Music review: Masterworks from the NCPA Archives - ML Vasanthakumari

Masterworks from the NCPA Archives - ML Vasanthakumari
LAbel: Sony Music
PRIce:  Rs 199
Rating ****

Viriboni, the first track on the CD, immediately transports you to your weekly Carnatic class where as a 5 year-old south Indian years you must excel in the arts and be proud of tradition. It may be one of the most commonly taught ata tala varnam based on Raga Bhairavi and rightfully is a must for every student of Carnatic music.

Inspired by a simple prayer of a young female devotee of Lord Rajagopala of Mannargudi (dakshin dwaraka), Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari, popularly known as MLV, lulls you with the familiar tune. Hamsadhwani, is a big favourite amongst artistes to start a concert owing to its happy upbeat melody. MLV begins her rendition with a soft hum and then proceeds to the kriti where she is accompanied by a mridangam, violin and kanjira. The raga was later incorporated into Hindustani music by the Bhendibazaar gharana founded in 1890.

Raga Shuddha Saaveri runs 16 minutes long though the initial six minutes are the kalpana swaras. Daarini Telusukonti, one of Thyagaraja's Thiruvotriyur Pancharatna Kirthanam is the highlight of an MLV concert, with flawless variations in the pallavi, anupallavi and charanam, which would delight trained ears at her concerts in the '80s. Saxophone player Kadri Gopalnath and violinist A Kanyakumari guide you through the performance.

Based on Raga Chenchuratti, Sundara Murthi is a composition by Purandara Dasa. It starts off as a simple kriti where Lord Hanuman celebrates the glory of Lord Rama. The lyrics give it a folk feel that makes it stand apart from its classical renditions.

The morose Raga Lalit sings of the prayer of a childless woman to Santhana Lakshmi, who is responsible for progeny. Aaneyu Karedare Aadimoola Bandante is a Purandara Dasa composition that starts with a ugabhoga (introduction) and doesn't have a tala making it sound more like a call for divine help. Here, Lord Rama is compared to Lord Yama. Based on Shivranjani Raga borrowed from Hindustani music, this soulful melody should ring a few bells with Bollywood enthusiasts. Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din, Mere Naina Saawan Badhon, Tere Mere Beech Mein are all based on this raga.

No concert by a Tamil classical music exponent would be complete without a rendition of Subramania Bharatiyar's literary works set to tune. This romantic composition by the freedom fighter cum poet is uncharacteristic.

ML Vasanthakumarai is one of Carnatic classical's most loved artistes. For the younger generations who missed out on her music this is an archive that is worth keeping and passing down through generations.



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