After Navaratri mantapam and Kuthiramalika, Trivandrum has thrown open the portals of yet another ethnic and royal venue for music and dance events. This p(a)lace, called Thanjavur Ammaveedu, too is closely associated with the life of Maharaja Swati Tirunal. For more details, please see the link
On May 12, Sangeeta Satsangam of Nadavidyalayam presented a concert by Mavelikara Subramaniam, a faculty member of the Swati Tirunal College of Music. The concert’s theme was Lalgudi Jayaraman’s compositions. After a brief introduction to Lalgudi Jayaraman as a vaggeyakara by Ajit Namboothiri in Malayalam and Mahadevan (chief anchor of the erstwhile Worldspace Shruti channel) in English, Subramaniam started the evening’s concert with the Bahudari varnam Entho premathonu. This program was not intended to be structured as a normal concert; its intention was to expose the audience to Lalgudi’s competency in creating compositions. Hence the sahityam took precedence over sangeetham. Accordingly, two more varnams followed, the thana varnam Devi un paadhame in Devagandhari and the pada varnam Senthil mevum in Neelambari. A slight departure to the theme was made by introducing a composition of Lalgudi Gopala Iyer, father of Lalgudi Jayaraman. It was in Manirangu Iniyagilum undhan inaiyadi malarai, a Vinayaka stuti. After a brief sketch of Nattakurinji, Jayaraman’s kriti Kandan Seyalanro idhai sindhithu unaraayo was presented. Similarly, after a brief sketch of Dharmavati followed the kriti Vinakaayunna dheva sadhaa. While expecting at least two if not three tillanas, the concert part concluded with just one tillana in Durga. The accompanying artists Prof MN Murthy (violin), Rajesh (mridangam) and Udupi Sreekanth (kanjira) played a subdued role, befitting the context of the concert. Apart from a cassette comprising Lalgudi Jayaraman’s tillanas, I wonder if there is any commercially available audio CD / VCD containing exclusively Lalgudi compositions.
If the exotic history-laden venue with its open central courtyard and the verandahs on the four sides was a luxury, there were a few more – the earthen lamps (agal vilakkus) and the pleasing amplification system. Before the concert started, I was apprehensive that the amplification in such a small area was going to be ear-piercing. It was not so. The decibel levels were set just at the right degree. The artistes of the evening too, did not ask for increasing the volume. They were getting excellent acoustic feedback because all the walls in the verandahs adjoining the courtyard were wooden-paneled. The second luxury was an excellent cup of coffee at 7 PM. It is rare to get good coffee in Kerala, rarer still at a public event and rarest when it is free. Not here, it tasted as coffee ought to taste. I was waiting near the counter for a refill, but seeing that the can was already kept in a tilted position to serve the remaining people, I decided to forego a second helping. The third aspect was an open interactive session with the artists, where novices and experts could participate as equals. Being dependent on public transport for commuting, I had to skip the interactive session. On the whole, it is an excellent initiative. I wish it continues in the same way even when the audience scales up due to word of mouth publicity.
The program is scheduled for the second Saturday of every month. The next month’s program features Malayalam compositions rendered by Prof. Palkulangara Ambika Devi and party. In the trailer to the program, Ajit referred to the efforts of Ariyakkudi in popularizing the Tamil compositions of Arunachala Kavi and Andal. A similar effort seems to be missing as far as Malayalam compositions are concerned.