Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

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Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#1  Postby Lakshman » 04 Jun 2012 05:59

2hr 30 mts. with Neyveli Narayanan on the mrdangam and Surendran on the morsing.
Song list. Corrections welcome.
rAma ninnE nammina-mOhana-Tyagaraja
pArvati kumAram-nATakuranji-Dikshitar
rAgapravAham (strings attached) in kalyANi
atukArAda ni-manOranjani-Tyagaraja
RTP cArukEsi in 2 kaLai Adi tALA. svarAs: bhUpALa, shubhapantuvarALi, shivaranjani. Tani
folk tune in behAg
tiruppugazh in sindhubhairavi
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#2  Postby mahavishnu » 04 Jun 2012 06:10

L-ji. Thanks for your cheerful promptness in posting these song lists!
#2 Parvati kumaram was/is in Nattaikurinji.

It was a very unique presentation to say the least. I will put together a more detailed review shortly.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#3  Postby mahavishnu » 04 Jun 2012 08:20

Much of Carnatic music is written for the voice. Although Dikshitar as the vainika-gayaka wrote music for the veena, the lyrical content ensured that it could not be separated from vocal performance. Consequently, no notation/written scheme has been able to rival the vocal/oral tradition for documentation and pedagogy.

In the Western tradition, it is common to see music written for a certain instrument (e.g concertos for violin, piano, flute etc), or ensembles (string quartets ranging to Liszt's symphonic poems). The music is envisioned and written with this arrangement in mind.

This means that flute concertos are very difficult to instantiate on the piano and vice versa. Even contemporary popular music (ranging from the music of the Beatles to the fleeting star in vogue today) shows a proclivity for specific instrumental arrangements.

So the question here is: Why not explore what is possible with the instrument instead of letting the human voice's natural limitations constrain creative exploration?

Jayanthi and Kumaresh on this tour seek to present instrumental music, as in, Carnatic music explicitly written for the veena and violin, as an art form. And they did that with much grace and panache on the concluding segment of their concert North American tour at Toronto today.

The violin and veena, given the diversity of origin and frequency range, do not combine as easily as one might think. But Jayanthi and Kumaresh managed to blend their strings together (the tour is called "Strings attached" after all). They are indubitably both masters of their instrument. Ideas become music as their instruments have become extensions of their physical selves. When one reaches that can kind of zen state, music just flows.

Yet they are very different in their approach to their instruments.

Jayanthi's nadham is impeccable. Her gamakas, the tone she generates from the veena, the resonance that she manages with one pick of the strings is amazing. She combines the Lalgudi school's vallinam-mellinam exposition with the string pulling yazh style of S Balachandar. And in doing so, she has managed to achieve a versatile and creative identity for herself. Her playing has the gamaka structure that reminded me of the Tanjore school with the speed and poise that has not been since the likes of Chitti Babu. I think she is the top vainika on the scene today. And I don't mean this lightly.

Kumaresh is still very much the maverick. His bowing is as much Lalgudi as it is Paganini. The tone of his instrument is superb, his accuracy is startling and his speed and control simply dazzles. At his age, he already has almost four decades of stage experience. There is something to be said for the seasoning and the confidence that this kind of stage exposure provides.

The first two items of the concert were presented in a very classical manner. The third item was a ragapravAham following a detailed kalyani alapanai by both artistes. As opposed to one following the other (as in a vocal-violin support situation), they completed each other's phrases which made for a different listening experience.

I too am not a huge fan of the so-called ragapravahams, as another forumite wrote elsewhere. Like millions of other CM listeners, I look for the familiar. I want the well known Tyagaraja kriti, the perfectly predictable structure, the pallavi-anupallavi-charanam arrangement. But today, I found myself humming the ragapravaham lines in Kalyani long after the concert was over. Voice imitating an instrument?

I am still not a 100% comfortable with the idea of a sahitya-free experience, but this is the most secure that I would probably ever get in that territory.

Charukesi was beautifully explored and the pallavi was solid, but a bit scale-ish for my tastes. The trikalam and the mathematics were child's play for these very talented artistes.

