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Veena Jeyaraajs cast a magical web
This Sunday evening (January 9, 2011) was an unforgettable. The Mini Hall at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore, was packed. The Veena couple - Jeyaraaj Krishnan and Jaysri Jeyaraaj – made the evening memorable for those who had made it to the venue that evening. It was billed to be a ‘four-hour Veena concert’. In the end, it over-shot the time.

There were only eleven items during the entire length of the concert. It wasn’t a ‘record-breaking’ type of a concert. It triggered ecstasy all around. The music was pristine.

The concert began with a graceful ‘Navaragamalika’ varnam. ‘Siddhi Vinayakam’ in Shanmukhapriya (Rupaka talam) is one of Muthuswami Dikshitar’s weighty kritis. It was taken up in detail. Jeyaraaj elaborated the ragam in detail. The couple played the kriti at a slow pace and interspersed it with a few avartanams of crisp swarams. Tyagaraja’s ‘Sogasujooda tarama’ in Kannadagoula was neatly presented. Thereafter, Jaysri took up Suddha Saveri in great detail, with flashes of fast passages at the end of the alapana. What followed was Tyagaraja’s ‘Dhaarini Telusukonti’, comprising myriad sangathis and twists and turns. The exchange of swarams at the end of this item was a delight to listen.

‘Saranam Aiyappa’ in Mukhari (Misra chapu talam) – a composition of Periaswamy Thooran - brought out the pathos of the ragam and the lilt of the composition. Popular ‘Sudhamayee’ in Amritavarshini, a composition of Muthaiah Bhagavathar, followed as a brisk-paced contrast item.

Jeyaraaj then took up Saveri in detail. He explored every aspect of the ragam with deep gamakams played on a single fret. Every delicate nuance of the ragam was clearly brought out on the electronic Veena. Syama Sastri’s ‘Sankari Sankuru’ was presented with a soulful neraval at ‘Syama Krishna sodari’ before the swaraprastharam. A super-fast `Niravatisukhadaa’ of Tyagaraja in Ravichandrika provided a pleasant contrast to the Saveri.

Jaysri then took up Kalyani for elaboration. What sancharams, unusual prayogams? The very fast ‘brigha’-like phrases at the end are typical of their style. They enhanced the beauty of raga alapana. ‘Kamalaambaam Bhajare’ of Muthuswami Dikshitar was presented in the slow chauka kalam with a few rounds of swara prastharam.

Mannarkoil Balaji on Mridangam and Trichy Murali on Ghatam were very good. They provided depth, balance, lilt and tautness to the entire concert. The tani was like a brief round of multi-hued fireworks that left the audience wanting more at the end!

The RTP (ragam, tanam and pallavi) in Kharaharapriya saw the performers and audience lose all sense of time and place. The duo brought out eloquently the intricate tapestry of the ragam. Each sancharam was followed by a lovelier one and each prayogam pulled the heart-strings. The ragamalika tanam provided a colourful contrast with the artistes drenching each other and the audience in myriad colours. Jeyaraaj started with the weighty Varali, to which Jaysri replied with the playful Kedaragoula. Jeyaraaj then played Rasikapriya (72nd Melakartha) with such felicity that he proved that this was not a Vivadi ragam at all. Jaysri, in reply, took the opposite ragam – the 1st Melakartha Kanakangi - to prove that this could be equally attractive. This was followed by a lilting Behag by Jeyaraaj and Jaysri wound up the tanam by returning to Kharaharapriya.

The Pallavi was a difficult `ati-chauka kaala pallavi’ in ‘arai-kaal eduppu’ in praise of the gurus of Kamakoti Peetham. This was taken up in detail with neraval, swaram and trikalam. The rarely-heard Hamsanandi tillana of Muthaiah bhagavathar brought the curtain down on this wonderful experience for a fortunate audience of about a hundred or so, who had filled the hall that day.

Jeyaraaj and Jaysri extracted the very best sound from the electronic Veena they used, allowing every delicate small gamakam to reach the ears of the audience. They were able to play long passages without plucking at all, giving an effect of vocal music. The fast brigha-like phrases were played in a unique style to again mimic vocal music, using the technology of the electronic instrument to their advantage.

Well, a Veena concert was able to keep the audience riveted to their seats, hypnotized for over four hours!

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