Aruna Sairam's Metropolitan Detroit Concert Review by Dr.K.K.Venkat
The much awaited, first ever concert by Mrs. Aruna Sairam in Metro Detroit
took place on 5/4/2008 under the sponsorship of the GLAC. Mrs. Sairam has had a
meteoric rise to superstardom in the field of Carnatic Music over the past
decade with a large number of ardent and admiring fans both in India and abroad.
She also has her share of detractors who consider her music too nontraditional,
rendered in a voice lacking in melody with too much "body-language", and with a
tendency to emphasize the popular rather than the more intricate aspects of
classical music. My own experience in listening to her has been mixed. Some of
her concerts have been sublime and exquisite: the very first recital of hers
that I attended (at the Chennai Music Academy highlighted by an absolutely
brilliant RTP in Shanmughapriya, with the pallavi "velai panivadhe en velai")
and her Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana concert in March 2007 belong to this
category of superb concerts. However, I have also attended recitals by her at
Karthik Fine Arts and Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai which can only be described
Thus, as I walked into the Lawrence Technological University auditorium, the
venue of her GLAC concert, I was not sure what to expect: a deeply moving
musical experience or another average concert.
At the end of her recital, the adjective that came to my mind was "patchy". Some
parts of the concert were of very high quality, especially the Dikshithar
masterpiece "Sri Sathyanarayanam" in Subhapanthuvarali and the very innovative
RTP in Madhyamavathi using the pallavi of the very popular Purandaradasa song "Bhagyatha
Lashmi Baramma", followed by elaboration of different ragas using other verses
from the same composition. Her trademark Marathi abhangs and "maadu maikkum
kanna" were also rendered delightfully, and with great gusto. However, the rest
of the concert left me feeling unfulfilled. I thought that the raga alapanas
that preceded some of the pieces she rendered could have been more detailed. I
also would have enjoyed listening to more elaborate niravals which were
conspicuously lacking in this concert.
There was one other (nonmusical) aspect of this concert that left me
dissatisfied: Mrs. Sairam announced an intermission right after the thani
avardhanam and added that she would autograph her CDs purchased during the
break. The purpose of the break was clearly to promote the sale of her CDs and I
could not help feeling that this was an unnecessary commercial intrusion. All
that an artist has to do to sell her music is to turn the audience on with a
superb live performance. The resultant emotional high in the rasikas will
invariably ensure brisk sales of the recorded music at the end of the concert.
I will be remiss if I fail to mention the outstanding contributions of the
accompanying artists. H.N. Bhaskar on the violin and J. Vaidyanathan on
mridangam were absolutely brilliant. The hallmark of a great accompanist is the
ability to embellish the performance of the main artist without being intrusive.
Bhaskar and Vaidyanathan certainly displayed this very high standard of
excellence. I had listened to a very young Vaidyanathan for the first time in
1986 when he accompanied his father, Sangeetha Kalanidhi Sri. D.K Jayaraman in a
concert at the University of Detroit . It is gratifying to see that he has
evolved into an outstanding percussionist, fully living up to his training under
Sangeetha Kalanidhi Sri. T.K. Murthy. Our own Sankar Krishnan also deserves
special mention for his superb and flawless handling of the audio system during
GLAC’s O.S.Thyagarajan Concert Review by Bharati Dasika
GLAC started the year 2008 with a very good concert by Sri O.S. Thyagarajan at
the University of Detroit Mercy, life sciences building on 5th of April. Sri
Thyagarajan was accompanied by Sri B. Raghavendra Rao on Violin and Sri
MurugaBoopathy on Mridangam.
He started the concert with the Adi Tala varnam “Sami Ninne Kori” in Sri Ragam.
The first Kirtana is “enta ra nee daya” in Harikambhoji, set to Adi talam, a
composition of Saint Tyagaraja was rendered with ease following a short
alapana. The rasikas realized that they are in for a feast of music when he
started alapana in Kalyani for the kirtana “Isa Pahimam” of the same composer
set to roopaka talam.
