An evening of music with Nithyasree Mahadevan


by Satyajith Andradi

Imagine an ‘All Bach Song Recital ’ : A renowned singer, accompanied by few instrumentalists, goes on singing for hours and hours those lovely arias from Bach’s numerous church cantatas : A feeling of deep piety and abundance reigns supreme : An appreciative audience listens attentively to the beautiful music with great devotion, enthusiasm and gratitude!

A music concert, which I attended very recently, resembled in spirit and length, the imaginary ‘All Bach Song Recital’ - the singing went on for hours; a feeling of deep piety and abundance was ever present; the appreciative audience listened attentively to the beautiful music with great devotion, enthusiasm and gratitude! However, in place of Bach’s sacred arias, there were devotional songs ( kritis ) of Tyagaraja, Muttuswamy Dikshitar and many others masters of south Indian classical music ( Carnatic music ) ; in place of a harpsichord and cello, there were mridangam, morsing and kanjira; Telugu, Sanskrit and Tamil in place of German; ‘Rama’, ‘Siva’ and ‘Ganapati’ in place ‘Jesus’; ‘ragam’ and ‘talam’ in place of Bach’s harmony and counterpoint. The violinist held his instrument in a manner not typical of a Bach concert! The renowned singer- a charming lady in saree, sat cross-legged ( Padmasana ) on the stage and beat time with her right hand throughout her lengthy performance!

The concert titled ‘ An Evening of Music and Dance’ was held on Sunday, 7th November 2010 at the New Kathiresen Hall, Colombo 4. It was presented by the Hindu Educational Society of Colombo. The grand highlight of the concert was the wonderful recital of devotional songs ( kirthanas ) by the renowned South Indian singer Nithyasree Mahadevan. Nithyasree, who was born in 1973, belongs to a a highly musical family. She is a granddaughter and pupil of the legendary Carnatic singer Srimathi D.K. Pattammal. She has extensively performed in India and numerous other countries throughout the world. She has also made numerous recordings of her songs. Nithyasree Mahadevan has been awarded a doctorate in recognition of her contribution to south Indian classical music.

The concert commenced at about quarter past six in the evening, with an impressive dance presentation titled ‘Nrithiyanubhavam’ by the young Sri Lankan Bharathanatyam dancer Thivya Sivanesan. This was followed by a brief but moving song recital by the South Indian singer Lavanya Sundararaman, who is a great granddaughter of D.K. Pattammal and a niece of Nithyasree Mahadevan. Then came the main segment of the evening’s programme – the memorable song recital by Nithyasree Mahadevan. Her lengthy recital commenced shortly around quarter past seven. She was accompanied by her father, I. Sivakumar ( mridandam ), Ramachandran Sivakumar ( violin ), Madanagopal Naidu Deenathayalu ( Morsing )- all from India, and the Sri Lankan percussionist Prama Nayagam ( Kanjira ). She began the recital with a lively rendition of Muttuswamy Dikshitar’s well – known krithi ‘Vatapi Ganapati’ ( ragam ‘Hamsadhavi’, talam ‘ Adi’ ). This was followed by the performance of very many popular kritis including Tyagaraja’s ‘Bhajanaseyave’ ( ragam ‘Kalyani’, talam ‘ Rupaka’ ) and ‘Ganamoorthy’ ( ragam ‘Ganamoorthy’, talam ‘Adi’ ). I particularly enjoyed her superb rendition of ‘Ganamoorthy’. I wished she sang my favourite Carnatic song, Tyagaraja’s kriti ‘Bantureethi’. However, that was not to be. Anyway, the lovely songs, which she performed that evening, were adequate compensation for me. I was particularly fascinated by a lengthy composition, which also permitted the percussionists – mridangam, kanjira, and morsing, to display their musical prowess as individuals. The recital ended at around half past ten in the evening. It was indeed a memorable concert, a rare treat for the rasikas.

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