I was expecting more after the pallavi. But they did well to end the concert on a high, after a quick glimpse of behag (in tisra nadai) and the tiruppugazh. [Not sure which one, but maybe that was the point ;)]

Neyveli Narayanan was brilliant. He seems to have internalized the UKS style and at times watching his arrai chappu executed in all its precision reminded me of the maestro himself. He has also acquired a lot of his skill from the late Tanjore Upendran, whose legacy is not celebrated enough these days. His accompaniment was very thoughtful and his korvai from the tani leading to the pallavi line is case in point about his dexterity.

Toronto's own Surenthar held his ground on the Morsing. Not a simple feat considering the company on stage. He gave a wonderful performance.

Overall, I really enjoyed this concert. I think Jayanthi and Kumaresh are both terrific. I think this is just the beginning of another journey for these extremely talented artistes. I believe this is the last concert of their tour before they return to India.

And it is almost Monday. I do love my job, but...
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#4  Postby Rsachi » 04 Jun 2012 08:31

Mahavishnu,
Thanks. If I may say so, this report sets a benchmark for other rasikas' writing- reviews and opinions.

I have conjectured how these two artistes might combine, as both are immensely talented. I do think there is scope for them to present kriti-based music too, and with the kind of mridangam accompaniment you mention,it will be a real treat I think!
Thanks again,
Sachi
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#5  Postby Sindhuja » 04 Jun 2012 08:50

Beautifully written, mahavishnu. Having missed their entire US tour, I have been waiting for reports of the duo's concerts and finally got to read this one - thanks! I heard them in 2010 in Madras and they played the Kalyani then too. Mesmerizing.
And thanks Lakshman for the list.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#6  Postby rshankar » 04 Jun 2012 09:22

Mahavishnu..awesome report...good to see that 'strings attached' was successful at tugging at a few heart strings....:)
I have been a fan of Smt. Jayanthi ever since we hosted a jugalbandhi of hers with Sri Gaurav Majumdar. I do have to confess that I am not a fan of technical acrobatics that come at the cost of melody (IMO) that I see Sri Kumaresh indulge in at times...
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#7  Postby mahesh3 » 04 Jun 2012 09:29

Thanks Mahavishnu sir - figured I'd add in some of my impressions as well!

In Philadelphia yesterday, they presented Kalyani, Sri Dum Durge (sriranjani), RTP in Nattaikurinji/Shanmughapriya, Behag and Sindhubhairavi among others. Smt Jayanthi looked and performed like our resident "Goddess" on the veena - also there were points in the concert, where - soundwise - she made clear she is indeed the Veena Genius's student - the veena sounded electric guitar in a few interludes.

Kumaresh, as usual - was the speedy, virtuoso-whizkid who's technical artistry in a jiffy makes uninhibited connectivity difficult for me - still - it was riveting stuff, and at other times - mindbending, freewheeling that needed closer attention than I gave - if only because the violin is not my favorite of instruments. I have seen Ganesh/Kumaresh perform several times, but even that did not mentally condition me to witness "Strings Attached" - simply because I did not conceptualize Jayanthi would enhance their formats the way she did - with her gamaka & interpretive solidity - also, I'd venture a wild guess that the veena's contrast to the violin is a welcome relief in a 3-hour concert - a theory I have always had in why I find Shakthi so easy to listen to - the contrast of the guitar is a much needed diversion in someways.

Anand and Krishnan's layavinyasam at the end ran away with all the thunder, applause and ovations - part of it I attribute to the familiarity in percussive script they stuck to - but the rest of it was just sheer percussive brilliance. Anand's mridangam was just sounding awesome & his play was unbelievable yesterday - all with a cool smile, and Krishnan was simply energized to perform with Anand on the big stage.