This very rarely rendered kirtana, probably for the first time in Detroit was
presented with a melodious alapana, vibrant gamakas and appropriate kalpana
swarams. The third Thyagaraja swami composition “Eti Janmam idiha” in Varali
set to Mishra Chapu talam was presented with elaborate and superb alapana.
This kirtana, from Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam was rendered with impeccable bhava.
He truly brought out the frustration expressed through the kirtana by the
composer that the life that fails to visualize the lord Rama is not worth
living. There was absolute silence in the auditorium and we saw many rasikas
wiping off their tears during the rendition of this emotion filled piece.
Another rarely heard composition “Tamasamika Talanu” of Sri G. N.
Balasubrahmanyam in raga Abhogi set to Roopaka talam, followed later. The
alapana and swarakalpana were again elaborate and melodious. A brisk rendition
of “nanu ganna talli” in Sindhu kannada was followed by yet another rarely
heard kirtna, a composition of Sri Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar “Nee padamule
gatiyani” in raga Navarasa Kannada. Both of these short pieces were set to
The Thodi - Ragam Thanam Pallavi (RTP) is set to Adi Talam (vilambit). Sri
Thyagarajan revealed his well known love of Thodi during the melodious alapana
that included Grahabhedam to Mohana and Nata Bhairavi. The piece was
impeccable. The swarakalpana was made even more pleasing by excluding
panchamam in between. The kalpanaswarams in Mohana. Hindolam, Behag and Surati
were ecstatic. Thaniavartnam after RTP was followed by brisk rendition of
“Eppo varu varo” in Jonpuri, a composition of Sri Gopalakrishna bharati.
The emotions were out again with the ragamalika rendition of slokam “Sri
Raghavam Dasarathatmajam aprameyam” in Madhuvanti, Bhageswari, Sindhu bhairavi
and Revathi followed by “Hanumane” a compostion of Swami Surajananda concluded
the concert in a most fulfilling way.
Sri Thyagarajan’s style is original, aesthetic with shruti sudham, long
korvais and vibrant gamakas. He lived up to his reputation of an artist that
is always capable of enthralling audience with rare Kirtanas in pure
traditional style. Sri B. Raghavendra Rao was outstanding in providing violin
support. It was really a treat to hear his responsible and matching
performance with ease. He revealed his command on the instrument during RTP by
playing one note on two strings at a time. He played with precision and vastly
enhanced the beauty of this concert.
Sri MurugaBoopathy, was very good on Mridangam. His technical skills never
lagged behind. The Thani avartanam is masterly. Overall the team work is
creditable. The artists received a well deserved standing ovation at the end
of concert. This spring concert enthralled the audience and if this is any
indication, we are likely to have a fantastic year of carnatic classical music
GLAC’s Gayathri Concert Review by Lalitha Ravichandran
Gayathri Venkatraghavan’s concert for Great Lakes Aradhana Committee, on
Saraswathi Puja Day, October 20, 2007 was captivating.
A crystal clear voice trained to sing in an open throated style with a range
spreading over the three octaves from the mandhra sthyai upto tara sthayi, in
addition to impeccable shruti shuddham and exemplary diction are Gayathri’s
assets which she called upon to deliver a bhavam filled rendition sans
gimmicks. Gayathri’s voice withstands the rigors she puts it through whether
in delivering intricate gamakams, sangathis requiring to be sung with
azhuttham or in singing a quick succession of kalpana swarams without loss of
Befitting the occasion, Gayathri started the concert with an invocation to
Goddess Saraswathi in her rendition of the Sanskrit Shlokam “Yaakundendu
Tushara Haara davala” A quick varnam in Bahudari was followed by a Papanasam
Sivan krithi, Saraswathi Annaiye in Kharaharapriya. She rounded off the krithi
with a couple of brisk rounds of kalpana swarams at Sakala Kala Valli.
Begada Alapana which came next was well elaborated. She took us by surprise
with a rendition of a rarely heard compostion of Syama Shastri in this raga,
Sami Ninne Nammitirara – a composition on MuthukumaraSwami, the presiding
deity of Vaitheeswaran Koil.
