Tuesday, May 21, 2024

When Mayiladuthurai resonates with songs

The Vallalar-Medha Dakshinamurthy temple in Mayiladuthurai resonated with Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s Tamil compositions for three evenings after Mahashivaratri, the day Gopalakrishna Bharathi is said to have attained siddhi. The 35th edition of the festival was held recently, and featured exclusive concerts of Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s kirtanas.

The book Nandanar Keerthanai launched at the Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s annual music festival, held in mayiladuthurai in January 2023.

The book Nandanar Keerthanai launched at the Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s annual music festival, held in mayiladuthurai in January 2023.
| Photo Credit:
Revathi R.

Every year, a group, led by ‘Deccan’ N.K. Murthy, organises a music festival in Mayiladuthurai to pay tribute to the composer. Musicians Kunnakudi M. Balamurali Krishna, Hanumanthapuram J. Bhuvarahan and Malini Sriram coordinate the event.

Born in Narimanam near Nagapattinam, Gopalakrishna Bharati is known to have lived in Mudikondan, Koothanur, and Anandathandavapuram near Mayiladuthurai.

Swathi Srikrishna performing at Gopalakrishna Bharati’s annual festival, held in Mayiladuthurai in February 2023.

Swathi Srikrishna performing at Gopalakrishna Bharati’s annual festival, held in Mayiladuthurai in February 2023.
| Photo Credit:
Revathi R.

His opera ‘Nandanar Charitram’, inspired by the nayanmar Thirunalaipovar’s life, remains a revered Tamil work. But was that all to Gopalakrishna Bharathi? He learnt to sing in both Carnatic and Hindustani styles from ‘Ghanam’ Krishna Iyer and Ramdas Swamy, respectively. His works set in ragas such as Kamboji, Devagandhari, Jhonpuri and Behag stand testimony to this fact. Apart from ‘Nandanar Charitram’, Gopalakrishna Bharathi had also composed many kirtanas, sindhu, kummi, oonjal, and savai, which stood out for their simple language. Music and spirituality are intertwined in his compositions.

The festival opened with Injikudi E.P. Ganesan’s nagaswaram recital, followed by the release of the reprinted edition of the book Nandanar Keerthanai, first published in 1936. The day’s performances began with Swathi Srikrishna’s concert that featured a brisk ‘Natanam adinar’ in Vasantha, the slow and beautiful ‘Kannale kanden’, and ‘Thillai chidambaram’ in Purvikalyani with swaras in two speeds.

Bharat Sundar offered a variety fare with popular and rarely-heard compositions. ‘Vandalum varattum’ in Balahamsa and ‘Paarthu kadan kodungal’ (Kapi), one of the two compositions mentioned by scholar U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer in Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s biography His Purvikalyani raga alapana, and ‘Satre vilagi irum pillaai’ with niraval at ‘Bhakthiyil karai kandavan’ was a sumptuous treat. His swarakalpanas had interesting swarakshara combinations. ‘Vazhi maraithirukkude’ in slow tempo captured the essence of Nattakurinji. He then delineated Dhanyasi raga and presented ‘Kanakasabhapathi’ in all its grandeur. The vibrant madhyama kala in ‘Irakkam varamal’ (Behag) was striking. Sayee Rakshith on the violin, K.H. Vineet on the mridangam, and Giridhara Prasad on the kanjira gave good support.

Crisp alapanas

Gayathri Venkataraghavan presented more compositions with crisp raga alapanas. She started with ‘Thillai sthalamendru’ in Sama, followed by ‘Kanden kali theernden’ in Kalyani . After a Thodi alapana, ‘Tha thai yendraduvar’ with kalpanaswaras led to the description of Shiva’s Ananda Thandavam. ‘Sivakama sundari’ in Jaganmohini set in a brisk tempo came as a precursor to a relaxed Kiravani and the kriti ‘Innamum sandehappadalamo.’ ‘Ayye metha kadinam’ in ragamalika was well-received. Mysore Srikanth (violin) and B Sivaraman (mridangam) and Sreesundar Kumar (kanjira) kept up the tempo.

