Carnatic music on a grand display

Since, 61 years, South Indian Cultural Association (SICA) been organizing concerts and promoting Carnatic music and classical dance in Hyderabad. This year, their annual art festival at Ravindra Bharati auditorium began with S Sowmya, who was recently conferred with the most coveted title in the Carnatic music field, Sangeeta Kalanidhi; this academically and musically accomplished singer was also conferred with SICA's Sangeeta Saraswathi title, this year.

She began her concert with a Chittaranjani raga kriti of Thyagaraja Swamy, 'Ragatanum antispam' set to Adi talam. The second one in her repertoire, yet another Thyagaraja Kriti 'Ganamurte Srikrishna', like quite a few other ones in Carnatic music has a mention of the name of the ragam in its verse – here it is evidently, Ganamurti. By the time Sowmya went on to render Subbaraya Sastri composition in Begada 'Sankara Neeve' the singer's ease with alapanas and Kalpana swaras was on a riveting display, which continued through the concert despite the singer dealing with a slight throat issue. She went on to sing Akhilandeshwari in Dwijavanthi, with strong Hindustani traces (which is Jai Jaivanti brought in from Hindustani by Dikshitar, who called it (Dwi) javanthi).

Her main 'Bhajare Chitta Balambika' in Kalyani was followed by a sloka, Krishnaya Vasudevaya and bhajan 'Nandanandana nandalahari' soulfully rendered in four different ragas – Bhagyasree, Brindavana Saranga, Hamsanandini and Desh – each of which are known to have been an inspiration to several composers of songs, kritis, bhajans, ashtapadis… on Lord Krishna, the lover and protector. Sowmya's concert concluded with Swati Thirunal's thillana in Dhanashri ragam.

Her scholarly approach to mridangam, and knowledge of the instrumentalisation allowed for great coordination with the talented violinist Nagai Sriram and Neyveli Narayanan, the disciple of legendary Padmabhushan Umayalpuram K Sivaraman on Mridangam.

The annual festival in addition to bringing to the city of Nizams some legendary singers also introduces to music lovers and students some amazingly talented instrumentalists from all over. For Carnatic musician, playback singer Sid Sriram, who performed on the fourth day of the concert, Trivandrum Sampath on violin, Patri Satish Kumar on Mridangam and Giridhar Udupa on ghatam created an electrifying ambience to match the energy of the popular singer.

Sid, with his emotion-laden, distinct voice has rendered many a movie hits in south Indian languages in recent times. He is well versed with a few Western music forms as well and has launched his independent album. The difficult to please SICA audience were amazed by his astoundingly brilliant presentation of the Carnatic music. He learnt music from his mother Latha Sriram and says it is classical music that gives him direction and inspiration. He began with the tried and tested concert-opener Sahana varnam 'Karunimpa', and had the audience hooked on to this rendition from the word go.

With precision, finesse and absolute clarity in swara kalpana and enthralling alapanas, Sid presented an impressive lineup - 'Rama Sami Sivan's 'Neekeladayaradu' in Sarasangi ragam, Gopalakrishna Bharathi's 'Sabhapathiki veru daivam' in Abhogi ragam, Mysur Vasudevacharya's 'Sankari Ninne' in Kamavardhani followed by every one's favourite 'Rangapuravihara' in Brindavana Saranga ragam and Purandara Dasa's 'Jagadodharana', followed by GNB's Radhasametha Krishna in Misra Yaman, 'Enna kavi padinalum' in Neelamani ragam by Anayampatti Adisesha Appar, a thillana in Sivaranjani and a Thirupugaz in Sindhubhairavi. Sid sang two film songs based on Carnatic music for his fans, which included the recent Telugu hit 'Inkem Inkem Inkem Kavale'.

Two more young, but well-accomplished musicians' concerts that audience vouched for are U Rajesh, who played the mandolin exquisitely, and Abhishek Raghuram, who performed on the third day of the festival. Abhishek's swara kalpana for the main item, a Poorvikalyana raga kriti by P Srinivas Iyengar 'Paramapavana Rama' that went on well over an hour had the audience spellbound, literally. His concert began with 'Vanajakshiro', a Kalyani raga varnam and included some wonderful keertanas – Thyaragraja's 'Girirajasutha thanaya' in Bangala ragam, and Papanasam Sivan's 'Maa Ramanan' in Hindolam and 'Karpagame', a Madhyamavati ragam kriti. He was accompanied by BU Ganesh Prasad on violin, Arjun Kumar on Mridangam and Krishna on ghatam.

Rajesh gave a soul-stirring Mandolin recital on the third day. He was accompanied by P Sundar Rajan on violin, V Praveena on Mridangam and N Praveen on tabla. He began with Vathapi Ganapathimbaje in Hamsadhwani, a Muthuswami Dikshitar composition, who is also the creator of this beautiful ragam. His rendition of Thyagaraja's 'Endaro Mahanubhavulu', 'Vaderadaivamu' in Panturavali, 'Varinchuvarevarura', a Balamurali sahityam, 'Manasasancharare', a Sadasivabrahmendra composition and the main item 'Chakkani Rajamargamu' in Kharaharapriya was a dazzling showcase of Swarakalpana. He also performed to Ramadasa kriti 'Yetheerugananu', Annamayya padam 'Brahmamokkate', 'Narayanathe Namo Namo' in Behag, a thilllana and a bhajan 'Radhasametha Krishna'.

Bombay Jayashree's concert was all about tradition that met with perfection and as she traversed the intricate swarakalpanas and raga vinyasa with elegant ease, it was like sweet nectar on the ears. She had Charulatha Raghuram on violin, Anirudh Atreya on Kanjira and yet again Patri Satish Kumar on Mridangam creating a musical extravaganza on the concluding day of the SICA festival. She too started the concert with Hamsadhwani and a Thyagaraja kriti 'Raghunayaka'. She went on to sing 'Neepadame gati nalina kantimati' in Nalinakanthi ragam, 'Gnanamosagarada' in Poorvikalyani, a bhajan 'Mohanamuralidhara Gopala' and Lalgudi's thillana in Vasanthi ragam.

Each artist or musician has a unique quality and character to their music, and with stalwarts on the stage, it is amazing to see how they establish a connection with the audience and their music, which they gained from their Gurus, explored on their own and embellished it with their creativity over the years, and presented it in their style.

On the concluding day of the festival, secretary R Chakrapani announced his retirement. He has been serving the organisation for over three decades now. He will continue to be associated with SICA in the capacity of an Honorary Advisor.

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