She followed this up with another rare piece in Jothiswarupini, Gana Rasamuda,
a composition of Koteeswara Iyer and a Devagandhari Krithi on Sharada. A brisk
rendition of Makela Vicharamu, a
Thyagaraja composition in the raagam Ravichandrika was a welcome change of
The piece de resistance of the concert was the Navarathri Krithi of Swathi
Thirunal in Bhairavi, Janani Maamavameva. The krithi was preceded by an
excellent alapana of Bhairavi with all traditional prayogams. The composition
itself is a grand piece in Bhairavi with solkattu swarams during the rendition
of which Manoj Siva’s playing embellished the piece.
Gayathri took up Shanmukhapriya for elaborate delineation as part of the RTP.
The alapana was developed in stages in a traditional manner including some
madhyama kala phrases which embellished the presentation. The Pallavi, set to Khanda Jati Triputa Thaalam is a composition of Gayathri’s guru, Shri
Sundaresan and is on Lord Shri Rama. The taanam and Pallavi were rendered in
an traditional manner and included anulomam and tisram following which
ragamalika swarams were rendered in Shanmukhapriya, Vasantha,Ranjani and Behag.
Akkarai Subhalakshmi provided melodious accompaniment on the violin and her
alapanas of Bhairavi and Shanmukapriya were noteworthy. Her swara repartees
gave ample scope for her manodharmam and exhibited her technical skills. Manoj
Siva acquitted himself creditably in the Thani Avartanam and provided
unobtrusive accompaniment to the songs.
The post pallavi pieces included among other krithis, Saagara Shayana Vibho, a
composition of MDR in Bageshri, a viruttam followed by Subramania Bharati’s
Vellai Thamarai in Bhimpalas and a Thillana in Khamas.
The concert which had lasted around 3.5 hours came to a conclusion with the
rendition of the mangalam after which the audience erupted into a standing
ovation which was well deserved. Overall it was an impressive presentation by
Gayathri Venkatraghavan ably supported by Akkarai Subhalakshmi and Manoj Siva.
GLAC’s Malladi Concert Review by Charu Shankar
The Malladi Brothers concert on November 4, 2007 at Lawrence Tech. Univ.
On November 4th, 2007, the Lawrence Tech. University auditorium
reverberated with truly captivating
music by The Malladi Brothers and Party. They commenced their performance with
a brisk Varnam in
Ragam Nattakurinji. This was followed by a krithi in Ragam Supradeepam. This
Tyagaraja krithi was new, refreshing and melodious. Raga Alapana in
Simhendramadhyamam was developed very methodically. The Dikshitar Krithi,
Pamarajana Palini was bhava filled. The rendition of this krithi made a
distinct impact with its chiseled and ornamental sangathis. After the
rendition of Sri Balasubramanya in Bilahari and Kotinadulu in Todi, The
Malladi brothers chose the deeply soul-filling Saveri to be the main piece of
their repertoire. The Tyagaraja Krithi “Raama Baana Traana” was beautiful.
Their absolute command over the Manodharma aspects of music was evident here.
The Raga Alapana was built up at a gradual, leisurely pace moving up to a
Intricate, lightning speed Kalpanaswarams delivered to absolute precision and
perfection in turn by the
two brothers was simply delightful. The Ragam, Thanam, Pallavi in Charukesi
was truly enchanting! The delineation of this beautiful raga was marvelous.
The lyrical beauty of the Pallavi “Manamohana Hare Madhava Madhusoodana” set
to Thisra Jathi Triputa Talam, was enhanced by the melodious swara patterns–
in keeping with the tranquil, yet vibrant mood of the entire rendition. This
was followed by colorful ragamalika swarams in Mohanam, Suddhasarang and
Hindolam. The final pieces kept the audience enthralled, engrossed and moved.
The Annamacharya Krithi “Mayamohamo” in Ragam Jog, was set to music by The
Malladi Brothers’ father Sri.Suri Babu. It had a rhythmic appeal to it. The
Purandara Dasa krithi in Jonpuri provided all of us a glimpse of Lord Sri Rama.
