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Vocal Arangetram: Amritha Pai

Mali Santhanakrishnan
09/12/2018

Vocal Arangetram of Amritha Pai
North Andover High School Auditorium, August 11th, 2018

Poise and Presence, Grace and Intricacy, Divinity and Cheer, Diction and Emotionthese are some of the words that come to mind when reflecting on the grand Carnatic vocal debut concert presented by Kum. Amrithavarshini Pai, a devoted disciple of renowned Carnatic vocalist Smt. Aparna Balaji and ABHYAAS School of Music. Amritha was accompanied by a trio of our own gems from New England - on the Violin by Smt. Rasika Murali Mohan, on the Mridangam by Dr. Pravin Sitaram and on the Kanjira by Sri Siva Ponnudurai.  Amritha was blessed by the presence of several stalwart musicians and gurus from New England area.

Amritha started the concert with Dani Korinenu, a very rare yet beautiful Padha Varnam by Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar in the ragam Vasantha and set to Misra Jhampai (10 beat cycle).  The choice of this varnam which requires a high level of expertise to handle the raga bhavam, lyrical and rhythmic complexity all at once, set the expectations and the bar quite high and the entire concert flowed beautifully from there.

Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, was invoked in the kriti Namami Vignavinayaka  in raga Hamsadwani in Adi Talam Tisra Nadai.  Amritha started the exploration of manodharmam  by singing kalpana swarams at “Kshana Shrita”. It was a pleasant and vibrant surprise to see the placement of swaram at the start of the dhurita kala (fast) section of the sahithyam which allowed for some explosive swara combinations, followed aptly by Rasika on violin.

A very important aspect of traditional Carnatic music, Virutham exposition, was introduced in the next composition. Amritha sang a beautiful verse from Abhirami Andhadhi  in Anandhabhairavi and followed it with Shyama Sastri’s classical piece Marivere Gathi Evaramma. Pravin and Siva gave beautiful soothing support for this krithi creating a tranquil ambience.

Amritha followed up the serene Anandabhairavi with a vibrant and energetic Purvikalyani alapana. This was the first major melodic exploration, or Raga Alapana, of the concert. Rasika followed it with a beautiful exposition of her own. The Saint Thyagaraja krithi Gnanamosagaradha was presented exploring various aspects of manodharmam – neraval and kalpana swarams with koraippu or reduction patterns.

The beautiful composition Meenakshi Thaye in ragam Abhogi was presented next.  While presenting the kalpana swarams for this krithi, Amritha did something even seasoned musicians defer. She did Graha Bhedam – aptly in the line Makara Yahzhil Swara Bhedham , shifting the tonic scale and bringing in Raga Valachi for a brief moment, and gliding back to Abhogi.  Our pranams to both the guru and the student for executing this tough maneuver.

Amritha presented Papanasam Sivan’s magnum opus Karthikeya Gangeya Gowri Thanaya in ragam Thodi as the centerpiece of the concert.  Recall the few words from the beginning of this review - Poise and Presence, Grace and Intricacy, Divinity and Cheer, Diction and Emotion – every one of those words in their best form showed through in the presentation of this krithi.  Thodi is a very grand yet delicate ragam that can make stalwarts nervous. Amritha not only handled it with the maturity, she handled it with a smile in her face too. That showed us she was enjoying the experience, which is priceless. The flash and ease with which she did the Graha Bedham (again) to Mohanam and came back during alapana was heartwarming to witness.  Rasika’s Thodi exposition made the audience spellbound. The delightful neraval at “Maal Maruga Shanmuga Muruga Guha” and enchanting exchanges between Amrita and Rasika during the reduction patterns were a treat. Pravin and Siva gave an electrifying Thani Avarathanam with beautiful Khandam (5 aksharam) patterns weaved in.

After a soul stirring Neela Kantam Bhajeham in Kedaragowla, Amrita presented the Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi (RTP), “Nee Padhamule Gathiyani Nammithi” in raga Simhendra Madhyamam set to Khanta Triputa (half tempo 9 beat cycle). As connoisseurs and practitioners of Carnatic music know, in a concert platform, RTP is the composition style where every single component of manodharma sangeetham amalgamates at the most elaborate and complex level. Raga Alapana is presented at a great detail in multiple stages, Thanam challenges the vocalist to present melodic elaboration with a noticeable rhythmic component, Sahithyam is presented in four speeds including tisra gathi, swarams presented in not only the main ragam, but in multiple ragams (ragamalika). Amrita, with the able support of Rasika, Pravin and Siva, made this challenging section of the concert feel easy and utterly enjoyable! The beautiful rakthi (phrase-based) ragas chosen for the ragamalika took the listeners to exhilarating heights.

The breathtaking RTP was followed by Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer’s enchanting composition “Swagatham Krishna” which almost got the audience to their feet dancing! Amritha concluded the concert with the soulful bhajan “Maili Chadhar”, brisk Tillana in Misra Sivaranjani and Mangalam.

As Guru Aparna Balaji gracefully acknowledged a student of Amritha’s caliber makes the teacher to reach into the deepest parts of his or her repertoire to keep them adequately challenged and engaged. As Guru Tara Anand rightly pointed out in her speech, it is the unconditional surrender of the student at the Guru’s feet, and the almighty’s grace that allow the student to internalize the art and ultimately make it shine through. Amritha is one such grounded student, and truly a treasure of the community.

Amrithavarshini literally means “one who perpetually showers the divine nectar”. Indeed Amritha lived up to the name by showering the beautiful nectar of music on the audience, and made her parents and guru very proud. We wish Amritha the very best to reach great heights in this divine art form and to give back to community by passing on this music to next generations.



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