It was a strings-only type of performance - if one was there expecting a traditional carnatic concert - one is bound to have been disappointed. The interesting thing to me about Kumaresh's work is the raga/instrument focus he brings to the concert - at certain points, his 5-stringed violin was able to produce virtually whatever he wanted - only time will tell us whether this format takes off and sparks a revival in audiences for instrumental combos - but the speed/notes/sangathis/calculative stuff Kumaresh was doing with nattaikurinji and Shanmughapriya or Vagadeeshwari/some other combination I now forget - it was obvious between the duo the saadhakam, thought, know-how & rehearsals that must have gone into that - this can indeed position such combos meaningfully! A good change for me from the overdose of more straightforward vocal carnatic/hindustani works I have been attending!
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#8  Postby rajeshnat » 04 Jun 2012 10:23

mahavishnu and mahesh3,
Well written , Tx . Possibly since kumaresh had 5 string violin , they can call their group as string attached . Chowdiah had 7 strings right he could have called his violin concert as strings attached(in plural strings) .

Possibly when Lalgudi Sir played a solo concert a day after chowdiah concert , his concert could have been called "strings detached" .And when nAdaswara chakravarthi TNR played a nayanam concert it could have been called as "no strings attached".

IIRC the 5th string adds the tone of viola too right....I am not sure how rAgapravaham is , but kalyAni is an ocean, you can go all the way from dikshitar abhayambika to T's ethaunarA in one side to TMS/MSViswanathan sinthanai sei manamE to illayaraja's amma enru Azhaikada , it has a huge spectrum.

Mahesh3,
Is krishnan kanjira artist
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#9  Postby Lakshman » 04 Jun 2012 16:29

Thanks mahavishnu for the correction. I was late for the concert because of a traffic holdup and missed the first two songs. I have corrected my post.
Good to see your great review as usual, full of technical details, some of which I don't understand but I will agree with you that both of them performed beautifully. Kumaresh didn't exhibit as much gimmickry as he normally does when he plays with Ganesh.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#10  Postby mahavishnu » 04 Jun 2012 19:24

RSachi: Thanks for your kind words. I agree that the same can be done for kriti-based music too, as they demonstrated in part of their concert today.

Sindhuja: I think you would have really enjoyed this series. You are indeed fortunate to be exposed to such beautiful music at close quarters. I can imagine that Smt Jayanthi is a remarkable teacher as well. She seems so poised, patient and nurturing.

Mahesh3: Good to hear of their performance in Philly. I agree with your take on how the veenai adds a new dimension to high-strung (pun intended) violin music. The converse is also true. I enjoy the older 70s Shakti with McLaughlin and L Shankar much more than the newer incarnation with Mandolin Srinivas (although he is no doubt a genius too). Perhaps it is the tradeoff between the continuous and discontinuous string action.

Ravi: As, L-ji said in his later post, Kumaresh avoided some of the acrobatics which made for a very pleasant experience. I think the aesthetics would be right up your alley.

Rajesh: The fifth string is tuned to a lower Pa thus providing a larger range. However to have a viola sound, the bout of the instrument needs to be larger. And the instrument (although not-electric) is amplified and the output goes through several processing units. The whole set up is superbly engineered.

Contrast this from Chowdiah's violin, which enabled a lot of cross-string strokes and was able to generate an unusual amount of bass sound for the violin. I think Chowdiah had the middle bout of his violin re-engineered too. L Shankar's double violin is another beauty, it also has sympathetic strings but it is an entirely electric instrument. Embar Kannan also plays an entirely electric violin from time to time (he plays for Illayaraja and the Ghatam Karthick ensemble using this instrument).

Jayanthi's veenai is also amplified directly from the "Meru", providing the least information loss as the sound makes it way to the auditorium. IMO, there is no better way to do this using traditional microphones.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#11  Postby nadhasudha » 05 Jun 2012 00:54

mahavishnu wrote:So the question here is: Why not explore what is possible with the instrument instead of letting the human voice's natural limitations constrain creative exploration?


Very nice review Mahavishnu. In regards to the above comment, I always have been led to believe that the voice is the ultimate instrument in carnatic music and the goal of every instrument is to closely mimic it. I understand it is impossible to produce harmony with the voice - as in singing 2 notes simultaneously. But harmony is mostly a western music concept and is not used in carnatic music.

