Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

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Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#1  Postby arunsri » 24 Oct 2010 01:44

October 23, 2010 - Sri. S.U. Sitaram Memorial Concert at Fine Arts Society, Chembur - Mumbai.

Time: 6:30 PM - 9:50 PM

Smt. Sumithra Vasudev - Vocal
Sri. R.K. Shriram Kumar - Violin
Sri. K. Arun Prakash - Mridangam
Sri. Guruprasad - Ghatam
Two tamboora artistes - names could not catch (apologies)

1. marachiyunDE - bEgaDa varnam - khaNDa aTa - paTnam subrahmaNya iyEr
2. shrI mahAgaNapati - gauLa - mishra chApu - muthuswAmy dIkshitar
3. shrI guruguha mUrtE - udayaravichandrikA - tishra Eka - muthuswAmy dIkshitar (R, S)
4. rAmanAtham bhajEham - kAshirAmakriyA - tishra Eka (2) - muthuswAmy dIkshitar (R, N, S) N and S at kAmithaphala prada dEvam
5. karuNinchuTaku - sindhumandAri - Adi - paTnam subrahmaNya iyEr
6. jambUpatE - yamunA kalyANi - tishra Eka (2) - muthuswAmy dIkshitar
7. Emani nE nI mahima - mukhAri - Adi (2) - subbrAya sAstry (R)
8. shrI jAlandaramAshrayAmyaham - gambhIra nATTai - Adi (2) - jayachAmarAja ODEyAr
9. RTP kharaharapriyA - 'Ananda pUrNa bhOdOham shivOham sacchi' - khaNDa jhampa (khaNDa gati) - rAgamAlika swaras in asAvEri, pUrvikalyANi, aTAnA and bEhAg followed by tani Avartanam
10. kalyANOllAsa - rAgamAlika shlOkam in mOhanam, varALi, sahAna and sindhubhairavi
11. bhajarE shrI rAmam - sindhubhairavi - Adi - ??
12. aDaikkalam aDaikkalam - madhyamAvati - Adi - ambujam krishnA
13. mangaLam

My views on the concert
==================
This concert was a testimony to that fact that Carnatic music can be sung without compromising on the weight, classicism and pAThAntharam. It was also a proof to the fact that audience interest can be sustained with classical heavy pieces and ragas and to the fact that ragas can be sung sticking to lakshanas without making them 'boring' or making it feel like a tightrope walk. This concert was a rebuttal of the theory that audience needs this and that thereby justifying mediocre stuff. One need not take to "hissing' and 'crooning' with a earphone playing the shruti to capture audience attention. It was maDi (Tamil word for unpolluted) music from the start to the finish.

Sangeeta Kalanidhi Smt. R. Vedavalli's birthday gift could not have been better. What better gift from her senior most student, than this concert!. It was her 75th Birthday (Star) today and Smt. Vedavalli and her husband Sri. Santhanam were a part of the audience for Smt. Sumithra's concert. Vedavalli amma was felicitated at the start of the programme (I believe it was a surprise for her)

The concert began with a brisk rendition of the aTa tALa varnam of paTnam in rAga bEgaDa followed by the ever green gauLa kriti of MD.

What followed next was a surprise - alapna of udayaravichandrikA (not suddha dhanyAsi) - this raga has the higher nishAdam and is classified as a janyA of mEla 9. The pentatonic scale is identical to the more popular suddha dhanyAsi except for the nishAdam. Sumithra's raga vinyAsa was admirable - without being scalar, at the same time skillfully avoiding suddha dhanyAsi and gauLa like piDis. The pa ni sa here is similar to gauLa, which was sung prior to this. The song, of course, I felt was a tribute to the teacher - in this case Smt. Vedavalli. Sumithra sang a few rounds of second speed swaras at the pallavi line. A challenging piece, I must say, and it was excecuted with aplomb.

Next was a lesson in singing kAmavardhini/panthuvarALi - when she delineated the raga. Sticking to what is told usually, Sumithra did not venture below the lower nishAdam, and did a quick traverse of the upper gandhAra without staying on the gAndharam as is the NORM nowadays, If the voice permitted, I think vocalists would go and stay at the upper dha also for this rAga, Just because every one sings it and just because it does not sound bad - does NOT make it correct. rAmanAtham was a surprise choice since there were two MD kritis already. It was welcome, as it is a personal favorite. The three speed neraval at the first line of the anupallavi covering 4 avartanAs was challenging to say the least.

