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Vocal Arangetram: Medha Jayendran

Janani Swamy

On September 7, 2019,  Medha Jayendran, student of renowned Guru Smt. Tara Anand of the Anubhava School of Music presented her Carnatic vocal arangetram at the Littleton High School.  Medha was accompanied on the violin by Yash Ravish, a senior disciple of Guru Tara, and on the mridangam by renowned Vidwan Sri U.C. Jayachandra Rao and his disciple, Tarun Bangalore. 

At the age of twelve, Medha is the youngest disciple of Guru Tara’s to achieve the milestone of an Arangetram.  It would not have been unreasonable to expect a performance perhaps calibrated to Medha’s age – for how could a mere twelve year old render a Carnatic recital of the depth and caliber we have come to expect from the Anubhava School?  Instead, we were wonderstruck by Medha’s four hour performance of spell binding music- music perfectly described by Guru Tara as a brilliant display of a “thousand shooting stars”. 

There are many factors that are required to achieve any level of proficiency in this art form- firm grounding in the basics, the student’s talent and capability, her determination and resilience, the Guru’s effort and wisdom and a confluence of all these factors and more.  However, the music we heard that day was the result of a perfect alchemy- Medha’s ‘gnanam’ or instinctive knowledge beyond talent, a voice capable of every musical feat, steely determination, rigorous effort, and above all, the astonishing brilliance of Guru Tara.

Medha started her recital with the Thodi varnam, Era Napai, rendered to perfection in 4 speeds.  This was followed by the invocation, “Vandisuvidadiyali  Gananathana”, in Naatai, presented with a burst of clever kalpana swarams.  Next came a lovely, lilting rendition of the Dikshithar krithi, “Sarasa Dala Nayana”, in ragam Kamas; the krithi was preceded by a soulful, beautifully conceived shlokam “Krishnaya Vasudevaya”.

The submain piece for the evening was, “Ennaganu Rama Bhajana” by Bhadrachala Ramadas in the Ragam Panthuvarali.  Medha’s treatment of Panthuvarali spanned the gamut of emotive and melodic possibilities-  an alapanai with vivid impact and dazzling madhyama kala phrases, dramatic sangathis of “Rama Rama” that gave form to the the poet’s bhakthi and lightning bolt neraval and swara passages. 

The fast-paced Thyagaraja krithi “Okapari” in the ragam Kalavathi preceded the main piece for the evening, the majestic Shyama Shastri composition “Sarojadala Netri”.  Medha’s treatment of Shankarabaranam, in equal measure tranquil and unrestrained, was true to its name- a discovery of sparkling “abharanam” or ornaments. The sangathis of the composition were a testament to the classicism of the Anubhava school.  The neraval and swaram passages delved into the endless nuances of the ragam as Medha traversed the octaves with utmost ease.

The thani avarthanam by Vidwan Jayachandra Rao and his disciple Tarun Bangalore deserves learned appreciation of its technical merits far beyond my knowledge. However, what I can share is the impact of J.C. Sir’s percussion- with every beat, he enveloped us in a beauty of sound, adding depth and dimension that carried the concert like a magic carpet.  The audience was transfixed during the thani avarthanam, knowing they were witnessing something well beyond the usual.  Throughout the concert, Tarun rose to his esteemed Guru’s expectation, earning nods and smiles of satisfaction and establishing himself as a young artist of merit.

After the thani, Medha deftly recaptured the audience with the sweet composition “Unnadiye Gathi” by Sri G.N. Balasubramaniam in the ragam Bahudhari.

The Bhairavi Ragam Thanam Pallavi that followed was the incredible pinnacle of the concert, transcending into magic created with a wave of Guru Tara’s wand.  The RTP indeed was a shower of a thousand shooting stars- with the audience struggling to catch one even as the next star and the one after that flew across the sky.  While every piece in the recital showcased Medha’s prodigious capability for thalam- from the perspectives of both rhythm and arithmetic- the Pallavi was the jewel in Medha’s crown.  Set to “Panchanadai” or five juxtaposed sub rhythms, the Pallavi confounded most even as Medha danced through myriad permutations and speeds. The ragamalika swarams that followed in Nalinakanthi, Valachi, Dhatuvardhini, Hindolam, Jankaradhwani, Bindhumalini, ending with Surutti were like sprinkles of fairy dust.

The RTP was followed by a lovely medley of Thukada pieces selected as homage to the doyenne of Carnatic music, Smt. M. S. Subbulakshmi.  Medha concluded her recital with a glittering thillana in the ragam Kannada set to Sankeernam.

I have not mentioned Yash Ravish’s violin accompaniment until now, as it deserves description of its own. Yash’s music is a treasure trove – precious gems each waiting to be discovered and cherished.  Yash’s essays of Panthuvarali, Shankarabaranam and Bhairavi fulfilled the demands of the classical idiom while exploring secret worlds within these boundaries.  The very best moments were when Yash would interrupt his flow of unbridled creativity to shake his head at a phrase that perhaps didn’t quite rise to the vision in his musical mind but that left the rest of us amazed.

 As Guru Tara noted, there are few who have put the first twelve years of their lives to such good use.  It is with bated breath that I await the incredible musical journey ahead for Medha Jayendran.

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