Visakha Hari’s discourse was a new leaf in that it was not based on mythology, but on the musical genius of the trinity. Even so, several incidents she described with utmost conviction and bhakti called up the reserves of faith. She gave it a gloss of realism with her bhava and alacrity, a total engagement with herself, her team and the audience. I was in two minds whether to go for a concert or harikatha and I sort of drifted involuntarily to her discourse and felt rewarded.
She wanted to reverse the normal order followed since if she started on Thayagaraja she might not cover the other two. She started on Syama Sastri. She gave an outline of his biography, how his ancestors moved from Andhra, were upasakas of Kamakshi and archakas of Bangaru Kamakshi, how they moved the idol of Kamakshi to Kanchi, Tiruvarur and Thanjavur to save it from iconoclasts.
There was no legacy of music in Syama Sastri’s family, but Syama Sastri learnt music only for four months during the chaturmasyam of a sanyasi of Andhra origin and later used to learn by listening to Pachhimirium Adiyappa who would call him fondly as Kamakshi.
She sang Amba Kamakshi mentioning how in the charanam the various stanzas begin with successive swaras starting with shadjam. It was absorbing. She also sang Sankari samkuru.
She narrated about the contest with a north Indian who was proud and emerged victorious in all contests so far. The pundits of Thanjavur requested Sayama Sastri to accept his challenge. Syama Sastri instantly sang Devi brova in Chintamani to seek the grace of Kamakshi. During the narrative, she sang a simhanandanam tala pallavi that included Jayarama, being the name of her guru. The percussion team (H S Sudhindra and Sukanya Ramgopal) gave one small tani in the talam which was nice.
While mentioning about her guru, she recalled that his forefather Rama Iyer used to sing with a lemon on his head (he was quite in his wits, she quipped) with the challenge that during the entire concert the lemon should not fall. My mind took a tour on its own. I thought that if some of the present day vidwans tried it, it might be like end as the bowling of Hall and Griffith in no time!
She referred to gayaka lakshnas, one should not shake the head, should not close the eyes, etc. while singing. I do not remember hearing that one should not part the lips! I am curious to know whether such criteria can indeed be complied with.
I decided to listen to her talk on the other two later as she is due to repeat it early next month.
The violin from Vittal Rangan was soothing.
Review the latest concerts you have listened to.
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