GUEST BLOG: AFTER MARGAZHI: SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS… OR MAYBE NOT SO RANDOM?!
Updated: Jul 3
Author: Ranjani Swaminathan
Ranjani Swaminathan is a disciple of Trivandrum R.S.Mani in vocal Carnatic vocals. A graded AIR vocalist, she has given several sabha concerts and was a music and dance critic for The Indian Express (for fourteen years) and was also on editorial board of Sruti magazine. She continues to teach music to this day.
Listening to Sikkil Mala Chandrasekhar’s enchanting flute concert at Raga Sudha Hall for “Nada Inbam” in December 2018 - and pondering over the fact that Rasikas did not get to hear this music in the ‘major’ sabhas this margazhi season - the thought of “Vadyangalin Vizha” came into my mind. Serendipitously, (or so it seemed to me), I got a WhatsApp forward from a friend around the same time, about a “Violin Vaibhavam” at Arkay Convention Hall, Mylapore. So I thought, why not one for the “Pullankuzhal” and/or for all the “Vadhyams” - of course“Violin Vaibhavam” was just a day long session of violin concerts, whereas an all instruments festival could be spread over a few days or a week at least - like the “Nataka Vizha” in Narada Gana Sabha.
Combinations of different instruments in ‘concert’ may be nothing new. Going back several decades, I vividly remember the L.P. record brought out by The Gramophone Company of India, titled “Violin, Venu, Veena” - (Lalgudi Jayaraman, N. Ramani and R. Venkatraman respectively with Umayalpuram Sivaraman and T.K. Murthy on mridangam) - I was so excited to hear this combination and totally captivated by the melody and rhythm emanating from the multiple instrumental mediums. More recently, Jayanthi Kumaresh - a great vainika in her own right and the niece of Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman - founded the ‘Indian National Orchestra’. And we have the invaluable and innovative contributions of the ace violinist, A. Kanyakumari - “Vadhyalahari” (Violin, Veena and Nadaswaram), ensembles of varied numbered of violins besides the hundred instrument orchestra to commemorate the millenium. There have been several all percussion or multiple instruments concerts - I remember attending “Vikku” Vinayak Ram’s and Karaikudi Mani’s enthralling concerts besides many other ensembles. But to my knowledge, which in recent years has been severely restricted to the Margazhi Music Season within the Mylapore boundaries, “a Vadyangalin Vizha” may be something new or at the very least rare.
With the mix and match of different ‘vadyams’ the possibilities in terms of music, rhythm and overall appeal can be endless…with fine ‘homespun’ (read ‘resident’) artists showcased for their merit and talent without being catalogued and buttonholed into different slots - where the ‘Upapakka Vadhya’ artists will emerge from the half shadows of the ‘side’ stage to perform in the glow of ‘centre’ stage - and where, of course, entry will be free!
Going back to mix and match - I was surprised and intrigued somewhat to see the flutist Sruti Sagar accompany Abishek Raghuram (NGS, December 2018) instead of the usual violin. Whatever misgivings I may have had as to the effectiveness of support in such a blend were instantly dispelled even within the first few minutes of the concert, I could even sense the entire audience palpably settle down to enjoy the music. Kudos to the vocalist and the organisers for this enterprising move projecting the flute - an instrument that is not all that visible in and as ‘main’ concert - while it is extensively and effectively used in dance orchestra.
“Vision without execution is just hallucination!” - these words of Henry Ford suddenly came into my mind rather inconveniently! I would not presume to bestow a lofty word like ‘vision’ to my random armchair reflections. However, lacking the resources to execute them, I can yet hope that they may move from the realm of wishful thinking into the arena of reality through the resources of other ‘concerned’ people.
“Vadyams” - that could participate in the “Vadyangalin Vizha” - from the three main categories -
“Vayu” or wind instruments - flute, nadaswarams.
“Tanthiri” or string instruments - Veena, Violin.
“Sarma” or leather based instruments - mridangam, kanjira, thavil.
These are mentioned or set out by Sri Paramacharya in his magnificent “Deivatthin Kural” and (second volume).
Of course we have several other instruments outside of these division - like morsing, ghatam and even “konnakkol” while chitravaana, rudraveena would come along with the regular veena and violin as also the clarionet besides nadaswaram.
(Rather than say NO to modern / Western instruments ( keyboard, drums, rhythm pad - even the mandolin which in average hands can be noisy and flashy- all of which are excessively used in light/ film music stage shows) - I thought I would mention the traditional/ conventional ones that should be included!!)