Carnatic Music came alive with all its nuances at a concert held on March 5, 2016 at Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School.
The occasion was a tribute to Sangeetha Bharati School of Music Director & Principal Dr Padma Govardhan who received her Doctorate (PhD) for her thesis on ‘Shankarabharanam’ from the Kodaikanal based Mother Teresa University at the Convocation held in Madurai on February 13 (Indian Newslink, March 1, 2016) and for the Silver Jubilee of her married life to her husband Govardhan Mallela, a qualified and practising Chartered Accountant.
The tribute was rendered with conviction by her daughter Vishnu Priya, who has emerged as one of the finest singers of today’s younger generation and son Balu Mallela whose increasing proficiency on the Mridangam was a treat to hear and watch.
Their performance was embellished by Bhairavi Raman (Violin), Ashwini Vishwanath (Flute) and Nithya Narayanan (Tambura). For almost three hours, they resonated the theatre with rhythm, melody and synergy, extolling Classical Music to its level of excellence.
The event was organised by Sangeetha Bharathi School of Music and Rasikas NZ with Dr Yogini Rathnasabapathy, an ardent Carnatic Music enthusiast as the Chief Guest and Mount Roskill Labour MP and former Foreign and Trade Minister (Auckland Mayoral candidate) Phil Goff as the Guest of Honour.
Both of them praised the multiple roles that Dr Padma executes to perfection with honour, honesty, discipline and devotion- as a wife, mother, singer, teacher and learner. Indian Newslink carried a detailed account of her academic and professional qualifications in its March 1, 2016 issue.
Priya Srinivasan of Rasikas NZ was Master of Ceremonies of the event at which Dr Padma Govardhan was blessed by Gopalan Iyengar and his wife Hema, a respected elderly couple of the community.
Dr Pratyusha Vikrant Kashibhatla, a student of Sangeetha Bharathi School of Music spoke on behalf of all students while honouring Dr Padma. Her mimicry of the Guru was an interesting addition to the tribute.
Beginning the Concert with obeisance to Lord Ganesha, the Remover of all obstacles, Vishnu Priya set the pace for high notes of Carnatic Music which she learnt from her mother and other Gurus.
‘Ninu Nera Mammithi,’ a Varnam in Kharaharapriya Ragam and Adi Talam was an appropriate beginning to the Concert.
Vishnu Priya rendered this song composed by Dr Balamuralikrishna with such devotion and expertise that the maestro would have stood up in ovation had he been present at the venue.
Muthuswami Dikshitar, one of the trinity of Carnatic Music, was a composer known not only to evoke human emotions but also for their depth and soulfulness. No Carnatic Music concert can be considered complete without at least one of his compositions.
Vishnu Priya chose ‘Thyagaraja Palayasumam’ set in Goula Ragam and Adi Talam and rendered it with the poise and confidence of a master musician. The way Bhairavi coped with the intricacies of this number was commendable.
Papanasam Sivan, known as the ‘Tamil Thayagajayya,’ composed more than 500 songs that have been immortalised by many stalwarts including M S Subbulakshmi.
‘Nambi Kettavar Yevaraiyya, Umai Nayaganai, Tirumalaiyin Iravani’ is a song that seldom fails to throw listeners into a trance. That was the experience as Vishnu Priya presented this number in Hindolam Ragam and Adi Talam.
Mysore Vasudevachar’s ‘Pranamamyagam’ was rendered (in Ragam Ranjani and Talam Misra Triputa) with fineness and poise with Bhairavi reaching high standards to the tone set by Vishnu Priya. This number is heard mostly at concerts that test the ability of the vocalist to reach higher scales. There was no let down.
The Centre Piece
Earlier, ‘Nee Valla Gunadoshamemi,’ a Thyagaraja composition also received dignified rendition, doing justice to one of the greatest composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Vishnu Priya not only excelled her own performance while rendering ‘Mohana Rama’ but also challenged her co-artistes to rise to their peak performance. This 40-minute centre piece, set to Mohana Ragam and Adi Talam brought out the prowess of the singer with an elongated Alaapanai, engaging Pallavi and Anu Pallavi and scintillating Charanam.
As she sang the words, ‘Dhara Manuj Avatara, Mahima Vini Sura Kinnara,’ the temptation to stand up and give the singer a standing ovation was hard to resist. But we did not, for fear of disturbing the remarkable recital.
There were 13 numbers in all excluding Mangalam with which Vishnu Priya concluded her Concert. It was no coincidence that the final number was a composition of Dr Balamuralikrishna. His ‘Thillana,’ set to Ahir Bhairavi Ragam and Adi Talam elevated the event to a new high level.