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Vocal-Mridangam Arangetram Of Mahathi Athreya And Hari Shanmugam

Smt. Sunanda Narayanan

Vocal-mridangam arangetram of Mahathi Athreya and Hari Shanmugam

There was palpable anticipation and excitement among the invitees at the double arangetram of Mahathi Athreya (vocal) and Hari Shanmugam (mridangam) on June 11th 2017. This was a much-awaited debut performance of two young artists, both of whom had a reputation for talent and execution based on earlier performances in the Boston area. With Mahathi, granddaughter of veteran musician, Sangita Choodamani
Shri O. S. Thiagarajan, and daughter/student of lauded musician and teacher, Smt Aparna Balaji, the bar was already set high! So also with Hari Shanmugam, student of Shri Gaurishankar Chandrashekar, who has been seen often at local performances as a mridangist for music and dance events as well as as a vocalist (student of Smt Tara Anand). Balancing the youthful exuberance of these two youngsters were Shri K.V.S. Vinay on the violin and Shri Ravi Balasubramaniam on the ghatam, with their many years of performing and teaching experience. It promised to be a memorable event and it amply lived up to the lofty
expectations of the sizeable audience.

The program commenced with the popular Daru Varnam, Maathe, in lilting Khamas. Mahathi was relaxed and poised from the outset, and Hari did a fine job of highlighting the special solfa syllabic passage, which is unique to this composition. Next came the Ganesha invocation by Periasamy Thooran, "Gananathane", in Ragam Saranga. The breezy kalpanaswarams at the end of the composition were catchy and sustained the lively tempo. Given that the recital fell on a Sunday, the inclusion of Muthuswamy Dikshitar's weighty "Suryamurthe" was apt. This song is suffused with the composer's trademark heavy gamakams (oscillations) in Saurashtram and it is no easy task to deliver these with definition, a challenge Mahathi met with well-practiced ease. Hari for his part, remained fittingly mellow in his support for this piece.

The verse from Abhirami Andadi in viruttam format in Arabhi was rendered with feeling for the soulful lyrics and was a lovely prelude to Maharaja Swati Tirunal's "Pahi Parvata Nandini". The neraval and kalpanaswaram elaboration at "Natavanci Nripalaka" included vintage Arabhi phrases from familiar compositions in this raga, immediately drawing in the listener. Hari and Ravi provided a sprightly taniavartanam in Adi talam to conclude this song with punch and flair. Saint Tyagaraja has stunning compositions in rare ragams and in most cases these pieces provide the sole identity for these ragams. One such is "Nee Daya Raada" in Vasantha Bhairavi where the saint beseeches his favorite deity Rama for His compassion. The sangati progression matches the emotional fervor of the lyrics and it was delightful to hear Mahathi deliver these with apparent understanding of the mood and content.

Continuing in a plaintive mode with the Varali alapanai that followed, Mahathi navigated the vakra (zig-zag) ascent with aplomb. Vinay's alapanai was measured with choice phrases in both the ascent and descent. Syama Sastri's ardent devotion to Bangaru Kamakshi is obvious in every word of his "Kamakshi" and the neraval at "Shukashyamale Shivashankari" did justice to the bhakti-bhavam of the piece. Hari was mature and creative in his accompaniment for both neraval and swaram sections. The Misrachapu (7-beat cycle) tani-avaratanam with alternating korvais and nadai variations (gait changes) by Hari and Ravi was captivating, and it was wonderful to see the appreciation that Hari drew not just from the audience but from Ravi as well in each round!

Papanasam Sivan's "Padumanabhan Maruga" in Nagasvarali was a fast-paced filler between Varali and the showpiece Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in Sri Ranjani ragam and Khanda-Triputa talam that followed. The alapanai unfolded with vishranti (a sense of repose) and the gradual build-up with clear slow and fast phrases revealed sound planning and sensitivity to this ragam, which can be a tight rope walk given its proximity to ragams like Abhogi. Tanam with mridangam/ghatam sarvalagu accompaniment was a fine touch. What better choice of lyrics than the celebrated pallavi line "Sogasuga Mridanga Talamu" by Saint Tyagaraja for an event that launches a young vocalist and mridangist! The debutantes did their teachers proud by showcasing all their creativity in melody and percussion with this piece that provided such ample scope for technical virtuosity. The trikalam (three-speed) and tisram variations seemed like a breeze for all the artists - the audience listened with rapt attention and appreciation for the talent on display! The ragamalika kalpanaswarams with emphasis on individual ascending notes were as tantalizing as the tempting flavors on display in an ice-cream store - each one would start off in the slow speed and gain dynamism and speed as it went along. Hari and Ravi had saved the best for last with the grand taniavartanam that followed. Each korvai was dramatic and drew repeated rounds of applause from the audience. Not only were the korvais packed with challenging patterns, they also included striking tonal shifts that added to the allure. This piece that lasted well over an hour with its thorough exploration of every facet of Carnatic music was a testament to the years of training and practice by Mahathi and Hari.

It was hard to believe that they still had the endurance and attention to deliver sweet 'tukkada' pieces after this - but the javali 'Nee Maata', Thiruppugazh, and Purandara Dasa favorite "Tamburi Mitidava' that ensued, were each captivating.

Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman's tillanas are known for their skillful and complex construction. His Kalyanavasantham Tillana in Khanda Chapu talam drew the concert to a close with panache and expanded the already large number of talams that had been demonstrated thus far.

The concert was a true test of the performers' mettle with the multiple challenging pieces from beginning to end! Kudos to the accomplished new artists who were launched into the performing arena as well as the gracious experts who shared stage space with them.

Mahathi-Hari Arangetram Songs Playlist - 1080p High Quality Video...

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