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Discernment. Online

Subramaniam played a raga he had thought up on a stormy night in Guwahati


Ganjam's November feast

The three-day Flights of Fantasy music festival featured, among other things, a new raga called Chandrapriya

This year's Flights of Fantasy concerts opened on a Sunday, and were spread over three days (November 24-26). Ganjam, well-known diamond jewellers, present this festival of Indian classical music every November.

The first day featured two concerts: the sitar of Ustad Shahid Parvez, accompanied by Yogesh Samsi, and the singing of Pandit Dinkar Kaikini, accompanied by Gourang Kodical (tabla) and Vyasamurthy Katti (harmonium). The second and third evenings featured Karnatak music. It was Dr L Subramaniam's violin on Monday. He played just two extended pieces. The first, Vatapiganapatim bhaje, took up nearly 45 minutes. In 2000, when he played at a concert organized by the International Music and Arts Society at the same venue, he had played this very Muthuswamy Dikshitar composition for an hour. This time again, Subramaniam played on, determined to give the pentatonic raga a grand treatment.

After a 15-minute interval, he took up raga Chandrapriya. This is his own creation. It uses the scale of raga Hindola (sa ga ma dha ni sa), but adds another gandhara. In the alapana, Subramanian began by emphasizing the Hindola aspect of the raga, frequently getting drawn to the nuances of its Hindustani counterpart Malkauns. His sudden landing on the shuddha gandhara gave it a surprise twist. Then a tana and pallavi followed.

"I created this raga in Guwahati," Dr Subramaniam told this writer later. "There was a huge storm, and many trees had been uprooted. My flight got delayed. I was late for my concert by an hour and a half, but I was touched to find the audience waiting quietly." When someone asked him to play Hindola, he thought he would try out a variation on it. The power had gone off and he was forced to play in the moonlight, and the atmosphere, he says, suggested to him the name of the new raga. Subramaniam has been playing Chandrapriya for more than two years. Hindustani music lovers may find shades of Jog Kouns in it, but Chandrapriya does not, like that raga, use the panchama (fifth note). His virtuosity was on full display during this rendering.

Subramaniam was accompanied by V Kamalakara Rao (mridangam), and Ghantasala Satya Sai (morsing). Satya Sai happens to be a nephew of Ghantasala, the famous Telugu and Kannada playback singer of yesteryear. Ghatam player G S Sarat Chandra's long pauses and unexpected flourishes gave his playing a very stylish air. He also did some konnakol passages to accompany the violin playing, again creating some interesting orchestration.

For feedback, Subramaniam had two speakers facing him and one at the back. This perhaps amplified the sound and created a more than normal reverb, and when he hit his lower string, the volume came out very loud. Sanjay Subramanyam's concert on Tuesday created more comfortable acoustics. His voice turned out attractively granular, and through half a dozen ragas, he took up raga Bhairavi for elaborate treatment. He sang the Kannada composition Kandu dhanyanadeno Udupi Krishnana (Kamalesha Vittala) and concluded with a Sanskrit composition in raga Desh.

The festival was very well attended. Ganjam is planning a festival to encourage young musicians in January 2003.

S R Ramakrishna

Published on 12 December 2002

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