In pursuit of the divine
IT IS believed that there was a direct manifestation of the spiritual force in the lives of all `vaggeyakaras' of South Indian classical music, which became the urge for devoting their lives fully to the pursuit of the divine. With Vadakkepalazhi Narayana Menon, things were much the same. An engineer in the United States, he had fleeting visions of the Lord urging him to write
`keerthanas.' With bare minimal initiation into music and literature, Mr. Menon dismissed them as mere trifles. But as the visions kept recurring he devoted himself fully to the task. He composed more than 150 keerthanas praising Guruvayoorappa, Poornathrayeesa and other deities. Four CDs of these songs are nearing completion. He uses `Sundaranarayana' as his `vaggeyakara mudra' in all his compositions. Apart from this he has penned a dance drama `Manjula Charitham'.
To set music to his works, he found the ideal musician in Dr. Omanakutty, who has done a marvellous job in this department, giving each of the compositions the weight and loftiness of traditional `krithis', supplying them with `sangatis' and `chittaswarams.' The ragas are chosen appropriately, for some songs where the beauty of the Lord is highlighted and in some, where the magnanimity is praised.
At the concert organised by the Sree Poornathrayeesa Sangeeta Sabha at the Kalikota Palace, most of the songs selected for rendition were on Poornathrayeesa. A Ganesha `sthuti' in Hamsadhwani raga set to Roopaka tala, `Mamavasada Ganeshwara... ' was embellished with rehearsed `mukthaippu' in `swaraprasthara.' In a plea to the Lord, `to rid my woes in the battlefield of life and be my charioteer', the raga chosen appropriately was Andolika, which helped to add to the feel of appeal and anguish. The krithi in Khamas `Ava sada varada... ' excelled for the sheer inherent beauty of the raga, which is used to portray the beauty of the Lord. This was received well by the audience.
The recent concerts of Dr.Omanakutty find her in the `playing safe' mood never taking chances with the range. But this day her Poorvikalyani alapana had a certain fullness trying to cover all shades of the raga. The vocalist was in her uninhibited best, tackling `swara' passages with a smile.
She brought out the grandeur of her voice, throwing in full in upper `ga' and `ri' during `swaraprasthara' at the dramatic points. This was complimented by Satheesh on the mridangam who seemed sure where the vocalist was heading. As she went of a new pattern at every point, Satheesh took to it from the start. The `krithi' was `Santhanagopala moorthim bhaje... ' It celebrates the Lord who adorns the temple on the banks of River Poorni and who wears the golden crown. He is the very Narayana who sleeps on the serpent Anantha in Vykunta. This was followed by `Bhavayami sada divya prabhavam... ' in Hindolam. The main piece was `Mamava Madhava... ' in Mohanam. In the `alapana' if the vocalist chose `korvai' phrases, Attukal Balasubramaniam kept to highlighting the `lakshya' on the violin. Neraval was done for `Sundara susmitha chandrabimbanana... ' `Poornaveda pura..' in Kapi and the ragamalika `Vandeham Sundaranamam... ' ensued. The `thani' by Satheesh and Sudheer on the ghatam gave that last touch of grandeur.
The vocalist took the `slokam' `Karunardra lochana... ' for elaboration. Dr. Omanakutty is also an exponent of Kathakali music. This influence was fairly evident in the modulated passionate rendition in ragas Anandabhairavi, Kedaragowla and Hamsanadam, finally going for a tillana in Hamsanadam.
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