Saturday, November 3, 2012

Scintillating Concert

Living in the Bay Area, 8500+ miles from Chennai, the Mecca of Carnatic music, one never feels deprived from experiencing the rich cultural environments of a sabha. The mountain, as the saying goes, comes to Mohammed! If anything, there is an exuberance of activity in the Bay Area that one has to "pick and choose".

One sparkling example of Bay Area's Carnatic Cornucopia is Sanjay Subrahmanyan's SIFA concert on September 21st 2012 at Gunn High School in Palo Alto. Even though the performance was over six weeks back, it is still fresh in my memory. 

Sanjay was ably accompanied by S. Varadarajan on the violin and Neyveli Venkatesh on the mridangam. Thanks to getting caught in heavy traffic, I missed the varnam that Sanjay sang (if you attended the concert, please add information about the varnam as a comment). Sanjay's next song was vinAyakA ninnu vinA brOchutaku in hamsadhwanI. He followed this with a short alApanA in yadukula kAmbhOji and the krithi ninnu sEvinchina. Next, Sanjay started singing an elaborate alApanA in kalyaaNi. At one point he held the gAndhAra swaram (without pausing to take breath) for over a minute. When somebody in the audience started applauding, Sanjay shushed that person by holding his hand out to a stop sign. He continued to hold the swaram for another minute plus! The audience was left breathless!! He sang the Tyaagaraaja krithi sivE paahimambikE. Sanjay performed an elaborate neraval on the caraNam, carA caramayi karAravindamuna rAma cilukanu birAna.

Sanjay then sang the KOTeeshwara Aiyyar composition, kalangaadE manamE. He followed this with an exquisite alApanA in nATTai kurinji and sang the Gopalakrishna Bharati composition, vazhi maraittirukkude. Next he sang the fast paced Thyagaraja krithi anupama guNaambudi in aThaaNaa. He was, of course, setting up the audience for the Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi. The RTP was in AbhOgi. The lyrics for the pallavi were, not surprisingly, "sabhApatikku vEru deivam samAnamAgumA tillai. Sanjay sang the rAgamAlikA swaras in the Hindustani raags of jOg and darbAr. Much to the delight of the audience, Sanjay (perhaps sensing that a majority of the audience were Tamil speaking) sang the rest of the Gopalakrishna Bharati composition after Neyveli Venkatesh completed the thaniAvarthanam.

On the "home stretch" (aka tukkada section), Sanjay packed in three more songs - a Purandara Dasa krithi in bhAgEshri, followed by an excellent ragamAlikA viruttam and a composition in mAnD. The concert lasted for almost 3.5 hours and the audience were on its feet at the end acknowledging the brilliance of the artist.

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