Season Reviews 2023 - Ashwath Narayanan

Ashwath Narayanan


Musical Musings



The 8th day of Margazhi was Ashwath Narayanan's turn to present his season kutcheri for the Brahma Gana Sabha, accompanied by Kamalakiran Vinjamuri on the violin, Trichy Sankaran on the mridangam and Guruprasad on the ghatam. Ashwath started with the Bhairavi Ata tala varnam Viriboni. He presented it gracefully with Bhairavi's rakti and beauty. Trichy Sankaran's support was perfect as he subtly played with the laya and set layers that only added to the experience. 

After a brief sketch of Begada, Ashwath presented Muthuswami Dikshitar's popular Vallabha Nayakasya with kalpanaswarams. He then rendered a beautiful Pantuvarali with what felt like an extra emphasis on Da and Ni, especially in their plain forms, enhancing the flavour of the raga. Among the basket of Pantuvarali-Tyagaraja krithis that begin with the tara stayi shadjam, Ashwath's choice was Vadera Deivamu. Ashwath and Kamalakiran exchanged back-and-forth kalpanaswarams. Almost every kalpanaswaram ended with a super energetic punch. Guruprasad accentuated these punches, and his energy was infectious.



Next up was surprisingly a pada varnam -  Sumasakaya in Karnataka Kapi presented at just the perfect pace, followed by a quick Thaye Tripurasundari in Suddha Saveri. I wished he had paused to give a small sketch of the raga as somehow it gave the same flavour of Karnataka Kapi. Despite being very distinct, a sense of monotony persisted.


The main piece was Sankarabharanam, in all its glory! There wasn't anything too novel here, just the traditional phrases woven beautifully flowing with the unmistakable gait of Sankarabharanam through his naturally heavy voice, which proved perfect for ragas like these. During the descent, his plain approach to the gandharam received much appreciation from the crowd. Kamalakiran, in his alapana, played quicker phrases while traversing all over the scale. The kriti chosen was Endukku Peddala, which provided the perfect niraval line - Veda shastra tatvartamulu, with ample space for unhurried improvisations. Unlike the Pantuvarali swaras, the Sankarabharanam swaras were more of sarvalaghu and less of patterns. The tani avartanam that followed was melodious. Definitely not a word that generally describes tanis, but this was. The crowd enjoyed the tani by both artists.


Ashwath then rendered a viruttam - Vande Mukundam in ragamalika, followed by Jagadodharana (Kapi). It was good despite a few visible strains in his voice. He ended the concert with Oruthi maganai pirandu (Behag, Tiruppavai) and an excellent Purvi tillana.


One wished he had presented a ragam-tanam-pallavi, a rare kriti or elaboration of a lesser-heard raga. In the end, the concert, though a neat presentation, didn't leave much of an impact.


It was also gratifying to see several youngsters in the audience and several artists like Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, Vignesh Ishwar and Akshay Anantapadmanabhan.