If you were to ask me for one venue where you shouldn’t miss Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s concert during the December Season, my instant reply would be ‘Brahma Gana Sabha kutcheri happening at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium’. Sanjay’s Brahma Gana Sabha kutcheris have always been one of his best kutcheris of the Season with it being filled with several elaborate raaga expositions aided by the lengthy duration of the concert. It has always been for at least 3 hours 15 minutes duration. Yesterday’s went on for 3 hours 30 minutes! And what a memorable musical experience did it turn out to be!
About a decade or so back, I remember how Sanjay’s voice used to have slight problems during the first couple of songs of the concert and then went on to improve as the concert proceeded, finally delivering such a great performance that you would soon have forgotten about those voice issues. Cut back to 2009 or so when Sanjay’s voice didn’t have those voice problems anymore. The results of his hard work and training has since then only reflected in his performances becoming better and better with each day.
Brahma Gana Sabha kutcheris used to have violin accompanists other than regular accompanists of Sanjay bringing out a different experience altogether. I remember Avaneeswaram Vinu’s violin creating a great musical experience with Sanjay’s singing several years back. However, this time it was the classic combination of Sanjay and Varadarajan. With Poongulam Subramanian on the Mridangam and K. V. Gopalakrishnan on the Khanjira, it was confirmed that we were in for a great aural treat.
As always, the concert started on time and proceeded briskly with no unnecessary pauses any in between, another admirable aspect in Sanjay’s concert.
Kutcheri, venue and musicians on stage apart, to me, personally, this was the first Season kutcheri of this year that I was attending and the second kutcheri of Sanjay that I was attending this year after the one at Singapore in February. So, needless to say, I was extremely excited.
The concert started off with the Sahana varnam Evvare. It was followed by a brisk Nattai – Jaya Jaya – with some awesome fast-paced swarams. Then started Atana Alapana – a raagam which is beauty and joy personified, isn’t it? Who better than Sanjay to bring out its beauty in all its glory?! The grand composition, Brihaspate, the navagraham kriti of the day (Thursday), followed the beautiful alapana.
Contrasting to Atana was the next raagam explored elaborately – Pantuvarali. A brisk and engaging Pantuvarali it was. The song Vaadera Daivamu itself was sung movingly with the neraval at Vaadera sung with so much feel making it one of the most memorable Pantuvaralis I have heard. Even the ending of the pallavi with sangatis for daivamu was sung with so much feel. Sanjay’s voice was perfect at higher octaves during the neraval. The feel with which the song was sung made me Google the meaning of it – O My Mind (manasA)! He alone (vADErA) is The God (daivamu) – I will say that full justice was done to the meaning.
An elaborate Hindolam Alapana followed with the kriti Ma Ramanan – a classic favourite of the public, but not my favourite. The audience absolutely enjoyed this song.
If you thought that Hindolam alapana itself was as elaborate as the main piece of a concert, an unhurried elaboration of Sankarabharanam which followed next would have showed you how a main piece should be. The alapana was engaging, but Sankarabharanam has never been my cup of tea, so I couldn’t enjoy either the kriti ‘Manasi Svadhinamai’ or the unhurried neraval at Aa Janmamu as much as the alapana.
There was a time when the audience used to give thunderous applause when Sanjay held on to a note in upper octave in his alapana. Looks like the audience have now taken this for granted, since I didn’t see anyone launching off into clapping when he did it during Sankarabharanam alapana.
I started enjoying again only after the pace of the kalpana swarams picked up. Then came Sanjay’s classic ‘pa ma ga ri sa ni sa ri ga’ series of kalpana swarams and these were as enjoyable as always! The tani avartanam was as elaborate and leisurely as the Sankarabharanam exposition befitting the main piece.
A quick ‘Velayya Dayavillaya’ in Saveri later came the much-awaited grand piece of the day – Raagam Taanam Pallavi in Kapi! An urukkamaana Kapi it was – soulful and captivating! I often say that even if you are not able to go for a full kutcheri, you should listen to Sanjay’s RTP at least. Any raagam shines out in all its grandeur and feel as Sanjay handles it for his RTP. With Varadarajan’s violin matching Sanjay’s singing, there is nothing more that you can ask for!
As Sanjay incorporated phrases from ‘Enna Tavam’ and ‘Chinnanchiru KiLiye’ in his alapana making it more ‘janaranjakam’, the audience gave their classic approving murmurs and smiles.
The taanam had surprise raagamalika with Darbar, Kanada and Brindavana Saranga making their way. The beautiful Darbar, the soul-stirring Kanada and the enjoyable Brindavana Saranga Taanams only made me wish that RTP was sung in these raagams too! Only a few minutes of those were just not enough!
Pallavi was ‘yaar arivaar un mahimai Murugayya, aDimai naanE arivEn’ which he sang with the variation ‘neengaL arivirgAL’. The raagamalika swarams were in Kannada, suSAmA and Darbari Kanada. The choice of rAgams is enough to say how it would have been! Sanjay’s Kannada always have that cheerful, happy note to it and Sanjay’s Darbari Kanada, even a tillana in it, has always been nothing less than soul-stirring!
The classic soulful Karunanidhaan in Charukesi followed the RTP.
The Abhirami Andhadhi verses pootthavaLe, a regular in Sanjay’s concerts, sung as a viruttam in Hamsanandi and the last verse of Abhirami Andhadhi, AatthaaLai, sung in Bhageshri continued the soulful mood the concert had taken. The concert then ended with the light song vandhuruLvaai sundari mani in Behag followed by Mangalam.
A satisfied audience gave a fitting applause and a happy-me left with a rich musical experience gained. As cliched as it may sound, it was indeed an evening to remember.