With MB Hariharan and S Ashok d. Badri Narayanan (Violin), .R. Sundaresan (Mridingam) and Murali (Ghatam) of Trichy. | Photo credit: Special Arrangements
The Bengaluru brothers, MB Hariharan and S Ashok, composed their concert with brilliant items leading to a resistance that was paradoxically rambunctious and thoughtful. Swarajati in weighty thodhi, thus, warrants extra seriousness. The brothers (not close friends and siblings) rarely resorted to formal gestures of appreciation for each other, but their two-and-a-half-hour concert at Mudra epitomized the ideal symbiosis of more than a decade of singing together. demonstrated
Syama Shastri’s ‘Rave Hamagiri Kumari’ took center stage, with the junior singer delivering his alapana. This important role marked a departure from the hitherto Hariharan-led Kachhari. Ashok’s ta-da-ra-na passages are filled with brigas and gamakas, which, despite its relatively short duration (just over seven minutes), ensure a great solo workout. The musician’s voice has a soothing nose even when he plumbs the bottom of any chord. Also, he is more impressive in imagination – unlike a more measured green deer. On the violin, D. Badri Narayanan accompanied the chorus on the classical passages of Thodi. At the top register, Alapana produced an off-key squeak. In addition, he demonstrated reasonably strong tonal mastery on the instrument.
The brothers were a little sharper than usual with their chief showpiece. Yet the glory was not lost. In fact, the sharp stretches along the final part of Neeraval (around ‘Kalyani Kanchi Kamakshi’) were particularly brilliant. Ashoka prepared it to begin an equally clean Swarprastara featuring a kaleidoscopic shuffling of notes. An hour-long poem collection by TR Sundaresan (Mridangam) and Trichy K Murali (Ghatam) was a mature Adi-Tala Tani Avataram.
Bangalore Brothers MB Hariharan and S Ashok. | Photo credit: Special Arrangements
Thodi ties in well with the first half of the package’s dominant casual presentation. The opening ‘Chalamila’ varnam (Thiruvativar Thiagiyar) dazzled the court, which also proves the duo’s ease of upward mobility and ability to join the festivities with gusto. Bihari was the next selection of Natai Raag, where the restrained fireworks lit up the Suprastra of ‘Parameshwar Jagadesa’ (Muthswami Dikshatra). Tyagaraja’s ‘Priyachakma’ in Vanaspati, later, was unrelenting.
Earlier, the opening phrase in Hariharan’s short sketch of Natai rested on a descending slide, which Badri Narayanan momentarily mistook for Devagandhari. This derivative of Sankarabharanam was the one that coincidentally came as the fourth suit. Both the singer and the violinist laced their alapana with suggestions of an upcoming ‘Kshirasagar Shayaan’, but the kriti was ‘Sri Thalasma’ (by Tyagaraj, anyway). The seven-beat Mishra Chapu made his debut when the duo sang ‘Sri Matrubhatham’, highlighting the beauty of Kannada with a catchy swarprastara that incorporated the composition of Dakshetra. Periyashmi Thorn’s ‘The Tripurasundari’ (Sudhasaveri) was the only number set for Khanda Chapu.
After the 18-minute tani avartanam came a shloka invoking Krishna in Kapi, followed by ‘Anna Thayam’ (papanasam sevan). If Dikshatra’s Sankarabharanam Notosovaram ‘Anjanya Sada’ had a Western flair, the plain notes also complimented the ‘Acharvilada Nalige’ (Purandradasa) in Kalyani. A jovial Natakuranji (‘Manava Nelsuvudu’) gives way to Mangalam (‘Indiana Danao’) in a calm Survati.