Review by Smt Parvathy Hadley – Dr S Sowmya Concert

On Oct 6 Saturday CMAI presented the ninth event for this year. Evidently they were saving the best concert for the last – those fans who braved the cold rain and came to Sycamore School were treated to a terrific program of beautiful vocals with excellent support from violin, mrigangam and kanjira.

The artists were of great musical pedigree, and they frequently perform together, which led to their mutual balance and support. Smt. S. Sowmya is a student of Prof. S. Ramanathan and Smt. T. Mukta. When I started going to Carnatic concerts 40+ years ago, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman and Parur M.S. Gopalakrishnan were top violinists. They also performed duets with their siblings – Lalgudi with Srimati, and Gopalakrishnan with Anantharaman. Our violinist M.S.Ananthakrishnan is the grandson of Anantharaman, and I was frequently reminded of the Parur style. The mridangist Neyveli R.Narayanan is a disciple of Thanjavur Sri Upendran and the legendary Umayalpuram Sivaraman. The kanjira player K.V.Gopalakrishnan, a disciple of ‘Sangeetha Kalanidhi’ Dr.T.K. Murthy, accompanies all the top names in Carnatic music today.

One of my usual peeves is the sound system. Sycamore School has good audio equipment and their sound technician is by now a pro in setting up for Carnatic concerts. It worked flawlessly.

Smt. sowmya was in great voice, covering two and a half octaves, equally at ease with slow lyrical or brisk forceful passages. She started with a varnam “Sarasuda” in Saveri. The pallavi opened in slow subdued tones, but by the charanam, she was in fast tempo. Varnams are meant to be warmup pieces, and it warmed us up for sure.

This was followed by two Tyagaraja compositions. The familiar “Chalamela Ra” in Marga Hindolam was sung with brisk swara kalpana and excellent support from violin. “Sambho Mahadeva” in Panthuvarali is somewhat unique – Sri Tyagaraja has composed very few songs dedicated to Siva, and very few of his songs are in Sanskrit. We were treated to a fabulous rendition.

Then she presented us with two compositions of Sri Papanasam Sivan, which gave the percussionists great opportunities to shine. The first was “Chittham irangatha” in Sahana. The second was “Mal maruga Shanmuga” in Vasantha.

Smt. Sowmya then switched to Dikshitar. She explained the two different approaches to raga Dwijavanthi. Sri Dikshitar has used one approach, with subdued Sadharana Gandhara, in the song “Akhilandeswari”, and a more buoyant style with frequent Andhara Gandhara,

Between two heavyweight Dikshitar compositions she inserted a Tyagaraja kriti in Kaapi, “Meevalla gunadosha”. Then followed the main piece, “Sri Kanthimathim” in Hemavathi by Sri Dikshitar. The composition itself gave opportunities for nice mridangam-kanjira exchanges, and it led up to a terrific Thani Aavarthanam. And let us not forget the violin which was brilliant.

This was followed by a lighter piece in Bageshri, “Poojyaya Raghavendraya” by Appanaacharya. By then it was close to 10 PM, so Sowmya delivered a charming “Kuravanchi” snake charmer song in Punnagavarali, and then closed with Mangalam in Sourashtram.

We still have a Navaratri program coming up, but this was a glorious finish to this year’s concert schedule.

I also would like to congratulate Mahesh Suravarjjala and his committee for transforming CMAI into a vibrant organisation and increasing the membership four-fold. This is a tough act to follow and let us hope that the next committee is up to a challenge.
similar to Yadukula Kamboji, in the song “Chetasri Balakrishnam”. Her selection was “Chetasri”.

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