The sindhumandAri piece was a 'filler' in the real sense of the word, before another surprise inclusion - jambUpatE - it was a MD treat today and I do not think Prashant (in whose grandpa's memory the concert was organised) was complaing!!
The kAlapramANam and the rendition was perfect. The pAThAntaram was slightly different from the DKJ version that is commonly heard. What followed next was a lesson in mukhAri. The alapana was rivetting, covering all the nuances of the raga, Sumithra was in sublime form here and one could not but marvel at the ease with which sanchAras flowed. A highly commendable effort. The choice of the rare kriti could not have been better. Only the kriti was sung sustaining the meditative mood that was created during the rAga vistAra. One definitely knew that there was a pallavi in the concert, surprise was that the tani was to be given for the pallavi!. shrI jAlandharamAshrayAmyaham (covering the vAyu lingam after appu linga - jambUpatE) came next. The chiTTa swara passage was sung clearly without any muffle in the voice. The janTa prayOgas came out as janTa - without loss of clarity.

The stage was set for a grand pallavi and kharaharapriya was chosen for detailed treatment, The raga sung in a single phase was complete with sancharas in all three ocatves. Tanam was short and the pallavi in khaNDa jAti jhampa khaNDa naDai was as follows

Eduppu 4 aksharas from samam in a 40 aksahra cycle. the arudi was 9 akshara counts.

A nan da (3 + 3 + 1)
pUr na (6 + 2)
bhO (3)
dO (3)
ham (9 - arudi)
shivOham (6)
sacchi (4) - this will account for the eduppu of 4.

Pallavi neraval was fulfilling, sung at half and double speed. Tishram was also done, followed by swaras. The ragamalika suite had surprises in the form of asAvEri and pUrvikalyANi as one is normally used to madhuvantis and vAsantis these days. Special mention needs to be made of the bEhAg swara which was lilting. The reverse sequence leading to the main raga (as is the norm in the Mudicondan school) was also aesthetically done. The tisram had to be started a second time as there was a small error during the first attempt. A minor glitch in an otherwise flawless execution. Pallavi was given the pride of place in this concert.
The Tani was very nice, with Guruprasad excelling the second round solo chance. The korvai was a short one of 28 aksharas (56 in double speed).

One thought that the post main pieces will be on the 'lighter side' as they are called tukkadas.... but no, here we had mOhanam, a superb varALi and a soulful sahAna for the viruttam. The sindhubhairavi was too classical. This is a raga which I do nto personally enjoy, however, I must admit - I was in awe of her rendition. Mami's patented aDaikkalam brought the curtains down on a memorable concert.

RKS's violin accompaniment was of course of high order. His accompaniment for the udayaravichandrikA kriti (which he of course knows), the rAga vinyAsa of kAshirAmakriya, mukhAri deserve special mention. The balE's that punctuated during the kAshirAmakriyA and mukkhAri alapanas of Sumithra, were, I guess form him. His neraval and swaras in rAmanAtham matched the vigor that Sumithra displayed. The percussion bench lent solid support. Arun Prakash was his sensitive best, his playing for the kriti in mukhAri and rAmanAtham deserve special mention. The ghatam accompaniment enhanced the effect of the renditions of Sumithra. As already mentioned, the second solo phase during tani was of high order.

There is a tendency to associate maDi sangItham with lack of briskness / speed etc. Today's concert debunked all this - briga sangathis were presented neatly (as one would say in tamil - without pisuru) in Sumithra's alapanas of kAshirAmakriyA, kharaharapriya and to lesser extent in mukhAri (keeping in mind the rakti aspect of this raga). The swaras were really brisk and powerful (for lack of a better word). They had the punch to keep the audience rivetted. There was NO banging of thighs, tightrope mathematics to keep the tempo and audience interest....yet layam and kaNakku were ingrained in the presentation.

My wife used one sentence which i think described the experience.... Sumithra has soaked herself in mami's music for the last 20 years, like a rasagulla in sugar syrup, so it is no surprise that the concert was of such a high order.

This has been a month with two great concerts in a row for me (Suguna P and V - review of which I started posting but could not finish due to lack of time) AND this one. I will get around to writing the other review soon.

