Ecstasy by Lakshmi Shankar
Audiorec Limited, Rs. 260
For khayal music lovers, Lakshmi Shankar’s Keervani “Nata Naagara…” is among the ultimate renditions of the raga: evocative and devout. Her bhajan in Madhukauns “Kaant Daras Bina Baavari…” is a grand presenta
tion of the shringara rasa before it coalesces into the spiritual serene. For years, apart from a collection of thumri, Lakshmi Shankar’s music was not available. “Ecstasy” from Audiorec International comes as more than a surprise. The ascetic musician has kept away from media, public concerts and recordings, and lives quietly in her world of music. These recordings however, are from UK, where music lovers have been more fortunate to hear and record her.
It takes a maestro to make even a beaten raga like Bhupali (or Bhoop) sound fresh and new. The benchmark is Kishori Amonkar’s sparkling rendition of the raga, “Sahela Re…”. Lakshmi Shankar too, infuses a vitality into the raga which can easily sound repetitive with its straightforward pentatonic scale (Kalyan That). With a very brief alaap, she begins her khyal, “Daya Karo More Shyam”, set in vilambit ektaal. Unlike in most other presentations, Lakshmi Shankar presents the entire cheez – stayi and antara – before she takes upon a detailed exposition of the raga. She works at length in the mandra sapthak (middle octave) with the first line of the bandish. Lakshmi Shankar picks each word of the line and renders them in so many different ways, packing each of them with varied emotions. Whoever could think that a supplication – call it mercy, benevolence, kindness, munificence – would come in so many different forms; from the unadorned to the rigorous. The detailed bol alaap is full of lilting contours, so typical of Lakshmi Shankar. She dwells on the diagnostic swara groups with such beauty that it evokes a sublime calm. Even in her most vivacious renditions there is seldom a harsh note. She steps up the pace with her lively swara prastara. However, when she touches the higher notes, the otherwise subdued and poignant sarangi does interfere: wish the track had been toned down.
When she moves from here to develop the upper register, she indulges in complicated sargams and tans. Even at this age (well over 70 I presume), not a single note goes out of place. In fact, it is marked by amazing clarity and lucidity.
The second composition is lovely: “Maano Maano Murari” comes as a striking contrast to the first one in its thematic content. With this, you can see how she swiftly and quietly shifts the mood to one of loving indulgence. She pampers, cossets, and pursues Murari, at once like a mother and a beloved. This cheez in drut ektal, has intricate akaar tans. Even when she gets into the technicalities of the raga music, emotion never dips.
The second and the concluding piece is a thumri in raga Mishra Pahadi set to Kaharva, “Daras Bina Mohe Shyam Nindiya Naa Aaye” (Without a glimpse of you, sleep evades me). Pahadi has a folksy feel to it and in fact has the same scale as that of Bhoop. But Lakshmi Shankar sings this in madhyama shruti, which makes for a completely different hearing. It surely is not one of our best thumri renditions but Lakshmi Shankar being what she is, brings in inflections that can’t hold back a “wah!” She subtly weaves in shades of other ragas like Kafi and Jhinjooti, and effortlessly slips back to Pahadi; oblivious to her blissful meanderings.
Long sarangi passages (Ramesh Mishra) in the thumri fit beautifully. Tabla never overplays and lends a measured accompaniment. The album has useful sleeve notes (Martin Clayton) too.
Compositions of Dasa by Ratna Srikantiah
Theme Audio, Price not mentioned
Ratna Srikantaiah is a fairly senior musician who has been trained under a musician of repute, R.R. Keshavamurthy. Her specialisation is Purandara Dasa and Annamacharya kritis and is well-versed with music theory.
The album begins on a low key, literally and musically. “Gajavadana Pavana” in Gowla is a feeble start. The landing notes don’t conform to shruti and the entire piece sounds very dry. “Sharanembe Vani” is an exception; it does look up a bit. The opening Kalyani bit on violin (Jyotsna Srikanth) sounds lovely and throughout the song it is the violin that catches your attention. “Sada Enna Hridayadalli” in Behag gets a vibrant alaap on the violin. The song has a serious tenor to it. It is in this song that you get a glimpse of Ratna Srikantaiah, in her musician spirit. While “Enagu Aaney” set to the beautiful Revathi suffers from lack of feeling, “Bhajare Hanumantham” is bland.
“Nee Maayeyalago”, a Kanakadasa composition, sparkles for the way it teases our notions. Set in ragamaalika, the song is among the better pieces in the album. “Vrindavana Nodiru” is zesty, but doesn’t attempt any creative flights. “Laali Laali” like most lullabies has a likeable monotony to it. The mind immediately goes to the maestro M.S. Subbulakshmi’s when you hear “Tirupati Venkataramana”. Every other rendition pales in comparison.
The album suffers because of its extremely low pitch plus low energy. As a result, the emotions get flattened out. However, the album does bring together some of the best Dasa compositions and it has the advantage of listening to them at one go. The instrumental support is good: mridangam by Jayachandra Rao, tabla by Gurumurthy Vaidya, keyboard by Shadrach Solomon and rhythm effects by Narayan.
For details call 94480 85124.
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