The krithi in Anandabhairavi was enjoyable. Neelambari, with its graceful and
soothing pace followed by the beautiful mangalam piece provided a wonderful
finale to a very memorable concert.
Endowed with a rich, dynamic and a resonant voice, the Malladi brothers are at
total ease and in complete control traversing higher as well as the lower
Sri.Embar Kannan provided superb accompaniment on the violin. The audience
swayed to every nuance produced by the lilting notes on the violin. The tani
avartanam by Sri.Neyveli Narayanan was a sheer delight. The entire performance
was a breathtaking cascade of music which will linger in our hearts for a very
GLAC’s Maharajapuram Concert Review by Sankar Krishnan
Vintage Music by Shri. Maharajapuram Ramachandran
Connoisseurs of carnatic music in Detroit were treated to a pure and
traditional style concert on 15th
October at Lawrence Technology University by Shri Maharajapuram Ramachandran.
Singing to a packed audience, Shri. Ramachandran brought us nostalgic memories
of his illustrious father Late Shri.
Maharajapuram santhanam. With his powerful resonant voice which exactly
sounded like listening to his father, Shri. Ramachandran took us through a
musical journey and at the end of it most of us wished it was longer.
The main piece was ‘ Manasu Swadheena’ in Sankarabaranam set to Misra chapu.
The only disappointment was that there was no Ragam Tanam Pallavi even though
it was compensated by elaborate ‘viruthams’ in Brindavana saranga, Hameer
kalyani and Neelambari. Later, Shri. Ramachandran mentioned to me that he had
planned for an RTP but decided against it as the clock showed 6.30PM after the
main piece. Being a Sunday evening he was sensitive to the needs of the
audience to get home early.
Shri. Nagai Muralidharan and Mannargudi Easwaran provided excellent support
on Violin and Mridangam respectively. I specifically enjoyed the way Shri.
Easwaran played for the ‘Neelambari’ krithi on Lord Guruvayoorappan. Listening
to it, I felt as if I was at Guruvayoor witnessing the procession of the Lord
atop the decorated elephants. Being a regular concert goer for the last 18
years, only during the last few years I have started understanding the
important role Mridangist plays in a concert. The role of a mridangist is not
just maintaining rhythm or ‘sarva laghu’ as it is technically called. The
mridangist has to understand the mood of the song, anticipate the sangati and
accordingly vary the pattern. And, indeed, there is melody in rhythm too. It
was great to see that the crowd appreciated this aspect unlike the crowd in
Chennai sabhas who take a ‘rest room’ break during the ‘thani avarthanam’ I
know that there are many aspiring parents in Detroit who want their children
to perform on stage.
Exposure of such authentic music to these budding artists would indeed help
them to achieve greater
heights. Great Lakes Aradhana Committee’s goal is to bring such authentic
style music to our community and we were glad to see that several non-members
came for the concert.
GLAC’s Sudha Concert Review by Mohana Chandran
Sudha Raghunathan, a leading Carnatic music vocalist and a most accomplished
artist, gave a captivating and outstanding performance on Sunday, November
19th at Lawrence Technological University. This grand finale concert for the
year 2006 was organised by GLAC of metro Detroit. She was accompanied by Sri
Ragavendra Rao (Violin), Sri Neyveli Skandasubramaniam (Mridangam) and Sri
Sudha Raghunathan is a disciple of legendary M. L.Vasanthakumari. Her
melodious voice, superb style
and tremendous talent came together in this most electrifying performance.
Sudha had a remarkably
charming stage appearance and a powerful repertoire in GNB - MLV tradition!
The auditorium was packed and the concert was filled with melody, bhavam,
bhakti, technical excellence and manodharmam
(improvisation). The selection of ragas and compositions were by well known
composers including Dr.
Rukamani Ramani (the daughter of the great Tamil composer Sri Papanasam
Sivan). Sudha’s performance was crisp, creative and enjoyable to the entire
spectrum of the audience, which ranged from the knowledgeable vidwans to the
lay audience rasikas.
