Though I have heard Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh and her husband Kumaresh Rajagopalan in individual concerts, it was the first time I heard the husband-wife duo in ‘Strings Attached’ Programme organised by the New Zealand Carnatic Music Society as a part of its three-day ‘Sangeethothsavam’ (Music Festival) on June 4, 2016.
The word ‘downpour’ has been used by announcers and media everywhere to denote this couple. And what we experienced was a downpour of rhythm and melody. Along with J Vaidyanathan on Mridangam, we had musical pedigree of high order on display.
Not only were they master practitioners of their chosen instrument, but also boast of a noteworthy lineage in Carnatic Music.
Commencing with ‘Kanada Ata Thala Varnam,’ they travelled the gamut of Ragas and composers through ‘Sarasiruha’ in Nattai and ‘Kamakshi’ in ‘Simhendra Madhyamam’ to ‘Lalgudi Thillana’ in ‘Mohankalyani.’
Slipped in was a ‘Raga Pravaham’ in ‘Nattakurinji,’ a pet project of brothers Ganesh-Kumaresh, specially for instrumentalists!
And then of course, the ‘Ragam Thanam Pallavi’ in Charukesi with an abundance of ‘Ragamalika’ Swarams.
A request for an English song brought about an ‘Indian Note’ which sparkled, nevertheless.
The Mangalam was an unusual triad of ‘Hariharathmajam-Kamakshi’ (a Shyama Shastri composition) ‘Baghyada Lakshmi.’
Veena is a soft instrument and due to sheer size, there is a lot of ground to cover for the artiste. Hence it is always invariably hard to play at high speed, or to play the half-quarter notes which tend to be the forte of a Vocalist. A violin is at an advantage here, since it is commonly featured as a main accompaniment.
It is the skill of both artistes on stage, that none of those differences were evident.
There was great understanding allowing for seamless continuity, be it an exploration of a Raga in ‘Alapana’ or as ‘Kalpana Swaram.’
Kumaresh brought in a semi-Western, flatter dimension to his playing in contrast with Jayanthi, who sticks to the steeped traditions of Carnatic Music.
That blend created a lot of innovation and novelty which is an aural treat to the listener at all levels.
There was high energy on stage which I am sure was carried to everyone in the audience.
That energy lasted in me throughout the two-hour drive back to my home in Hamilton.
Editor’s Note: The late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, a doyen of Carnatic Music used to say that ‘Madhyamavati’ is a Raga that signifies the conclusion of a Concert. “This Raga is sung to seek forgiveness for any mistakes that may have crept in during the performance. Madhyamavati will bestow Mangalam and Wellness.” I do not possess the knowledge to offer a critique to the maestros Jayanthi and Kumaresh but their Concert was a rare treat.
Malathi Vasudevan is a Chartered Accountant by profession and a Veena artiste with a deep understanding of the nuances of Carnatic Music. She is a former President of the New Zealand Carnatic Music Society. She has been the prime mover of the Shri Balaji Temple in Hamilton and continues to promote it as a Trustee and Treasurer of the Sri Balaji Temple Trust, which owns and manages the Temple, located at 2, Kent Street in Frankton.
Kumaresh Rajagopalan, Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh and J Vaidyanathan at their Auckland Concert on June 4.