Mylapore Arts Academy’s Navaratri Series

Mylapore Arts Academy’s Navaratri Series


The Mylapore Arts Academy’s Navaratri Series consisting of seven concerts commenced on 13 October 2023 with a performance by R. Suryaprakash, who was accompanied by R.K. Shriramkumar (violin), Manoj Siva (mirdangam) and Sunil Kumar (khanjira). Suryaprakash began with Sadananda tandava in Bahudari; the execution of kalpanaswarams could have been slightly better as they felt abrupt in some places. This was followed by renditions of Lavanya Rama and Vijayambike. What impressed me was this unique selection of ragas - Bahudari, Purnashadjam and Vijayanagari. R.K.Shriramkumar was effortlessly elegant and brought out the best even in the not-so-common raga like Vijayanagari. Suryaprakash’s manodharma first struck a chord with an essay of Asaveri. He included phrases from the popular kriti Rarama inti daaka. The main piece was in Kambhoji – Kana kann kodi vendum. Suryaprakash’s most distinct style however is his knack of seamlessly including patterns in his swaraprastaras starting with simple ones like jandais and dhatus to more complex and intricate ones. These definitely added a punch but compromised slightly on the raga bhava. Manoj Siva and Sunil Kumar provided perfect support throughout. Post the Kambhoji, he presented a ragamalika viruttam and Papanasam Sivan’s Karpagame, an apt choice for a sabha named after Mylapore. He concluded with a quick Tiruppugazh in Hamsanandi.


The second in the series was Sikkil Gurucharan, accompanied by M.R. Gopinath (violin) and Neyveli S Skandasubramanian (mridangam). He began with the Saveri varnam and surprised by singing a few niravals in the charanam. Generally in kalpanaswaram, the last note is always the note just above or below the starting note of the composition, but in Gananathane gunabodhane (Saranga), Gurucharan seamlessly included prastharas that ended in almost every note only to smoothly jump back to the original line. Gopinath too responded well. The renditions felt a little rushed in the first half of the concert but it didn’t hamper the experience. His renditions of compositions were excellent, be it starting with the anupallavi - Yehi sukham dehi or Syama Sastry’s evergreen Marivere gati in Ananda Bhairavi. The highlight for me however was Unnai vendinen Umapate in Bhavapriya (the prati madhyama version of the more popular Todi) was soulful, embellished with swaras that were just as good. The main piece in Bilahari - Kamakshi Sree Varalakshmi was a hit. It had everything - an extensive alapana that showcased the rakti of Bilahari, exceptional niraval, swaras that combined creative patterns and raga bhava. After this came Hanumanai anudinam ninaimaname in ragamalika with a viruttam. He also sang Vande Mataram Vande Mataram endru in Behag. After praising the nation through the song, Gurucharan took a moment to candidly enquire about the India vs Pakistan match. What better way to end the concert!


Mohan Swaminathan accompanied by Melakkaveri Thyagarajan (violin), Mannarkoil Balaji (mridangam), and Adambakkam Shankar (ghatam) was up next. He started with the Shanmukhapriya pada varnam - Devar munivar tozhum, but in many places, the vocal and violin weren’t in sync. Gamganapate in Hamsadhwani was quite rushed. Sogasuga Mridanga talamu and Veena pustaka dharinim ashraye in Veghavahini were good renditions. The Athana alapana that preceded Nee irangayenil showcased all the characteristic phrases of the raga until it ended quite abruptly. The niraval too was enjoyable however the phrases and ideas became repetitive after a point. The Poorikalyani raga for the main piece was treated elaborately, the unique point being the explorative phrases in the mandira sthayi. The fast phrases and brighas too were impressive. Dikshitar’s Meenakshi me mudam was melodious. He ended with Chinnanchiru penpole in Sindubhairavi, Irakkam varamal ponadu enna karanam and a tillana. Mannarkoil Balaji accentuated the right places and made each piece more enjoyable. Definitely sogasuga mridanga talamu!



