When genius and craft blended
Srinivas's mandolin and Ustad Sultan Khan's sarangi in jugalbandhi created a poignant mood
CASTING A SPELL: Mandolin Srinivas and Ustad Sultan Khan PHOTO: S.R. RAGHUNATHAN
The very first essay of the mandolin in raga Kiravani, followed by the opening statement of the sarangi, and you knew that you were in for some nectarine fare. The alaap flowed like a woodland stream. It was cool, clear, and translucent in the slow movement. The mandolin created the feel of resonant continuity, rising to the challenge of the sarangi's powers in this direction. There was a moment when mandolin and sarangi paused after the upper shadja, and all you heard was the tambura. Here was space to internalise the experience.
The rhythmic tanam riveted next, Mandolin U. Srinivas compelling in effortless forays, and Ustad Sultan Khan ranging from the serious to the sporting. The full tilt swara trading avoided noise to stimulate delight. This was magic, turning listeners into participants. What did one expect anyway from seasoned players like Srinivas and Ustad Sultan Khan, in a rare amalgam of European and Indian instruments, ripe Hindustani musicianship and southern genius?
Complementing one another
Their wholesome Kiravani was invoked by a single mind behind two instruments. Though the mandolin and sarangi are disparate in tone, the music they made created a sense of wholeness. If the sarangi's bow embellished the mandolin, the mandolin too knew just how to enhance its partner. The senior showed his approval by putting his bow down after a remarkable turn by the younger artiste. Srinivas was quick to make visual exclamations of wonder with gestures.
The ragamalika frills fitted smoothly and proportionately, Bahudari standing out for its character. Percussionists Thanjavur Murugabhoopathy (mridangam) and Hanif Khan (tabla) showed their mettle right through. Their tani exchange was taut in length, varied in style, relishable in content.
But this vintage light was not something to be switched on right at the start of the sarangi-mandolin jugalbandi at the Music Academy, for The Hindu Friday Review November Fest. It had to gain voltage from preparatory stages in Hamsadhwani and Charukesi. These Carnatic ragas, as also the later Kiravani, have now become part of the Hindustani arsenal. In Hamsadhwani, short alapana phrases escalated into a crisp design.
"Vatapi Ganapatim" was the obvious choice, as the melodic form of Muthuswami Dikshitar's kriti crossed the Vindhyas decades ago. The song was the peg for familiar, fluent improvisations, the faster essays cast in rhythm dominant patterns. The drums kept the beat going in familiar tracks.
Charukesi was more whetted. The first three notes of the scale were enough to establish raga identity, while the dhaivata made it spring to life. In the alaap you noted how the sarangi's timbre and contouring effects, distinctly different from the mandolin, were employed to paint the raga colours. Tyagaraja's "Adamodigalade" was landing ground for improvisations.
The tempo was accented by perky tishra phrases and pharan-like swirls from the mandolin, with sound mridangam backing. As the brother and regular accompanist of Sultan Khan, Hanif Khan displayed an intuitive anticipation. He too adopted the tishra mode against the sarangi's Charukesi tide, and captivated by his innovative banking methods. These included highly relishable folk lilts on string and drum. Such gait variations brought agreeable variety in the Adi talam-Teen taal cycle which dominated the evening. Yet the Charukesi finale was all too abrupt.
Though the concert peaked in the Kiravani-soaked ragam, tanam, and pallavi (set to Adi talam again), a high point was reached in the Sai bhajan that followed. Sultan Khan tilted the mike upwards to launch Mishra Khammaj in brief vocal phrases, as spontaneous as they were chiselled. After that start, the bhajan on string and drum became a perfunctory exercise.
The Sindhubhairavi finale restored the raga focus again. If Sultan Khan scattered phrases steeped in melody, for Shrinivas it was child's play to bring off moving prayogas.
The backdrop, lit by different colours through the show, settled here for a leafy glow a fine mate for the evergreen beguilement of the delicate tints of the raga. In keeping with the poignant mood, the tabla and the mridangam bolstered the mandolin and sarangi to a modulated climax, ending on a quiet, restful note.
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu