The one-hour slot offered N. Ananthanarayanan limited time to express his musical thoughts. Yet, he was able to deliver a memorable performance that fully adhered to tradition.
He began his concert at the Music Academy with Tyagaraja’s ‘Tulasi dala’ in Mayamalavagowla. A few rounds of brisk swaras set the tone. Next came ‘Sarasa sama dana’ in Kapi Narayani, again a Tyagaraja kriti.
Ananthanarayanan then took up raga Varali for exposition. Varali has a sombre tenor and calls for perfection in the choice of phrases and detailing. Ananthanarayanan painted a flawless picture of the raga. The kriti chosen was Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Mamava meenakshi.’ An interesting swaraprastara was appended to ‘Somasundareswara.’
The swift and catchy ‘Meevalla guna dosha’ by Tyagaraja in Kapi followed. By then, it was time for the main raga and the artiste chose Sankarabharanam. A traditional melody with ample scope for the performer to explore the beauty and depth of the raga. Ananthanarayanan distributed the sancharas in alapana in middle, upper and lower registers with a fine grasp of the raga’s pure form, adding gamakas in good measure at the appropriate junctures. A concise tanam, the special feature of veena, was presented before moving on to the kriti.
The kriti chosen was ‘Saroja dala netri,’ an outstanding composition by Syama Sastri that carries tremendous scope for improvisation on the charanam line, ‘Sama gana vinodhini.’ The artiste, however, moved directly to swarakalpana without niraval. The swaraprastara was done in perfect measure to emphasise the special quality of Sankarabharanam.
‘Govardana giridhara’ in Darbari Kanada (Narayana Tirtha) and Thiruppugazh ‘Madhiyaal viththagan aagi’ in Suratti were the concluding pieces. Akshay Anathapadmanabhan accompanied him on the mridangam cautiously, as veena concerts demand subtle percussion support without overshadowing the instrument’s tenor. He also presented a precise tani avartanam after the Sankarabharanam.
I strongly believe vocalists and instrumentalists should announce the kriti, raga, tala and the composer either before or after the rendition. However perfectly an instrumentalist plays and however close to a vocal performance, knowing the composition allows listeners to enjoy the music even more. This in no way belittles the erudite rasika.