Concert themed on Dasavataram
Vignesh Ishwar chose the perfect raga and song to describe each of the avatars of Vishnu
Thematic concerts demand more diligent research, meticulous planning and flawless execution than the usual recitals. Vignesh Ishwar’s recent ‘Dasavataram’ concert for Naada Inbam was a perfect blueprint for this kind of presentation.
He commenced with a Periyazhwar Pasuram, ‘Devudaiya meenamaay’, explaining the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu to Andal. For Matsyavatar, Vignesh chose verses of Vadiraja Swamy, starting with ‘Proshteesa vigraha su’. He aptly rendered it in raga Jalarnava (Khanda Chapu talam). Vadiraja Swamy speaks of how, at the end of the Yuga, the Matsya uses his horn to support the vahana that keeps everyone afloat during the deluge.
For Kurmavatar, the second avatar, Vignesh chose Periyazhwar’s Pasuram, ‘Malai mugadu mel vaiththu vasukiyaichutri’ in a brilliant Atana. His expansive swaraprastara drew an equally splendid response from R.K. Shriramkumar on the violin. After a magnificent alapana in Sri, Vignesh sang Purandaradasa’s Devarnama, ‘Adi varahana’ (Misra Chapu) for Varaha avatar. Shriramkumar’s elucidation of Sri was equally soothing. “The inability to perceive the sacred feet of Lord Adi Varaha has hurt my eyes,” says the composer.
Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Narasimha Asrayami Satatam’ (Jayasuddha Malavi – Tisra Triputa talam), with a splendid chittaswara, was Vignesh’s choice for Narasimhavatar. Verses from Avatara Keertana in Malayalam starting with ‘Ooda moham mahabali thannude’ and Andal’s Tiruppavai ‘Ongi ulagalanda’ (Arabhi) were chosen for Vamana avatar.
Three verses from Narayana Bhattatiri’s Narayaneeyam, appealingly tuned by Shriramkumar in Purvikalyani, were sung for Parasurama avatar. Here, Bhattatiri sees Parasurama in Lord Guruvayurappa. Vignesh rendered a lilting raga alapana and tanam for this song, responded to amazingly by Shriramkumar.
Melodic raga phrases
The piece de resistance was Tyagaraja’s ‘Rama ni samanamevaru’ (Karaharapriya-Rupakam), after an expansive alapana. The niraval was at ‘Paluku paluku’, followed by a swaraprastara with several melodic phrases ending in rishabha. For Balarama avatar, the vocalist took verses starting with ‘Jayatu Srihari, hey ashesa janadhari’, (Hamsadhwani-Misra Chapu), from the Odia Dandi Ramayana by Sri Balaramadasa, one of the poets of the Panchasakha group. Here, describing the swarupa of Balarama, the composer says, ‘Balabhadra, you are Vishnu. All the Devatas worship you.’
After a leisurely yet power-packed Kamboji, Vignesh took up Narayana Tirtha’s Tarangam ‘Nandagopala Krishna (Misra Chapu). Niraval was at ‘Devadi kritha moda’. The kalpanaswaras were unique in as much as they were slow-paced, bringing out the gentle aspect of this raga. The thani by K. Arun Prakash (mridangam) and Anirudh Atreya (kanjira) was out of the box, with both vidwans using a feather touch. The tisra kuraippu was stunning. Special mention must be made of the pair’s expertise in enriching the rendition of the songs.
In the kirtana for Kalki avatar, ‘Jayati jayati Mahavishnur’ (Revathi-Misra Chapu), one saw what a creative composer Shriramkumar is. Jayadeva in his first Ashtapadi, ‘Pralaya Payodhijale’, describes all avatars including Buddha as forms of Krishna. The vocalist rendered it as a Ragamalika, tuned by Kadayanallur Venkataraman. M.S. Subbulakshmi used to render it like this as well. Vignesh wound up the two-and-a-half-hour concert with ‘Vedanuddharate’, a sloka from the Ashtapathi, in Surutti.
The Chennai-based author writes on music and culture.
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