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Carnatic Vocal Arangetram: Hamsa Shanmugam

Janani Swamy

On September 1, 2018,  Hamsa Shanmugam, student of renowned Guru Smt. Tara Anand of the Anubhava School of Music presented her Carnatic vocal arangetram at the Wellesley High School.  Hamsa was accompanied on the violin by Sahana Srinivasan, a senior disciple of Guru Tara, on the mridangam by Guru Sri Pravin Sitaram and on the ghatam by Vidwan Sri Balaji Chandran.  

Art is a highly individual expression of capability, creativity and the personality of the artist herself- and this is especially true of Carnatic music.  When it comes to the students of Anubhava, Guru Tara nurtures every single student with painstaking care and utmost involvement to attain their very best.  It is no wonder then that we are, every single time, amazed by the caliber of the music- and yet struck by how each student is very her own artist and each concert, a unique shared experience with the audience.

The thorough grounding in fundamentals is a given when it comes to the students of Anubhava- that in itself no mean feat. In the case of Hamsa, what was striking was her complete command and control throughout the 4 hour recital. There was not one moment of doubt or hesitation as she occupied the stage with the self-assurance of a seasoned musician.  Hamsa has a natural ease with manodharma- the extemporaneous aspects of Carnatic music- and presented the creative elements with a sharp understanding of the many grammatical nuances that comprise the whole of the Carnatic idiom.

Hamsa started her concert with the Kalyani Ata Thala Varnam “Vanajakshi”, rendered in 4 speeds and without one missed beat.

Next was “Sri Maha Ganapathe in Abhogi, a composition of N. S. Ramachandran, presented with a shower of kalpana swarams.  Hamsa’s effective use of the janta notes demonstrated her instinct for drawing out the unique character of each ragam in the swara passages.  This was followed by Muthuswami Dikshithar’s “Nanda Gopala” in Yamuna Kalyani, conceived just beautifully by Guru Tara and sung by Hamsa to lovely effect.  

Hamsa then presented the first of the main pieces of the evening, Saint Thyagaraja’s “Endhuku Dayaradhu”  in Thodi.  Hamsa presented a clean essay of Thodi, delving into the reaches of the ragam.  The sangathis of the composition so thoroughly explored the grandeur of Thodi that we would have been satiated without any further elaboration.  Nonetheless, Hamsa followed the composition with neraval and swaram at “Thyagaraja Vinutha” that served as lovely adornment of the piece.  Sahana’s rendition of Thodi fully demonstrated the depth of her skill.

This was followed by a Tamil composition “Paada Vendume” by the Tamil actor and composer Dandpani Desikar, in the ragam Hamsanadam. This piece created just the right impact in tone and pace following Thodi  and particular note should be made of Hamsa’s “ucharippu” or diction in the Tamil language.

Hamsa then presented Papanasam Sivan’s, “Aadum Deivam” as the main piece in Ragam Kambhoji.  From the Alapanai to the kalpana swarams, this was a pleasing presentation of the expanse of this majestic ragam.  Hamsa’s rendition was a testament to the uncompromising Patanthara of the Anubhava school.  The neraval and swaram exchanges between Hamsa and Sahana were aesthetically balanced in pace and range.   The piece was followed by a delightful Thani avarthanam by Guru Pravin and Sri Balaji that reminded us what music sounds like in the hands of senior musicians- quite literally!

A rendition of the Ramaswami Sivan composition “Pahimam Sri Rajarajeshwari” in sprightly Janaranjani preceded the Ragam Thanam Pallavi in Shamugapriya.  Hamsa presented this piece with absolute conviction- not one moment’s hesitation even as the complexity of the piece mounted to culminate in a veritable maze of kalpana swarams.  The Pallavi, “Shadakshara Shanmuga”, composed by the late Vidushi Smt. Suguna Purushottaman was rendered to full satisfaction in the treatment of Shanmugapriya.  Throughout the RTP, Hamsa demonstrated a clear understanding of every element juxtaposed to achieve the purpose of the piece.  

The RTP was followed by the lighter Thukada pieces which included the Swathi Thirunal javali “Saramaina Matalenta” and “Sri Chakra Raja” in praise of the supreme Goddess.  A lightning flash of a Thillana in Hamir Kalyani sang the praise of Lord Venkateshwara and brought the recital to a close.

As senior Vidwans, Guru Pravin and Sri Balaji were anchors of the concert and reminded us of our good fortune that such artists heartily support our aspiring youngsters. Sahana Srinivasan, introduced by her Guru as the “pride and joy” of Anubhava, was the very picture of grace.  Sahana’s renditions of Thodi and Kamboji created spells where all else faded and there was nothing in our consciousness but music.

An Arangetram is foremost homage to the Guru and we saw once again the fruits of Guru Tara’s devoted labor. Following this impressive debut, we wish Hamsa a fulfilling journey through a lifetime of music.

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