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Vocal Arangetram - Diya Godavarti

Janani Swamy

On August 13th, 2017, 13 year old Diya Godavarti, student of renowned Guru Smt. Tara Anand of the Anubhava School of Music presented her Carnatic vocal arangetram at the Littleton High School in Littleton, MA.  Diya was accompanied on the violin by Sahana Srinivasan, a senior disciple of Guru Tara, on the mridangam by Vidwan Sri K.U. Jayachandra Rao (affectionately known as JC Sir to all!) and on the ghatam by Vidwan Sri RaviBalasubramanian.  The four hour concert was an experience of pristine Carnatic music of very high order.

With the opening shlokam itself, the caliber of Diya’s music was abundantly clear.  It brought to mind a question I asked Guru Tara a few years ago. When asked what it was that distinguished the very best of her students, Guru Tara stated, “They absorb all of the learning I can pour into them with single minded focus”.  Without question, this is a most apt description of Diya’s journey with her Guru.   I recall the image of a very young Diya in music class- even then sitting rapt with attention and beholding her Guru with intense focus.

In her opening welcome, Guru Tara described Diya thus, “Gifted with keen musical instinct…a sharp mind…hard work…soulful rendition…a grasp of the minutiae of the gamakams…a mellifluous voice….perseverance…devotion.” Indeed, high praise from a most exacting Guru- every word of which Diya proved herself worthy in the concert that followed.

This caliber of concert requires superior skill and rigorous toil from just the perspective of correctly executing the technical elements.  To render with such a deep internalization of the music and to compellingly convey the aesthetic of raga and composition- that is an entirely different matter.

Diya started her concert with the Saveri varnam Sarasuda Ninne.  Diya made short work of the first half of the varnam which she rendered in 4 speeds and with rock steady kala pramanam and swara sthanam.

Next was “Karimukha Varada” a composition of G. N. Balasubramaniam in Nattai, presented with a neat exchange of swarams between Diya and Sahana.  This was followed by Muthuswami Dikshithar’s “Mamava Pattabhirama” in Manirangu,  beautifully rendered in a chowka tempo and a madhyama pitch - one of several embellishments throughout the concert that were a testament to Guru Tara’s virtuosity. 

Diya then presented the first of the main pieces of the evening, Saint Thyagaraja’s “Raju Vedale”  in Thodi.  Diya’s essay of Thodi, with phrases and passages we anticipated- and many we didn’t- attested to her deep insight into the ragam at both a cognitive and emotional level.  Diya’s voice resonated throughout the alapanai and especially as she effortlessly negotiated the madhyama kala gamakams.  A fluid neraval at “Kaveri Theeramunannu” was followed by kalpana swaram passages in which Diya competently explored difficult rhythmic sub patterns.  Sahana’s alapanai was a regal rendition of Thodi.

A lively rendition of “Vidajaladura” in Janaranjani followed, granting full license for some fun by the percussion masters.

Diya presented Saint Thyagaraja’s great masterpiece, “Ethavunara” as the main piece.  Diya’s rendering of Kalyani was lovely, conveyed with bhavam and clearly as her own unique experience.  This was especially evident in the creativity of the phrases around the madhyama and dhaivatha notes.  Sahana responded with an equally lovely Kalyani alapanai.  Diya’s rendition of the composition was a testament to the uncompromising Patanthara of the Anubhava school.  The neraval at “Sri Karudagu Thyagaraja Kararchita” and the kalpana swarams that followed were rendered to strong artistic effect, with a pleasing balance of speed and repose.   The final shower of swarams was followed by a delightful Thani avarthanam by J. C. Sir and Sri Ravi of such prowess that the audience remained spell bound in their seats in contrast to the typical Thani exodus!

A lilting rendition of the Papanasam Sivan composition “Karpaga Manohara” in Malayamarutham preceded the Ragam Thanam Pallavi in Keeravani. Diya’s exploration of Keeravani revealed her intelligence as a musician and her careful study of the ragam.  If the alapanai was soulful and meditative, the thanam pulsated as Diya explored rhythmic variations with both gait and matching brighas.  The Pallavi, “Vadivela Shivabala Sree Valli Lola Vandarul Thandarulpuri”, composed by the late Mahavidwan Sri T.R. Subramaniam and set to tune by Guru Tara, was rendered without compromise.  The Pallavi, set to Kanda Jathi Triputa Talam, was a study in advanced Carnatic technique- especially in laya with masterful juxtaposition and combinations of nadais. Throughout the RTP, Diya demonstrated an understanding of the intellectual and aesthetic purpose of the piece.  Sahana’s rendition of Keeravani was sweetness itself and her swaram passages in Charukeshi created several moments of “Aha!”.

The RTP was followed by the lighter Thukada pieces which included “Jayathi Jayathi Bharatha Matha”,  a Tulsidas bhajan, and “Maithrim Bhajatha”, the beautiful anthem to world peace and unity .  Diya concluded her recital with a joyous Thillana in Mand composed by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman.

As senior Vidwans, JC Sir and Sri Ravi set an example of true professionalism and scholarship by playing with utmost sensitivity in support of Diya without compromising their individual tonality. Their notes on toppi, meetu and chapu rang to perfect pitch making the concert aura with "nada imbam".  Sahana Srinivasan, introduced by her Guru as the “pride and joy” of Anubhava fully lived up to that description.  She gave Diya her heartfelt support and it was heartwarming to see the happy exchange and rapport that Diya and she shared on stage. Her lilting accompaniment added a lot to the musical evening. As Guru Tara Anand said, Diya was blessed to share the stage with them!

The recital was followed by thoughts from the Chief Guest for the concert, the eminent Cleveland Sri V.V. Sundaram, who has been a major force in bringing Carnatic music to North America and its profile in the continent today.  Sri Sundaram spoke for all present that afternoon when he expressed wonder at this “little waif of a girl” who rendered a concert of such deep classicism. Sri Sundaram also paid tribute to Guru Tara as one of the select few teachers in North America propagating Carnatic music of such elite standard. 

As Guru Tara noted, the arangetram is merely the first step into another musical dimension with the student now having the fundamentals to explore the wonder that is Carnatic music.  As Sri V. V. Sundaram stated, there is none better than Guru Tara to guide Diya through this next stage of her learning to become a musician of merit.

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