On day two, young S. Abhirami presented three compositions: ‘Piravaadha varam’ in Arabhi, ‘Kanden kali theernden’ in Kalyani with niraval and kalpanaswaras, and ‘Thillai ambalathanai’ in Surutti.

Following her presentation, Chinnamanur Vijay Karthikeyan, V.L. Sudarshan and Vijayendran, all from Annamalai University, Chidambaram, performed rare kirtanas such as ‘Paarkka paarkka thigattumo’ in Khamas and ‘Edho theriyamal pochude’ in Hamir Kalyani . The Khamas kirtana ‘Kanaka sabesan sevadi’ with jatis in the charanam was a pleasant surprise.

Creative rendition

Sriranjani Santhanagopalan repertoire included ragas such as Sri, Vasantha, Abhogi, Purvikalyani and Devamanohari. The rhythmic patterns in ‘Natanam aadinar’ (Vasantha) showcased her creativity. She presented ‘Sabhapathikku’ (Abhogi) followed by a brief delineation of Purvikalyani and the composition ‘Natamadum nathanadi malare thunai’. The niraval was at ‘Gnyalam ellam uyya’ and the tani in Khanda Chapu added to the uplifting experience. She added a beautiful touch to ‘Yarukkuthan theriyum’ (Devamanohari). The accompanying musicians Sayee Rakshith (violin), B. Sivaraman (mridangam), Chandrasekara Sarma (ghatam) and Sreesundar Kumar (kanjira) lent an edge provided a lively experience for to the 90-minute session.

Udayalur Kalyanaraman performing divyanama sankirtanam at Gopalakrishna Bharati’s annual festival, held in Mayiladuthurai in February 2023.

Udayalur Kalyanaraman performing divyanama sankirtanam at Gopalakrishna Bharati’s annual festival, held in Mayiladuthurai in February 2023.

Udayalur Kalyanarama Bhagavatar presented Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s compositions in namasankirtanam style. The extended session included ‘Natana sabesa’ (Kanada) and ‘Sabhapathiyai paadu’ (Kalyani) among others. The slow rendition of ‘Podhum podhum ayya’ in Charukesi was full of poise, and ‘Darisikka venum’ in Nattakurinji was equally impressive. The team also sang ‘Thathai thathai enru aadum’ (Saveri), ‘Kanakasabai tirunatanam’ (Surutti), and ‘Bhava sagaram’ (Behag).

On the final day of the event, young violinist Mukundan Samraj impressed the audience with a crisp solo concert. He played several compositions including ‘Padame thunai’ (Hamsadhwani), ‘Eppo varuvaro’ (Jhonpuri), ‘Innamum sandeha’ (Kiravani), and ‘Irakkam varaamal’ (Behag), and presented Kamboji and ‘Thiruvadi saranam’ with niraval and short swarakalpana in ‘Eduththa jananam’.

The nagaswaram artistes Pandanallur Manivannan and Thiruvidaikkazhi Anbazhagan, supported by T.R. Kannadasan and Tirumalapadi Gopi on the thavil, gave an appreciable tribute to Gopalakrishna Bharathi.

Subhashree Thanikachalam and team’s presentation (Sai Vignesh, Pappu Gyandev and Arvind Srikanth), a blend of narration and music, was an enjoyable and unique experience for the local residents.

The concluding concert by Ramakrishnan Murthy was a mix of poise and serenity. L. Ramakrishnan (violin), Sumesh Narayanan (mridangam), and Chandrasekara Sharma (ghatam) complemented the singer well. Be it ‘Saranagatham enru’ (Gowlai) or ‘Ananda kadalattum’ (Thodi) , the team gave its best. ‘Thillai chidambaram’ (Purvikalyani) was high on melody, so was ‘Varuvaro’ (Sama). A lilting ‘Aadum chidambaramo’ in Behag brought the curtains down.

Though more than 300 compositions by Gopalakrishna Bharathi are available today, only a few are presented on the concert stage.

The festival aims to popularise more kirtanas of the composer every year.

#Mayiladuthurai #resonates #songs

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