Sudha started the concert with Guru dyana slokam, followed by the Varnam –
Vanajakshi in Kalyani set
to Khanda Jati Ata talam. The next piece was Sri Papanasam Sivan’s Sri Vatapi
Ganapatiye in the ragam
Sahana, which was rendered beautifully and was a treat to the Tamil kirtanai
fans! Sudha’s voice warmed up after the first two items and her rendition of
Mysore Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wodeyar’s Sri Jalandara in Gambiranattai, set to
Adi thalam left the audience ecstatic and eager to hear more. The next song
was Dikshitar’s Renuka Devi Samrakshithoham Anisam in Kannada Bangala followed
by Srimathi Rukamani Ramani’s composition Ninaippadi Ninai Vanangi in the raga
Dwijavanti. Aside from her amazing musical performance, Sudha connected well
with the audience by announcing the raga, tala and composer information
in-between pieces. These unique features that she adds to her performances
make them all the more memorable to the audience. Sudha sang the favorite
Janani Ninnuvina in the ragam Ritigowla set to Misra Chapu talam (by Sri
Subbaraya Sasthri, the son of the great composer Sri Shyama Sastri).
Furthermore, she rendered the kriti starting from Anupallavi, which made this
piece even more melodious! After that Sudha sang an elaborate Raga alapana in
Shankarabaranam followed by the Thayagraja kriti Etula Nila Chite in Adi talam
with a lengthy swara kalpana. Step by step she developed the raga with
beautiful prayogams and technical excellence, keeping the audience in full
attention! Sudha displayed her excellent voice range, depth, discipline,
perfection and vidwat in her raga alapana and kalpana swaram.
After this piece requests from the audience started pouring in! By now Sudha’s
performance went over
three hours! The artiste as well as the audience were captivated by the
heavenly music! Looking at the
requests Sudha asked the audience whether they would like her to present some
pieces or Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi. She received a mixed response, so she
briefly sang Badrachala
Ramadasar’s Kamalanayana Vasudeva. Following requests from the audience and
the tradition of kacheri paddhati, she presented the Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi
in Simhendra Madyamam. Sudha’s voice was at its best in this prati madyama
ragam! The raga alapana and the kalpanaswaras in all the three octaves were
gleaming with beauty! The pallavi niraval “Sri Krishna Ganam Venu Ganam Madura
Ganam” was well executed in Misra Jati Triputa talam. It was very enjoyable
when she sang the ‘famous first lines’ of Oothukkadu Venkatasubbayyar’s
compositions in the ragamalika as part of the pallavi in the ragas Kambodhi,
Thodi, Kanada and Natakuranji.
Afterwards Sudha rendered the popular composition Thaye Yasodha (which is
usually sung in Todi) in
the ragamalika in Kunthalavarali, Todi, Pilu and Sindubaiaravi! Sudha also
sang the famous Purandara
Dasa’s Jagadoddarana in Kapi and the delightfully devotional composition of
Smt. Rukamani Ramani’s
Parthasarathi in the raga Sumanesa Ranjani (the prati madhyama raga version of
Suddhadhanyasi). Sudha’s unique presentation of this piece was one of a kind
and a rare treat indeed. Sudha also performed the emotionally stirring Sai
bajan Man Ki Ankhen Kolo, which brought tears into the eyes of the audience.
She presented the bajan with so much bhakthi and bhavam, elevating the
audience to a higher level! Accompanists are equally important for a
successful vocal music concert. Sri B. Raghavendra Rao, disciple of Sri T.N.
Krishnan, gave a wonderful accompaniment on the violin, winning the audience’s
applause! Sri Neyveli Skanda Subramaniam on the Mridangam and Sri Raman on the
Mohrsing provided high quality rhythmic support and presented the well
executed thani avartanam with interesting exchanges. There was a very good
understanding between the performing artists on stage. The artists brought out
the best in each other through their improvisations and strives to attain
The culmination of these talents concluded the performance with a standing
ovation from the audience.
