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Carnatic triumph in Hindustani sanctum

Posted on 11/01/2018 in Times of India

  • AHMEDABAD: An authoritative voice, brightened by the cues of great art, sang briefly over the telephone to explicate the interplay of the note "ni". The fleeting rendition afforded a flash of lushness and control — the signal features of the Carnatic tradition. The voice belonged to Jayanti Ravi, the principal secretary of the health and family welfare department, the Government of Gujarat. Ravi, a practitioner of Carnatic music, was annotating Aruna Sairam's performance at Saptak on Tuesday.

    "Sairam began with Amritavarshini," Ravi told TOI. "Usually, concerts open with ragas such as Hamsadhvani. A notable aspect of Sairam's presentation was kalpanaswaram, which sparkled in its simplicity." Kalpanaswaram refers to improvisation, which is a collaboration between an artist's inklings and rasikas' wordless expectations. Sairam's essay also included Kharaharapriya. "Carnatic music is rooted in devotion," Ravi said. "And 'swara' is the shine that the self has acquired. When Sairam sang 'Vaishnava Jana To' in Ahmedabad, some would have said it was like carrying coal to Newcastle. I think her interpretation carried gold to Newcastle, because she poured her soul into it."

    A version of "Kalinga Narthana Thillana" — a part of Sairam's programme — is available on YouTube. In that clip, she shows that a supreme artist uses a range of affective registers: the solemnity of scripture, the cry of the elements, and even the urgency of a newspaper caption. The thillana relates the story of Lord Krishna dancing on the hood of Kaliya, the Nag of Yamuna. In Sairam's notes, one hears the patter of young Krishna's feet; the outraged hiss; the lurching of the hood; the swell of the ocean; and eventually, the sound of good stamping its authority.


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