Monday, December 01, 2014

There’s something about Texas…

T.M.Krishna has just concluded a whirlwind tour of the US, performing in about 15 concerts in just over a month. Of those three were in Texas - Houston, Dallas and Austin. In each of these three concerts he sang Bhairavi. I guess there is something in the Texas air that inspires Krishna to sing Bhairavi.  While he sang the Swarajathi Kamakshi Amba in Houston, it was Rama Rama Pranasakhi in Dallas and in his penultimate concert of the tour, in Austin, he sang Sari Evvaramma. And for one who attended all the three concerts it was not a repetitive dose of Bhairavi but an experience of hearing different dimensions of the raga.  I had written earlier about the Houston concert and did a photoblog of the Dallas concerts. Here is my report on the Austin one. 

The schedule took the artists all over the US in a totally random fashion. Before coming to Austin on Saturday, they had performed in Vancouver on Friday and left for Boston for the final concert of the tour on Sunday. They had landed in Austin late afternoon and had to perform within a matter of hours from landing and the concert could not begin in time. But the travails of travel were all forgotten once the first notes were sung.

The concerts of Krishna not being in the standard Kutcheri padhadhi, is now well understood by the audience that during this concert, the organizers made  the announcement about it rather than Krishna having to do it midway during the concert. And a unique concert, it was.

It started with the grand Yadhukula Kambhoji composition of Marimuthu Pillai, Kaalai Thookki Nindru Aadum Dheivame. It lasted nearly thirty minutes and it was bliss all the way. It was followed up by a stand alone Thananam which was sung in multiple ragas - Nattai, Gowlai, Arabhi, Varali and Sri, the ragams in which the famous Pancha Ratna Krithis are set to.

Then Shriramkumar played a very moving ragam rendition in Huseni. Given that Krishna  has moved on to a different ragam when Shriramkumar performs something magnificent like this, I was expecting him to sing a song in a different ragam. But he sang Rama Ninne Nammi with the twist being that he was accompanied just by Arunprakash on the mridangam. Shriramkumar put his violin down and was enjoying the rendition with the rest of the audience.  I understand there is a concert this December in Chennai, where the entire concert would be without any percussion accompaniment. I would love to be there for that one. 

Sri Ramam in Narayanagowlai was next and was sung in such a slow tempo that it was mesmerizing. Then came the main attraction of the day Sari Evvaramma in Bhairavi.  In a typical concert a main piece would be one where there is a lot of raga elaboration, niraval, laya vinyasam (as some percussionists prefer to call thani avardhanam) et al. But again here it was not the case as all of that has been done elsewhere as well. But I call this the main piece as it was the rendition with the greatest impact during this concert. 

Again, the percussionist normally has no say as to when the thani avardhanam would happen and would need to perform in the thalam of the main song of the day. Krishna is democratizing that as well by giving them a choice of a stand alone thani avardhanam in a thalam of the percussionist’s choice. In this concert, Arunprakash played a thani in Misra Jaathi Triputa Thalam and it came after a thanam in Atana and the composition Anubhava Gunambudhi. 

A few quick pieces rounded up the concert. They were the sholkam Vasudeva Sutham and the song Chandana Charchitha in Panthuvarali, Sri Rama Chandra Kripalu in Yamuna Kalyani, Mahakavi Bharathiyar’s Aaduvome Pallu Paaduvome in Maand, Karuniso Ranga in Sahana and Dikshithar’s English Notes composition of Muchukunda Varada. 

It was a concert that met the standards we have come to expect from Krishna and this team. At the end of three hours, the audience were not sated and were wanting more.  But it might be a couple of years before we can hear him live again this side of Atlantic. Then, I wish we get to hear many more of  rare ragas and krithis sung in his inimitable style.