Mahathi S accompanied by Melakkaveri Thyagarajan (violin) and Sai Giridhar (mridangam). True to the Navaratri celebrations, Mahathi exclusively presented compositions on the Devis. She started with the Suddha Dhanayasi varnam - Sree Raja Mathangi followed by Saraseeruha in Nata. In the Nata kalpanaswaras, she managed to seamlessly weave in quite a few phrases from Tyagaraja’s Jagadanandakaraka. Her sub-main for the day was Swati Tirunal’s Mamava sada varade. The quick rendition of Palayamam parvatheesha (Kannada) gave a sharp change in flavor post that slow and graceful Natakurinji. Dikshitar’s Meenakshi me mudam returned once again as the main piece. It was quite intriguing to see the same composition being rendered distinctly by two artists though they are bound by the same notes and scale. Mahathi’s kalpanaswarams at madumada modita were refreshing and gave scope for exquisite ideas. The slow swaras were excellent; many of them were shadja-varjam and panchama-varjam (devoid of S and P). In the second speed however, she went for more pattern-based swaras. A special mention to Sai Giridhar for a crackling Tani. Mahathi rendered Nee dhaan thunai by N S Chidambaram, very similar to the popular Aarabhimaanam. All the ragas used in the composition were names of Devi - Neelambari, Vasantha Bhairavi, Gowri Manohari, Saraswati, Sreeranjani, Mohanakalyani, Durga and Jyothiswaroopini. She concluded with Baratiyar’s Thedi unnai charanadainden in Sindu Bhairavi and Mand Tillana.


The fifth concert was the most awaited one - Brindha Manickavasakam accompanied by R.K.Shriramkumar (violin), Delhi Sairam (mridangam) and S. Krishna (ghatam). Brindha too presented a thematic concert of only Devi kritis. She started with Tyagaraja’s Lalite (with niraval and swaram) which was surprisingly a good start despite its leisurely pace. Meena Nayana in Darbar was a neat rendition. Brindha certainly has a charm that holds us in rapture - a gifted voice with a texture that sails through ragas with ease and a smile throughout. Her next was Kamalambam Bhajare in Kalyani. In her raga alapana, she leapt ahead without exploring the base too much and beautifully captured all of Kalyani’s best and classic phrases. Completing the trinity she presented Brovavamma Tamasa in Manji, again quite a surprising decision to sing Bhairavi and Manji in the same concert. The main piece for the day was in Natakurinji - Ninnuvimchina. The impressive part was the way she handled the Kalpanaswaras. Instead of going for patterns, she sang them with the gait of Natakurinji, exploring the raga further. Aarabhimanam and Nenjukku Needhiyum were quick and enjoyable. Instead of ending with a tillana or mangalam, Brindha ended with a ragamalika viruttam, a verse from the Meenakshi Pancharatnam. R.KShriramkumar’s expertise, and Brindha’s charm, combined with the dynamic and spirited support of Delhi Sairam and Krishna made the concert a grand success.


Pranathi Ganapuram accompanied by Haritha Narayanan (violin), Gomathi Sankar (mridangam) and Sainath (ghatam) were the youngest team to perform in the series. She started with a varnam, presented Deva Deva Kalayamite (Mayamalavagoula) with kalpanaswarams and an excellent Reetigaula with impressive fast phrases. Though she looked quite nervous, none of it showed in her voice. After a short sketch of Arabhi, she sang Paalipa raavade and Sree Soundararaja in Brindavana Saranga. Poorvikalyani truly seems to be a favourite. She rendered Syama Sastry’s Enneramu Un Naamam with a viruttam. Ithi Nyayama in Malavi was the quick break before she moved into her main piece. It was in the course of her elaborate Todi raga that she actually came into her own and sang freely with much more ease. The composition was Tyagaraja’s Karunjuda which was followed by Itu Sahasrumulu in a rare raga - Saindhavi. Overall, she is quite a promising voice. The accompanying artists performed just as well.



The last performance of the festival was by Palghat R Ramprasad, L Ramakrishnan (violin), Delhi Sairam (mridangam) and S. Krishna (ghatam). Ramprasad started with a Kedaragaula raga and had me hooked with his mellifluous flow and beautiful swaras. He explored the rakti of this ancient raga with clever and creative use of jandais that did not compromise on the raga bhava. Chakra raja rata roode in Dharmavati was excellent. His impressive niraval skills and breath control were on display throughout the concert. Malayamrutam and Kanchadalayatakshi in Kamalamanohari were enjoyable too. Ramprasad and Ramakrishnan rendered parts of the alapana for Malayamarutam and the same format was repeated in the Bhairavi alapana before the main piece - Papanasam Sivan’s Thaye Ezhaipal. He then went for a ragamalika viruttam followed by a soulful Mahishasuramadani Jagadamba in Hamsanandi and Tasamasama Amma in Kuntalavarali. The unique part of the concert was probably the mangalam. No, it wasn't the usual Pavamana, but Mangala Sree Tulasi Deviye (Purandara Dasa) in Surati. L. Ramakrishnan’s ability to respond to the vocalists and his manodharma skills were once again on the show. Delhi Sairam and Krishna’s flawless rendition of tanis, teermanams, and precise support to compositions was exceptional making it a wholesome concert experience.


Musical Musings

(the author is a student of music)