What if any are the limitations of the human voice in carnatic music exploration?
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#12  Postby mahavishnu » 05 Jun 2012 02:50

What if any are the limitations of the human voice in carnatic music exploration?


Nadhasudha: Good question. I was not referring to the ability to produce polyphonic sounds or harmony when I was mentioned vocal limitations. These are, of course, limitations and most cultures (except for Tuvan throat singing) do not have single person vocal harmonies.

I was referring to the natural physical limitations in range, frequency, timbre and breath control due to the structure of the the vocal apparatus; the respiratory system (the slowest moving structure in this) and the larynx (the fastest moving structure) are at either end of the vocal bottleneck. This system is infinitely malleable, but only within the boundaries of lawful constraint.

Particular instruments can traverse the range of several octaves, can produce thick and thin sounds (timbre changes), can be modified to produce reverberation effects all of which are not possible with the human voice. With the exception of seeking inspiration from the nAdaswaram on matters of breath control and akAra production, much of carnatic music is composed and contained within the functional human voice range and other vocal limitations. Even instrumentalists, specifically violinists, have restricted themselves to this frequency range.

The prayogams that are in vogue today also reflect what is possible with voicing. Musicians like L Shankar or even the redoubtable MSG have explored beyond these fixed tropics, but the Mylapore mavens have often criticized them for doing things are just not "vocal" enough. Of course some instrumentalists have taken this too far as well, like the very talented late Sri Kunnakkudi.

However each instrument has particular advantages: the veenai has rhythm strings for keeping talam that is also critical for playing tanam, the violin bow can be adaptively used for tanam by employing prayogams that are not possible with the voice, the flute can produce staccato and the hand is much faster than the voicing system in guiding brighas in these instruments. Another example is the build-up to a crescendo by repetitive plucking, blowing or bowing that is not possible with vocal music. Every Hindustani instrumental concert ends with one of these. Somehow HM seems to have developed a particular instrumental tradition, maybe because of the reduced emphasis on composition-based music there.

However, these abovementioned features have not been taken explored in kriti-based Carnatic music. I think that the full creative potential of these instruments has not borne fruit due to this way of thinking. What Kumaresh and Jayanthi would like to do is to take advantage of the natural tonal and functional properties of these instruments in conceiving their music.

Does that make sense? I don't want to geek this out any further :)

On a slightly different but related note, Western music that is meant for the voice is also written for particular frequency ranges (soprano, mezzo soprano, tenor etc), since one individual almost rarely can do more than one range effectively. MDR cannot sing in NCV's sruti and vice versa. However in CM we do not distinguish music in this regard, since we have relative pitch and music is not written in a certain key. This has been to CM's advantage since everyone can sing everything.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#13  Postby mahesh3 » 05 Jun 2012 04:13

Mahavishnu sir - I only refer to one "Shakthi" always - and that is the original line-up. Mandolin Srinivas excepted - the follow-up was pathetic -and in many ways spoiled the work of the original line-up :(.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#14  Postby sureshvv » 05 Jun 2012 10:18

Lakshman wrote: Kumaresh didn't exhibit as much gimmickry as he normally does when he plays with Ganesh.


Which means that this tour should be considered an unmitigated success! :-/
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#15  Postby nadhasudha » 06 Jun 2012 03:17

Mahavishnu - thanks for the explanation!
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#16  Postby ananthapuram » 06 Jun 2012 07:26

Mahavishnu, I am impressed that you have heard Paganini play.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#17  Postby mahavishnu » 06 Jun 2012 07:29

I have taken several incarnations ;)
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#18  Postby rshankar » 06 Jun 2012 08:56

mahavishnu wrote:I have taken several incarnations ;)
yadA yadA hi dharmasya...?
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#19  Postby anonymityatlast » 06 Jun 2012 09:38

Kumaresh ... His bowing is as much Lalgudi as it is Paganini.

Just what are you up to, there? Paganini died in 1840.
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Re: Jayanthi-Veena & KUmaresh-violin

#20  Postby mahavishnu » 06 Jun 2012 10:08

To all the "literalists", we are talking about the technique not the person. I am well aware of Paganini's history.

Ravi: :grin:
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