Thank you Prashant and family for organising this wonderful concert, and thanks to the team for the great evening of classical music.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#2  Postby Nick H » 24 Oct 2010 03:09

A wonderful review, combining depth of knowledge with real feeling too.

It would be nice to have some of that knowledge, one day, but for now, I am happy when someone who does have it confirms my gut feeling about an artist. I think she began with her teacher at something like eight years old, which means she is still under thirty. Imagine the decades to come!

It must have been a really great concert.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#3  Postby narayan » 24 Oct 2010 07:37

Top quality music, for sure. Mukhari ragam was indeed riveting and the song was spot on. The Udayaravichandrika song (I'm hearing this one for the first time) was very well-rendered, with the inimitable Shriramkumar shadowing even this obscure classic in perfect fashion! My personal preference is a less gamakam oriented Jambupate, but it's just that, a preference. Pantuvarali swarams were noteworthy in their sharpness and non-standard patterns. Arun Prakash and Guruprasad were good, too.

Could not stay from Kharaharapriya onwards, which is my loss. Came out humming the karuninchutaku song which is still in my head this morning! Funny what stays in the top of one's brain, or wherever these things stay!

Beautiful music and a fine singer who I heard for the first time.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#4  Postby srikant1987 » 24 Oct 2010 07:50

Sticking to what is told usually, Sumithra did not venture below the lower nishAdam, and did a quick traverse of the upper gandhAra madhyama swaras without staying on the gAndharam as is the NORM nowadays, If the voice permitted, I think vocalists would go and stay at the upper dha also for this rAga, Just because every one sings it and just because it does not sound bad - does NOT make it correct.

I think they also say, that we should not go above the gAndhAra on the tArasthAyi in pantuvarALi. So that would make Sumithra's madhyamas wrong, however much you loved her not stopping at the gAndhAra.

Stopping at any dha in pantuvarALi would sound bad, unless one has been desensitised to it listening to all and sundry. And I don't think there's anything wrong with stopping at gAndhAra (in theory or practice) in the upper octave, only that tempts the artist to go above the gAndhara. :P

All that said, V Sumithra is an excellent musician coming from one of the maDiest schools of CM, and adhering to the school too! But one need not go nitpicking on such things as the range of a rAga+ to prove it -- though yes, choosing the nyAsa swaras (avoiding the dha of pantuvarALi for example) is indeed something a good musician (like Sumithra) does with lot of care.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#5  Postby rajeshnat » 24 Oct 2010 08:02

arunsri wrote:A nan da (3 + 3 + 1)
pUr na (6 + 2)
bhO (3)
dO (3)
ham (9 - arudi)
shivOham (6)
sacchi (4) - this will account for the eduppu of 4.



Arunsri
Lovely review keep it coming. Is There not a popular pallavi in keeravani with the same lines , sung by semmangudi mAmA
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#6  Postby rajeshnat » 24 Oct 2010 08:06

arunsri wrote:11. bhajarE shrI rAmam - sindhubhairavi - Adi - ??

This I think is a bhadrAchala ramadas krithi
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#7  Postby rajeshnat » 24 Oct 2010 08:22

arunsri
While it was a maDi maDi maDi sangeetham, did you notice the usual norm followed by all musicians of past of including atleast one ThyagarAja krithi was not there(YOu have said mangalam at the end was that atleast nee nAma roopamulaku of T or something else). Not that I am really complaining, just making an observation over your song list.

BTW I still dont know if I can count as one T krithi for the last nee nAma roopamulaku ;) , I am assuming it has to be excluded . This does not take anything away from this vidushi who has a very soothing voice with a lot of depth. Tx arunsri
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#8  Postby srikant1987 » 24 Oct 2010 09:33

Rajesh,

Thanks for voicing that out! Even I observed that ...

