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A new experience

Aswathy Tirunal Rama Varma's veena and vocal concerts underscored his versatility as a musician and singer.



Aswathy Tirunal Rama Varma: heir to a rich musical tradition.

ASWATHY TIRUNAL Rama Varma's veena concert was held under the aegis of Rasikapriya recently. A disciple of Dr. Balamuralikrishna and K.S. Narayanaswamy, Rama Varma does not completely adhere to the prevailing concert format, and hence his concerts are a new experience; the pieces are not truncated to suit the constraints of time. He distributes his time in unravelling the raga essence in just five or six pieces.

Rama Varma focusses mainly on the `tantrakari' aspect. He started the concert with the Utsava sampradaya kriti of Thyagaraja `Hecharika rara' in Yadukulakamboji. The items selected were the ones that go typically well with the instrument. `Padmanabha pahi' in Hindolam, a kriti by Swati Tirunal, further heightened expectations. A crisp Amruthavarshini was linked to `Sudhamayee sudhanidhim,' a kriti of Muthiah Bhagavathar. Detailed swara exposition with emphasis on the nishadam was delectable. `Bhogeendrashayinam' in Kundalavarali was followed by a passionate rendition of Mukhari. A good transition, by striking the variant `ni,' was followed by tanam in Behag, Kapi and Rasikapriya.

A charismatic `laya' experience was given by Cherthala Ananthakrishnan on the mridangam and Uduppi Sridhar on the ghatam. `Kamaladalayathalochana mulave' a kriti in Bahudari by Balamuralikrishna, was rendered vocally and played on the veena as well. The English note, which never fails to charm, was adroitly performed. But tonal variations would have made this and certain other pieces even better.

Tributes

Rama Varma's vocal concert was organised by Poornathrayeesa Sangeeta Sabha to pay tributes to V.V.M. Namboodiripad and Ratnam Thampuran. The gem of all varnams, `Viriboni' in Bhairavi and Ada thalam, was sung in three speeds. `Sobillu saptaswara' in Jaganmohini was rendered with due emphasis on the swaraksharas. `Dharahritsa matulalo' in this way was rendered with as many as four variations. Then Rama Varma went on to expound swaraprasthara. A rare kriti of Dikshithar in Shivapantuvarali `Pashupatheeswaram' was performed with due accent on expression and diction. `Hariyum Haranum,' a kriti by M.D. Ramanathan in Atana, was a charmer.

Lavangi, the raga formed by Dr. Balamuralikrishna, one with just four notes, was surprisingly chosen as the main piece. A detailed raga essay was indeed a challenging one, and this was performed well, followed by the kriti `Omkaraakaarini.' The voice throwing, characteristic of Balamuralikrishna, was given in `Hoonkaramatra shatru damani,' which took a good section of the audience by surprise, considering the almost sober mood till then. Jhanda usages were prominent in the swara rendition.

Promising artiste

Unni Keralavarma, a budding mridangam artiste, caught every idea of the vocalist, be it in the swara prasthara or sangatis, supporting and embellishing it. He stood out when the accompanists reproduced musical phrases given by Rama Varma and in a thani with Adichanelloor Ajith Kumar. `Japat japat Hari namam' of Swati Tirunal was rendered as ragamalika in Mand, Behag and Sindhu Bhairavi.

Many artistes take liberties with the English note popularised by the Madurai Mani Iyer school of music. No different was Rama Varma's treatment of the piece. He started with some soft movements before beginning the piece in a slow pace.

A little later, something akin to a movement in a coda brought it to a dramatic finale.

Hareesh Bal

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