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Padams from a playback star

Chithra's rendering of Swathi Thirunal's Malayalam padams is full of bhava

Enchanting Melodies
BMG Crescendo
Rs 50

What's common to hits like Kannalane (Bombay) and the title song of Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya? Chithra, the playback singer. If you are one of those rare ones who haven't heard her, here's a brief introduction: she sings in all the southern languages and in Hindi, and is probably the busiest female lead in the south.

Enchanting Melodies shows you another side of Chithra, a classical vocalist who can handle the Karnatak ragas with ease. She sings eight padams from Swathi Thirunal.

Sringara rasa, or the erotic emotion, predominates in padams; it is graciously explored with all the restraint of classical music. The words usually describe a nayaki longing for unity with the beloved.

Chithra sings in delicately evocative ragas like Anandabhairavi, Dwijavanti, Neelambari, Aahiri and Suruti. She is very comfortable, probably because she doesn't have to compromise on shruti, as she most often does when she sings duets with male playback singers. This tape offers no alapana or kalpana swaras, but her rendering is flawless. I also liked the way the orchestral interludes are done: they resonate with the authentic sounds of the veena, udukkai (a traditional Kerala drum), mrudangam and kapaas (moroccos). Credit for the orchestra goes to M Jayachandran.

The dignity of Chithra's rendering touches you. Though you find no spontaneously done improvisations, her singing is fluent, emphasising the tranquillity of each raga. The gamakas are intense, and Chithra scrupulously keeps away from film composers' ideas of classical songs, and the exaggerated style of films like Shankarabharanam.

Perhaps we can look forward to Chithra mining more of our classical treasures, and not just in Malayalam.

S Suchitra Lata

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