And the Oscar goes to … Kaapi
Concert Review by Pitchumani Sivakumar
After some tantalizingly close calls and near-misses in the past due to scheduling conflicts, music lovers in greater Philadelphia were treated to a wonderful concert by Bombay Jayashree (BJ) under the auspices of Sruti during the fall of 2016. She was accompanied by Embar Kannan on the violin, V.V. Ramanamurthy on the Mridangam and K.V.Gopalakrishnan (KVG) on the Kanjira.
The concert started with Puliyur Doraisami Iyer’s Sarasiruhasana in Nattai, that was rendered at an ambient tempo to set the tone for the concert. Swara exchanges for the piece were crisp and executed very well. BJ then chose Thaaye Tripurasundari, rendering the prominent Suddha Saveri krithi at a brilliant pace. The chittaswarams were well punctuated and brought out the exquisite beauty of the raga. BJ then gave a mellifluous elaboration of Purvikalyani before launching into Sri Thyagaraja’s Paripurna Kama and culminating with some delectable neraval and swaraprastharams. This was followed by a fast rendition of the popular Manavyala Kinchara in Nalinakanthi rounded up with a short swara exchange.
Up until this point, although the accompanists followed the flow of the songs quite effectively, there appeared to be a queasy feeling of a subtle lack of sync. One wondered if that could possibly be due to an overdose of the thisra-chathusra switches that the mridangist resorted to during the song and the theermanas. However, this feeling soon disappeared during the second half of the concert starting with the Thodi main piece and into the Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi (RTP) and the thukkadas in the end — the mojo rediscovered. Ninne Nammi in misra chappu followed a fulfilling alapana of Thodi, which Embar Kannan shadowed and responded extremely well. Neraval was done at customary caranam line of “Kamakshi”. Ramanamurthy and KVG were in their element during the thani avarthanam — some nice solkattus from the mridangist and wonderful response on the Kanjira. The thani could have been a tad longer.
The stand-out piece of the concert was definitely the RTP in Kaapi — a degree kaapi by South Indian standards. BJ was completely absorbed in bringing out the bhava of the raga. By then, I had an opportunity to move closer to the stage in the front row and was entranced instantly. The palindromic ragamalika swaras in Kaapi-Sunadavinodini-Rageshree was an absolute delight and spoke volumes about BJ’s mastery of music.
Subramanya Bharathi’s evergreen number, Chinnanchiru Kiliye was refreshing and soothing as ever. The concert concluded with a Meera bhajan in Yaman (Gopala Govinda) and a thillana in Desh, both rendered in inimitable BJ style and ensured the concert ended on a high. Ramanamurthy, as I hear, has excelled in adopting the pakhawaj playing style and it was very evident in the way he accompanied the concluding pieces. All in all, an enthralling concert by BJ. Kudos to Sruti for presenting such good quality programs.