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An Evening Of Scintillating Artistry With Sudha Raghunathan

Radha Subramaniam

MITHAS ushered us into October with another spectacular musical feast. The renowned Sudha Raghunathan mesmerized her audience for four and a half hours at the Wong Auditorium on Oct 1. A disciple of M. L. Vasanthakumari, Sudha Raghunathan is a top-ranking artist with All India Radio and Doordarshan, and is known for the golden touch of her voice.

Sudha Raghunathan was at her musical best, exhibiting all the hallmarks of an artist at the peak of her talents. Her ragam rendering was very sweet, elaborate and all in all very enjoyable. Her agile voice effortlessly moves through high and low, including the very hard to reach high notes; the sangathis she renders were all exhilarating. The niravals and swaraprastharas were of very high quality. As opposed to most carnatic musicians who progress from song to song without comment or introduction, Sudha Raghunathan won over her audience with her casual humor and talk. She introduced all songs with information on the ragams and talams, the composers, and often their meaning. If only more musicians would do this! Melodious and informative, she made sure her audience not only enjoyed the music but also understood it. She received a standing ovation.

She began with a varnam in Thodi of Patnam Subramaniam Iyer. She sang this in two kalams. This was followed by Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Vatapi Ganapatim in Ragam Hamsadwani, a common song, sung most uncommonly with swaras that delighted the ear. Her rendering of Sri Thyagaraja’s Mokshamu Galadha  in Saramathi and Adi talam was exceptionally sweet and sung with deep emotion.

Ragam Ramamanohari came alive with her elaborate rendition of Mathangi Sriraja by Muthuswami Dikshitar in Rupaka talam. The niraval and swaraprastarams were mesmerizing. G. N. Balasubramaniam’s Mangala Varadhayaki in Ragam Kadhankudhukalam was sweet and soulful.

Of particular note was Subbaraya Sastri’s Janani Ninnuvina in Reethigowla. Filled with emotion, the sweetness filled the auditorium. The swaraprastharas in the charanam were of high quality.

Sri Viswanatham by Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar is a krithi heard rarely in concerts. It is a ragammalika of fourteen ragamms – Sri, Arabi, Gowri, Natai, Gowla, Mohanam, Sama, Lalitha, Bairavam, Saranga, Shankarabharnam, Kamboji, and Bhoopalam. Of particular note is that Dikshitar incorporated the names of all the ragamms into the song. Listening to this song was a wonderful experience. Her ability to move effortlessly and melodiously through the various ragamms was a treat.

Then came the main ragamm of the concert - Kirwani. The song she chose to explore the contours of this most mellifious ragamm was Thyagaraja’s Kaligiyuntegadaa. And she did this with great elaboration and sweetness. We were transported to new aesthetic heights as her niraval and swaraprastharas in the charanam moved the audience.

Last, she sang some popular “tukudas” – Thaye Yashoda in a ragammalika , Sambho Siva Sambho in Revati, Barathiyar’s Chinnan Chiru Kileye, Purandara Das’s Venkatachala Nilayam in Sindhu Bhairvai and a Tillana in Brindavani.

Sudha Raghunathan was very well supported by the violin of B. Raghavendra Rao, The tani avarthanam of Neyveli Skanda Subramanyam on the mridangam and by N. Raman of the morsing were of high quality.

Thanks to MITHAS for another fabulous concert that brings the music of South Asia to the heart of Beantown. We remain ever-grateful fans!

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