December 22, 2010

Shri Ragam - beautiful weave of music and story

.................. By Dhvani

>>>Dhvani has mailed us her experience at the event. The views are hers and not of chennaiDecemberSeason.com>>>

After reading a unique trailer about Shri Ragam in Hindu newspaper and the curtain raiser on KutcheriBuzz, I got very curious and set out to Krishna Gana Sabha to check out what this was all about on December 19th.

The well lit stage had Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh on center stage, with M.D. Pallavi and Abhishek Raghuram on either side of her. The percussionists Pramath Kiran (Tabla and Morsing) and Anand Ananthakrishnan (mridangam) flanked the stage.

While the audience was getting settled, I got to hear bits and pieces of conversation around me – everyone trying to figure out what was in store for the evening!

And after the invocation piece, Jayanthi, along with her group, wove a beautiful story about Lalithamma and Adithya – a guru and her student. Set to present-day tone, the story neatly walked us through the perspective – of an eager student who wished to learn music from the best, of a guru and her expectations from a student, of a musician and her experience and thoughts through decades, and then of course, of music in its various forms.

Shri Ragam was well balanced with narration, conversation, Carnatic music – both vocal and veena and Hindustani music. The singers did a fabulous job throughout - the swara devatha slokams, devarnama, alaaps, neravals and they were ably supported by the percussionists. Jayanthi’s taanam and later “Annapoorne” in Saama on the veena were excellent.

The script/narration/screenplay was clear with many an analogy for clarity. Quite a few topics were covered during this two hour programme and the messages were delivered in small doses along the way – just enough to get one thinking but still staying with the narrator. There were tons of adjectives used to describe music and very few word repeats.

Jayanthi’s ability to switch energy levels in her voice while she described a scene, assumed the role of a young and exuberant Adithya, or altered to the wise Lalithamma was just amazing. Alternating the script between English and Tamil made for a good change too.

Shri Ragam completely captivated the attention of the audience with description of places, people and their emotions but specifically the locations Madurai & Varanasi stay in my mind. One could almost hear the temple bells and the sounds of river Ganges who flows through wild rapids and shallow pebbled routes. Pallavi also captured these sounds beautifully with her rendition of “tunga tarange Gange”.

The simple way in which Jayanthi explained how layers of complexity can be added to a ragam, in this case Kalyani, showed a brief glimpse of how the syllabus is set out for Carnatic music. Humor was interspersed with the dialogs making it funny yet thought provoking.

Jayanthi has taken the art of storytelling through and about music to the next level with Shri Ragam.

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