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Lalgudi siblings kick off SIFA spring concert

The Spring concerts of South India Fine Arts (SIFA) kicked off on March 25th with a Violin duet by Sangita Kalanidhis Sri. Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan & Smt. Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. The brother-sister duo are the children and disciples of the late Lalgudi Jayaraman, a doyen of modern Carnatic classical music. Vidwan Sri. R. Sankaranarayanan on Mridangam and Vidwan Sri. S. Sunil Kumar on Kanjira accompanied the siblings.

In front of a packed auditorium, the concert began with a lovely varnam on the popular ragam Hameer Kalyani.  This was followed by a recital of the Ekamresa Nayike, a soulful composition, set to ragam Suddha Saveri and Adi talam. The song was composed by Muthuswamy Dikshitar in praise of Goddess Kamakshi. The highlight of this recital was the alternating Jugalbandhi between G.J.R Krishnan / Sankaranarayanan’s Mridangam and Vijayalakshmi / Sunil Kumar’s Kanjira.

The picture shows a group of Indian musicians playing on drums and violins.
SIFA spring concert 2023 (image courtesy/ Venkat Rangan) JPEG

A Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan composition

This was followed by the magnificent praNataartihara, a Ragamalika, that started with a pallavi set to the ragam Sri ragam. The song, a 72-mela ragamalika, is said to be one of Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s most famous compositions. The anupallavi/caraNam consists of the 72 melakartas and includes the name of the raga in each line. 

The next song – Sankari Neeve – was an apt one for the season, with the concert happening amid Chaitra Navratri. It started off with a solo alapana by Smt. Vijayalakshmi, teasing the Begada ragam with its nuances. As the song progressed, the concert kicked into high gear with all four artists in their element. The crowd reciprocated with claps and taps that make the beat of the Rupaka talam.

The picture shows the audience at a concert
An enthralled crowd at the SIFA Spring concert (image courtesy/ Venkat Rangan)

A Thyagaraja composition

In any Carnatic concert, one cannot go too long without hearing a Thyagaraja composition. And so, it was the turn of Lalgudi G.J.R, to start the great composer’s Enduko nee manasu with a beautifully rendered Alapana. Set to ragam Kalyani, the song praises Lord Rama, like many other songs created by the great saint of Indian classical music. During the recital, Smt. Vijayalakshmi broke into verses most spontaneously, as the song later segued into a breathtaking Tani Avartanam by the percussionists of the evening. Sankaranarayanan and Sunil Kumar (on his debut tour of the U.S.) complemented each other beautifully in this wonderful passage of the recital. 

In any Carnatic concert, an artist shows their mastery and knowledge of the art with the “Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi” segment (also called RTP, in short). This is an extended portion of the recital, where the artist’s creativity comes to the fore. The Lalgudi duo kicked off the RTP in the second half of the concert with a haunting alapana on ragam Hindolam. 

A Subramania Bharati composition 

The concert went well beyond the 3-hour mark, as the artists graciously accepted an audience request – the epic Chinnanchiru kiliye written by the great poet Subramania Bharati

There was plenty to savor for the diverse audience, that ranged from the connoisseurs of Carnatic music to beginners getting a taste of a concert experience. With an enthralling performance that was all “beats and strings,” the artists proved that classical music can appeal to one and all. 

Anuj Chakrapani loves music and cinema among all art forms. He believes their beauty lies in their interpretation, and that the parts is more than the sum. Anuj lives in the SF Bay Area and works for a...