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Music Arangetram: Suma Anand

Deepa Rajesh

It was a crisp early summer evening when the discerning audience assembled at the MIT Kirsch auditorium was treated with an equally crisp and captivating debut concert (arangetram) by Suma Anand, disciple of Smt. Aparna Balaji, Abhyaas School of Music, on June 15, 2013. That the concert was well received by the high-caliber audience that included the guest of honor, Smt Sudha Raghuraman, an eminent vocalist from New Delhi during its entire duration of about 3 and a half hours bore testimony to the exemplary work put in by both the teacher and the student. Suma did full justice to the wonderful support offered by the ensemble of senior artists KVS Vinay on the violin, Sri Mahalingam Santhanakrishnan on the Mridangam and Sri Ravi Balasubramanian on the Ghatam.

The concert opened with a bang with the varnam, Era naapai, in ragam Thodi set to Adi Talam. Suma’s rendition of the varnam in multiple speeds, notably her handling the sahityam in thisra nadai demonstrated her control over the nuances of this ragam and the talam.

Narayana Theerthar’s Jaya Jaya Swamin, a song in praise of Lord Vinayaka’s victories, flowed next. Set in ragam Nattai, a very auspicious ragam at the start of a concert, and rendered with dynamic kalpanaswarams, this piece ushered in a victorious mood for the entire concert to follow!

The piece Maamava sada Varade on Goddess Durga in ragam Naatakurunji followed briskly and this was tailed by a dazzling alapanai in Lathangi. Shri. Vinay’s interpretation of the ragam was particularly noteworthy in bringing out time-honored phrases, a forte of his that he displayed with elan throughout the concert. Venakataramana, a brilliant tamil composition of Papanasam Sivan, was the chosen sub-main piece in this ragam and Suma delivered well rounded neraval and kalpanaswarams embellishing it.

Raka Sasivadana, a very energetic and rare Thyagaraja composition in ragam Takka, formed the interlude between the sub-main and the main piece of the evening, Thyagaraja’s evergreen Evari Mata in ragam Kambhoji. The ragam was interpreted in an elaborate yet crisp manner and Suma’s delivery of the sahithyam was beautifully expressive (bhava-laden). The manodharma and Koraippus very rendered interestingly in the form of a live dialogue between Suma and Sri. Vinay. A very special thani avarthanam (percussion solo), mesmerisingly performed by Sri Mali and Sri Ravi, alternating very complex rhythmic patterns on the mridangam and ghatam respectively, formed the latter part of a consistently uplifting main piece.

After a soulful Entha muddo in Bindumalini Suma brought out the ragam-thanam-pallavi in the ragam Shanmukhapriya, which, in this reviewer’s view, was the “crown jewel” of the evening. Suma displayed rich flow in elucidating the ragam and tanam, which excelled in melody, layout and rhythmic patterns. Her effortless delivery of the pallavi, on Lord Muruga, in different kalams and kalpana swarams in different ragams enthralled the audience. One could witness Suma’s creativity, inspired by her teacher Aparna, reach a crescendo in this phase, and it was amply evident in the way Suma herself enjoyed presenting it. The entire audience was keeping beat through the whole song, thoroughly enjoying the varying talams and the precision that Suma maintained throughout the piece.

Naraayana Ninna in Suddhadhanyasi and En Mugam Paarayya in Amruthavarshini followed the virutham “Namaami Naarayana” as the next pieces in this wonderful selection. Suma followed this with a very unique compilation of Alwar compositions (paasurams), specially selected and tuned for this occasion, as a raga-tala malika, by Suma’s grandmother Smt. Sharada Varadarajan.

As a surprise inclusion, Suma presented a lively “Bhagyada Lakshmi Baaramma” in Madhyamavathi and followed it up with the very beautiful and melodious thillana by late Lalgudi Sri. Jayaraman, in the ragam Thillang, thus concluding the concert with a flourish.

The chief guest Smt. Sudha Raghuraman, a very talented and famous musician from India, congratulated the budding musician and her teacher in an emotive speech, remarking that the program actually resembled, not an arangetram- but a concert-level performance. She acknowledged the high caliber accompaniment provided by the eminent artists, who in every way encouraged and supported Suma in this wonderful presentation. Aparna, pointing out that good students are good seekers, was all in praise of Suma’s talent, hard work and dedication.

All guests enjoyed the MIT classroom ambience, the festive decorations outside and inside the auditorium, and most importantly, the delectable South Indian cuisine, catered by the Pongal restaurant.

This talented, soon to be MIT freshman is now working towards her dance arangetram to be held in August. Suma indeed left the audience speechless with a wonderful performance.

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