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Carnatic Veena Arangetram - Kum. Aparna Rajan

Balaji Rajamani

Aparna Rajan treated the invited audience, representing a wide cross-section of the art diaspora in the Greater Boston area, an afternoon of lilting Veena solo debut performance, a fitting welcome to the lovely summer! The presentation was a worthy testament to the knowledge imparted by Guru Durga Krishnan and the prowess and work ethics of the student - which her friends would allude to later. It was as much a tribute to Aparna’s late grandparents, Smt. Shyamala Viswanathan and Shri. K.V.Viswanathan, who had been pillars of support to the Boston cultural community, through their immense contribution to music, dance and drama. Aparna would later emotionally recall how her initial music was shaped by her grandma, a vocal teacher herself.

Aparna’s presentation, thus, exhibited a distinct gayika tenor with strong emphasis on Bhavam. Aparna started off with the Bhairavi Ata Tala varnam Viribhoni, and did justice to both the heavy ragam and the complex talam. The audience was then captivated with a brisk rendition of Dikshitar’s master invocation piece Vatapi Ganapatim in Hamsadvani, interluded brief kalpana swarams. Aparna presented Thyagaraja’s evergreen Samaja vara Gamana in Hindolam for initial elaboration (sub-main), touching on essential aspects of the ragam during alapana, and interspersed with niraval and swaram elaborations. This was followed by the crisp rendition of Patnam Subramaniya Iyer’s Paridanamichide in Bilahari in challenging Khanda chapu. Aparna was to the point in the rendition of Adamodi Galade and handled Charukesi adeptly.

Papanasam Sivan’s Kapali was the highlight of the evening (main piece) and Aparna skillfully brought out the nuances of classical Mohanam during alapana. Aparna also provided deft improvisations through kalpana swaras including Koraippu. Dr. Pravin Sitaram presented a scintillating Tani (percussion solo), and his amazing accompaniment all along the concert took the overall performance to a brilliantly different level. He was supported on the Ghatam by Dr. Ravi Iyer. After a melodious Ninnu vina (Navarasa Kannada, Rupakam) where Aparna brought out all the variations in the rendering with such clarity, it was time for the Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi. Simhendramadhyamam was presented in detail, followed by Tanam, which is made for Veena and which Aparna made her own. ’Devi Brova Samayamide’ - Shyama Shastri’s lyrics were adapted for the Adi Tala pallavi. Aparna’s delivered trikalam and swarams with confidence, a fitting testimony to the diligence Durga extracts from her students.

The lighter pieces towards the end were also loaded with a lot of context. Aparna soulfully presented Enna Thavam Seidanai in Kapi - a tribute to her grandma. Bho Shambho in Revati, a favorite of Aparna’s grandpa, was rendered with emotional depth. Aparna poignantly performed Kurai Onrum Illai - an apt piece reminding everyone that her grandparents were very much present there in spirit. M. Balamuralikrishna’s Brindavani tillana capped the presentation, reminding everyone of the great Chittibabu lineage of the New England School of Carnatic Music. Shri. Perinkulam Ramanathan and Smt. Rajam Ramanathan, family friends of the Viswanathans through the generations, were fittingly the chief guests of honor. Ramanathan, a yoga exponent, shared breath control tips - essential to every musician - along with anecdotes from the Viswanathans’ past. Rajan, Aparna’s father, emotionally thanked the assembly, with a clearly overwhelmed Raji, Aparna’s mother, standing by.

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