But I think there is a leaning, especially among youngsters liking chaste Carnatic music, to believe that Thyagaraja's songs are not just in the same league (in terms of heaviness or maDiness) as Dikshithar's. I don't like this -- and besides, it isn't helping Shyama Shastri's compositions either. :(
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#9  Postby arasi » 24 Oct 2010 10:19

maDi, maDi-er, maDi-est?
chaste, chaster, chastest music? ;)
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#10  Postby PUNARVASU » 24 Oct 2010 11:59

OMG! How did I miss this? :(
Staying in Chembur, if I had to miss this, I do not know what to call it! My loss!
Can never forgive myself for having missed this.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#11  Postby narayan » 24 Oct 2010 22:21

arunsri has written a rather strong review on a concert that I personally enjoyed very much. Don't know how unpolluted it was, what with bhasanga ragas and an upstart sahana (from what I now know is written in the SSP) and sindhubhairavi and what nots! I've been grappling with what this classical is all about, and a meek definition is "that which can be taught and is written down and for which there is a theory and some structure and lessons, and which has been with us for a while". It is by no means unchanging. I'm all for some pollution or diversity or whatever word one uses, because we do need it for survival and we don't know which of these things will last. I am much less offended by various innovations, as long as I'm not forced to listen to all of them, of course. I don't even know some of the things arunsri has mentioned and I assume some or other singer is hissing or crooning with earphones, which is permitted in a free country without harming Ms Sumithra's excellence in music, I suppose. Surely her NOT doing many undesirable things cannot be a measure of her excellence, and I would like to go along with arunsri's detailed appreciation for the several beautiful things (in my opinion) that she DID sing.

I would also like to wonder aloud at Shriram Kumar. How does someone know all these song versions of so many people, specializing, of course in Diksitar songs, but not just them? How he do it?! If I owned a hat, it would be off, bowing to the man.

Finally, the light filler Karuninchutaku is still in my head and I can't get it out! Help!
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#12  Postby Nick H » 24 Oct 2010 23:59

How do any of the accompanists do it?

It is indeed an absolute wonder to me. Talking to a violinist, one day, she told me that all but one of the songs in that concert had been new to her. How about that? I certainly couldn't tell!

Of course there is having an unbelievable memory, and a vast repertoire, and they have to have that of course, but the ability to cope with songs they don't even know has to be there too. This is one of the small, practical things about this music that continues to amaze me, concert after concert, year after year.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#13  Postby arunsri » 25 Oct 2010 00:25

I too noticed the lack of a Thyagaraja kriti in the list. But, one should not consider it as a drawback in the concert in my opinion. It probably is an oversight/something to do with the state of the mind if the artiste that day.

Also, saying that the current generation does not sing Thyagaraja kritis is not correct. It is just that one has probably gone to many concerts with non-Thyagaraja kriti as main/submain etc. That's all. Let's not read too much into it.

narayan - thanks for the feedback on my write up. The write up was more of a lament (for lack of a better word) about the kind of music "popular" and upcoming artistes dish out. You have to see/hear them to believe what I say. What TMK/Vijay Siva did in their duet last year is innovation. What SugunaP/Suguna V did while singing the pallavi in Shanmukhananda on Oct 3 (same pallavi each of them singing in a different talam all thru, the pallavi meets only in the arudi) - is absolute innovation. I am ALL for such positive innovations. In fact if it were not for these, the present day concert pattern would not have been in place.

But, I bemoan what is passed off as carnatic music and more so the levels of acceptance by an audience which I must say - mainly in Chennai encourages this. Let us accept the fact that Chennai is the place where musicians first test waters. The audience there - is by and large all forgiving and has limited knowledge - accepts anything in the name of music - switch on Kalaingar TV at 5:30 PM each day and we see "carnatic music concert". The quality is atrocious. The singer(s) as well as the delivery is pathetic by and large. Anyone with some years of learning can sing. There is an audience to lap up everything.

The majority of the audience is OK with mediocre music, because there is TOO much of music in Chennai. For many, a concert is an outing and they could well be in a theatre or a park instead. Whether it is Bhowli or Bhoopalam or revagupti does not matter to them. Everything is Bhoopalam to them. Concerts with drums and other gadgets which in no way enhance the music are acceptable. Since this has become accepted by a few, by herd mentality, more audience 'due to peer pressure' accepts and starts to even say that they like the music. This is how a popular medicore artiste is born. A blog and webpage enhance their status. These artistes then have a fan following who get "educated" listening to CDs and concerts of these "mediocre" artistes. They in turn teach a few others and the rot spreads. Over time, what was good is forgotten and what is polluted in the name of acceptable stays and gets passed on.

