-time Delhi

When Raga-Samay Proved To Be Time-Warped
When Raga-Samay Proved To Be Time-Warped
outlookindia.com
2017-03-23T17:53:22+05:30

Can early morning give way to late evening in a span of, say, seven minutes? Yes, sometimes, if it is Carnatic that follows a Hindustani concert—and, of course, if the listener’s mind is sensitive to the raga-samay concept in Indian classical music.

When Sandeep Narayan chose to begin his kacheri with a short piece tuned to Pantuvarali, the young Chennaiite meant no disrespect to a widely-acknowledged association between the time of day and the melody-type. At around 11 o’clock in a bright early-spring morning, he introduced himself to the Delhi gathering with a breezy varnam set by relatively lesser-known composer called Shatkala Narasaiya.

If anything, the largely brisk Sami ninne, set to the eight-beat adi tala, is an all-season composition. For, while Pantuvarali might sound post-afternoon for Carnatic aesthetes as well, not many among them would mind listening to it when the sun above the roof is on its ascent.

All the same, the contrast in the mood came in with sudden intensity possibly because of the genre of music that preceded Sandeep’s the other day. At Sangamam-2017, it was a Hindustani recital that set the ball rolling—with the performer, typically, sticking to the raga-samay principle. Starting 9.30 a.m, rudra veena artiste Suvir Misra gave a meditative presentation in Bhatiyar that tended to picture a slowly blooming flower-bud kissed by the gentle rays of the rising sun.

The two-day festival organised by the capital-based organisation ‘Sunaad’ last weekend had the middle-aged Mumbaikar plucking the strings of the ancient instrument—before the new-age Carnatic vocalist rendered a 140-minute recital. If Sandeep sought to string together half-a-dozen items that threw light into the richness of variety in the south Indian system, the rudra veena unveiled the elegance of going for a single shot: Bhatiyar in dhrupad format.

Madhya Pradesh-born Misra, who is a civil services officer working in the country’s commercial capital (after having schooled in Delhi), came up with a two-speed composition—rhythmically set to the 12-beat chautal and, then, to sultal of 10 beats. Particularly noteworthy was the pakhawaj assistance by Mohan Shyam Sharma, with smooth rolls and never a tap falling off-beat. The jor-jhala that preceded it maintained the quality of restraint, which was highlight of the 20-minute alap at the start.


The sight of Misra, who is also a tabla artiste and a player of the saraswati veena in the Carnatic style (having undertaken classes under the maverick S. Balachandar), handling the huge instrument had an extra touch of quirkiness what with him being left-handed. A commissioner with Customs and Central Excise, he hails from a family of musicians from Harda—a hilly central-Indian pocket also noted for its tribal population.

‘The idea is to bring in a range of artistes of varied genres of music from different parts of the country,” says Sunaad’s chief organiser Saraswati Rajagopalan, a veena player from the Carnatic stream. The second day of the March 18-19 event at India International Centre, thus, had a south Indian vocal duet by teenaged Lathangi sisters Archana and Samanvi from south Karnataka’s temple town of Udupi and trained under Ranjani Hebbar and N. Ravikiran. The evening concluded with a multi-instrument confluence. Titled Samvad, it featured Saraswati herself on the veena, along with Ajay Prasanna on the flute, Upamanyu Bhanot on the keyboard, Anoor Anathakrishna Sharma on the mridangam, Vinod Shyam on the tabla and S. Pranav Dath on the rhythm pad.

The noon-time concert on day-1 by Sandeep had its high point coming after the centerpiece package in the weighty Bhairavi raga. Just as one probably thought the singer would come up with a few light numbers after a rich-in-tone taniyavartanam (by mridangam player M.V. Chandrashekhar) that capped the Tyagaraja kriti Koluvaiyunnade that showcased a well-structured neraval in Manasu ranjilla. A detailed ragam-tanam-pallavi from Sandeep, a frontline disciple of star vocalist Sanjay Subrahmanyan, came in Durga.

This raga, again, from the Hindustani viewpoint, is night-time. Outside, the post-Holi sun was in full form, but the auditorium anyway had its interiors lit up. Even otherwise, the beauty of the rendition would have checked anyone from thinking about the time-appropriateness of the Durga at 12.40 pm. Sandeep, soaked in a body language so full of his guru’s and timber remindful of none other, followed his alapanai (well responded on the violin by Delhi P. Sunder Rajan) with a shining tanam and then the pallavi that had the swara passages also layered with ragas Hindolam and Vasanti.

Yadukula Kamboji, Kannada and Mand were the other ragas from the musician, who was raised in the US, where Sandeep took initial Carnatic lessons from his mother Subha Narayan during the family’s Los Angeles days. The vocalist, who said he would wind up with tillana but skipped it, concluded his recital with a mangalam that had a fag-end dash of raga Saurashtram.


(The videos are from an earlier performance of the artistes.)

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