The four hour concert by Sudha exceeded the expectations of a full house once
again! It is no surprise
that she is one of the most famous and talented Carnatic vocalists today!
GLAC’s Navarathri Celebration Concert Review by Nurani Shivaram
The Great Lakes Aradhana committee had arranged a music concert of Madurai R.
Sundar for their annual Navarathri celebration 2006. Sri. Sundar came up with
an astounding three and half hour concert on Sept. 9th at the Troy, Bharatiya
With the very first Varnam of GNB in the Ragam Ranjini, Sri Sunder built up a
rapport with the audience (more than expected turnout), and there was not a
single dull moment in the concert, and every one was glued to their seats and
enjoyed the fare. Befitting the occasion of the forthcoming Navarathri
festival Sri Chamundeswari Krithi in Bilahari (Mysore Vasudeva Char) and
Vijayambike in Vijayanagari (Muthiah Bhagavathar) both of which were sung at
my request were exquisitely rendered with verve and vigor. Undoubtedly, the
pick of the evening’s concert was the rendering of the Ragam Kamboji, the
soulful singing of Ratna Kanjuka Darini (Muthiah Bhagavathar Krithi), the
elaborate Niraval “Mruthubhashini Indu Kesara Hari kesa sundharaanga”, and the
highly imaginative and intricate Swara Prasthas. The RTP in Sunder’s favorite
Ragam Darmavathi was equally good followed by series of ragas in the Pallavi.
Jaishankar and Vinod gave admirable support and heightened the level of the
All in all, it was a feast of music and thanks again to GLAC. My best wishes
to them in their forthcoming
GLAC’s Unnikrishnan Concert Review by Prof. V. Rajagopala Iyer
As a Carnatic music rasika now on a visit to U.S., I had the opportunity to
attend the vocal music
concert of Shri Unnikrishnan and party held on Saturday the 31st March under
the auspices of G L A C.
The concert started with a Naattai varnam following which came the tamizh
kandu in Mayamalavagowla reminiscent of late Dandapani Dhesikar. The mukhari
alapana which followed was emotively soaked and the Thygaraja krithi entha
nine sabhari, a Musiri’s forte was rendered in a leisurely pace. Shri
Unnikrishnan had fully warmed up by this time and next came Bhaagaya Naiya,
preceded by a detailed alapana of Chandrajoythi. If, at this stage, the singer
had inserted a fast pace keerthana, without alapana or swara prasthara, it
would have injected some much-needed tempo into the concert, and livened it
up. But, Shri Unnikrishnan chose a detailed rendering of Bilahari. Of course,
Dorakuna in adhi tala two kalai was majestic with elaborate neraval at Rama
Bhramam. Shri Vittal Ramamurthy’s violin was throughout mellifluous and
unobtrusive. He accompanied the singer like a shadow. The piece de resistance
of the evening concert was a R.T.P in kharaharapriya and Unnikrishnan
exhibited his technical virtuosity by doing a short demonstration of
“grahabedham” ( a modal shift of tonic) thereby showing glittering flashes of
Harikhamboji, Shankarabharanam, and Thodi. The pallavi in kanda jathi thriputa
thalam was followed by a crisp thani avarthanam in mridangam. Sri Vinod
Seetharaman acquitted himself creditably and he embellished the concert by his
judicious performance. Contrary to everbody’s expectations, the post- tani
session was also filled with slow- paced items in Kosalam, Yamunakalyani,
Dwijavanti, and Sindhu Bharavi, with the sole exception of Bhramamokate. When
the three hour concert came to an end, the audience gave Shri Unnikrishnan and
party a full three minute standing ovation where in, to my great surprise,
some “chitty” ( whistling) thrice repeated, made me forget for a brief moment
that I am in U.S attending a classical concert.
Prof. V. Rajagopala Iyer (email@example.com)
Prof. Rajagopala Iyer is a retired Professor of French and has been the
principal force behind “Bhairavi –
A Carnatic music Circle” in Pondicherry, India for the last 25 years. He also
has authored 4 books in Tamil on the history of French Literature in addition
to numerous articles published in Tamil, English and French.