Anything which is easy to grasp has a wider audience. we humans, choose the path of least resistance and there is no exception in case of music. If I were to listen to an alapana of Suddha Bangala/Darbar/Nayaki - I will need a certain level of knowledge to be able to appreciate it. That level comes by repeated listening to GOOD music. If I keep listening only to chandrakauns, vasanti and madhuvantis all the time and avial pallavis in the name of RTP where and when will I get to listen to real pallavis where anuloma/viloma is done, and when will I get to listen to quality raga alapanas, neraval and swara prastharas.. These can come only through GOOD maDi concerts or as cliche as it may sound - yetseryear vidwans.

Nedunuri in his 1991 (May) concert at Shanmukhananda said - In each concert I try to educate the audience, how true. A good artiste must be able to raise the bar for his own music and help the audience jump across the bar with his help!!

As thyAgarAja says - chakkani rAja mArgamulunDaga sandula......

Wht take the bylanes when the royal road is there.... why go to medicore stuff when the best is there in our music!
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#14  Postby arunsri » 25 Oct 2010 00:30

narayan

I spoke to Shriram Kumar after today's concert and jokingly said that even as a child he must have sung only MD kritis. His repertoire is phenomenal, His Guru VVS also used to accompany the song. I think that aspect has come from VVS sir. In addition to that, his tutelage under DKJ/MSS etc has helped a lot. Plus, he has an undying passion for these things. May his tribe increase!

narayan - do not let karuNinchuTaku fade from memory. We can hear it next time from you!!
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#15  Postby srikant1987 » 25 Oct 2010 07:17

srikant1987 wrote:But I think there is a leaning, especially among youngsters liking chaste Carnatic music, to believe that Thyagaraja's songs are not just in the same league (in terms of heaviness or maDiness) as Dikshithar's.


arunsri wrote:Also, saying that the current generation does not sing Thyagaraja kritis is not correct. It is just that one has probably gone to many concerts with non-Thyagaraja kriti as main/submain etc. That's all. Let's not read too much into it.


arunsri wrote:I spoke to Shriram Kumar after today's concert and jokingly said that even as a child he must have sung only MD kritis.


I don't say people are not singing Thyagaraja kritis -- that would be impossible (well, by and large!). What I talk of is a very slight leaning. Let me put it this way. I by and large attend concert only of musicians I know I'm going to like. The younger ones amongst these musicians are usually less inclined to sing or play a lot of Thyagaraja kritis than the older ones. Indeed, I would think RV includes more Thyagaraja in her concerts than VS.

There is absolutely nothing wrong about it, because I like many MD compositions too. But I would like it if some of the space taken away from Thyagaraja compositions came to SS too. :)

Secondly, this might cause a list-leaning towards MD and rare Thyagaraja compositions, which instrumentalists might not be able to offer (too many unheard-of songs will put off more during an instrumental concert, they say). This might cause audience to be taken away from instrumental concerts -- who already lose out because they can't use "bhajanai" as effectively as vocalists can.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#16  Postby ganeshkant » 25 Oct 2010 13:37

srikant1987 wrote:Rajesh,

Thanks for voicing that out! Even I observed that ...

But I think there is a leaning, especially among youngsters liking chaste Carnatic music, to believe that Thyagaraja's songs are not just in the same league (in terms of heaviness or maDiness) as Dikshithar's. I don't like this -- and besides, it isn't helping Shyama Shastri's compositions either. :(


It seems a very senior musician ( famous as a teacher & scholar than a performer )remarked once that inclusin of SS in the trinity is a mere accident.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#17  Postby srikant1987 » 25 Oct 2010 16:34

It seems a very senior musician ( famous as a teacher & scholar than a performer )remarked once that inclusin of SS in the trinity is a mere accident.

OK.
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Re: Sumithra Vasudev - FAS, Chembur - Mumbai - 23/10/2010

#18  Postby ragam-talam » 25 Oct 2010 17:14

It seems a very senior musician ( famous as a teacher & scholar than a performer )remarked once that inclusin of SS in the trinity is a mere accident.
Hmm. Not sure how to respond to this! Can you provide more information to support this veiwpoint? (We can do that in the SS thread, rather than hijacking this one!)

I know that a musicologist and scholar like SRJ would not agree with this assertion. And I would go with his informed opinion at this stage of my musical growth and knowledge.

EDIT: We can continue this discussion at the Shyama Sastry thread.
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