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Veena Arangetram: Rupa Ravi

Smt. Deepa Srikanth
06/05/2013

On the chilly afternoon of May 25th 2013, a cozy group of music enthusiasts were gathered at Ashland high school warming up to a wonderful musical treat from the high school junior Rupa Ravi, a student of Smt. Durga Krishnan,  in her Carnatic veena arangetram. Anybody who knows Rupa knows a very sweet girl full of enthusiasm and bright smile, but the confidence and composure with which she took on the recital was so refreshing and most welcome, as was her humbleness in taking in this accomplishment amidst her sigh of relief on a job well done.

As the great tamil poet, Thirunavukarasar says in his song “Maasil veenaiyum malai madiyamum…,” veena is an instrument which is blemish less (“maasil veenai”) in its swarasthanas and is capable of producing blissful music if played right. The immense effort that went into playing the instrument “right” was very evident in Rupa’s veena rendition. Right from the beginning of the concert with vibrant Kalyani varnam in the complex kanta jathi ata Talam, Rupa just effortlessly eased into the concert, so much so that it was hard to make out that it was her arangetram (debut recital) performance.

The program was most entertaining, thanks to the great selection of popular and evergreen songs that all Carnatic music rasikas have enjoyed over the years. The invocatory “Siddhi Vinayakam” in ragam Shanmukapriya aptly followed the varnam begetting Rupa the blessings of Lord Vinayaka – remover of obstacles. Even in this second number of the recital Rupa gave a quick glimpse of her manodharma components with a crisp alapana and precise kalpana swaram portions. This was followed by “Saadinchane,” a very popular Gana raga Pancharatna Krithi by saint Thyagaraja in ragam aarabhi. In a very artistic turn, this fast-paced song was followed by a very soothing “Pakkala nilabadhi” in ragam Karaharapriya. It was a real feast to watch Rupa elaborate on such a heavy ragam keeping her cool composure and never losing the concentration even for a single moment. We could fully appreciate the plethora of ragas that were carefully chosen and the bhavas they invoke in the listeners’ mind giving an experience filled with variety. This was followed by “Garuda Gamana” in ragam Nagasvaravali and “Ananda Nadamaduvar” in ragam Poorvi Kalyani again probably chosen to give totally different flavors to the rasika. “Oh Rangasayee” was the next elaborate piece and Rupa started off with a wonderful alapana with phrases dripping the essence of ragam Kambhoji. It was a completely bhava laden rendition of the song with the neravals and kalpana swarams just falling in place as if Rupa was immersing herself more and more into the song as it progressed. Throughout the performance the songs were chosen to test her grip on the thalam, with songs alternating between all possible rhythm patterns rupakam, adi, misra chapu and kanda jathi triputa talam and Rupa showed her wonderful grasp on talam throughout the concert aided with the most able support in Mridangam from Dr. Pravin Sitaram. “Deva Devam” in ragam hindolam nicely finished the segment with a soothing melody before we could indulge in the more intricate and involved center piece of the concert the Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi (RTP).

Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi, the central piece and the highlight of the veena recital is completely improvised and Rupa had the full scope of expressing her manodharma in this RTP which she did brilliantly. It was a special composition in two ragams made specifically for this occasion by her guru Durga Krishnan. The improvisations flowed uninterrupted and Rupa handled the switches seamlessly without losing raga bhavam at any time. The most expected thanam section of the RTP, which is a special kind of swara improvisation set to the bounds of kanta jathi triputa talam, was delivered precisely and in keeping with the thanam tradition. The ragas for the ragamalika part of the RTP was done by changing one note at a time from the two base ragas Mohanam and Brindavani which also showcased the brilliance of the guru Durga Krishnan who is a true asset to the students of the greater Boston area. It was a pleasure to hear Rupa play the Ragamalika pallavi in Mohanam, Brindavani, Vasanthi, Hamsanadham, Shivaranjani and Revathi traversing the ragas so effortlessly and taking them in her own stride. The RTP ended in the very soulful ragam Revathi and in a playful raga andadi it continued into the next song “Bho Shambo”.

After the drama created by the preceding song, Rupa eased into lighter pieces in the next couple of Purandaradasa kritis “Govinda ninna” in ragam Janasammohini and “Ksheerabdhi kannike” in Ragamalika. The slightly folkish flavor of the song “Govinda ninna” was a sweet twist that it almost felt like enjoying a dessert after a heavy meal. Rupa was now so much into the concert and thoroughly enjoying herself that she breezed through her next song, the ever popular “Chinnanchiru kiliye” by the great tamil poet Bharathiyar. This song again was set in ragamalika and brimming with emotions that it was not at all an easy piece to play as Rupa had us believe. From here again Rupa picked the pace to play her scintillating thillana in ragam Yamuna kalyani, composed by the great legend Maestro Sri. Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, and her fingers did the trick again in this fast paced piece, taking the listeners to the pinnacle and she ended the presentation with a Mangalam in Suruti ragam.

Everybody was spell bound and immensely moved by this wonderful display of talent. The best part was everybody felt proud and very happy for Rupa and her family. It was a very well arranged program the proud parents were completely behind Rupa in supporting her. The deservingly proud parents should give a big pat on their backs on raising such a sweet, humble and immensely talented child.

Here’s what some of the local celebrities and wonderful gurus of the New England area have to say about Rupa’s Veena recital.

"Gratifying moment for the teacher to see the student perform like that..."
-Guru Durga Krishnan

"We all listened to her and we all agree on one note, how great she was and a great inspiration to all the students who are learning music..."
-Revathi Ramaswami

“I had the pleasure of attending Rupa Ravi's arangetram. It was extremely heartening to hear this young artist present a very neat, evocative concert. Her execution of manodharmic elements was crisp and a testament to her teacher's dedication, hard work and perseverance. I was also impressed by her stage presence and she seemed completely focused and involved in her music. My best wishes and congratulations to the guru and the student. ”    
-Tara Anand

"It was a pleasure to witness Rupa Ravi's Veena arangetram. Beautiful items were chosen with interesting manodharma. I was particularly amazed by Rupa's control over the instrument, with respect to 'Raga Bhava' and control over 'Laya'. Rupa has a very bright future, as her hard work, determination, sincerity and respect and love towards her teacher and the instrument was evident from this arangetram. Dr. Pravinsitaram gave an excellent support on the mridangam. I am glad I attended the program. “
-Aparna Balaji



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