Chennai: These are days when exponents of Carnatic music have started globalising the sacred tradition — thanks to the eager response of the formidable South Indian diaspora, and the initiatives taken by enterprising organisers abroad. At the same time, there is also a growing awareness among organisers here, in South India, about the need to disseminate Carnatic music to wider audiences representing diverse communities and cultural orientations as well as different generations and outlooks.
A unique example of such a milieu is the just-concluded Chennayil Thiruvaiyaru festival organised by Lakshman Sruthi, in the spacious auditorium at the Kamaraj Arangam, featuring a continuous stream of music and dance events, attracting more than 1,500 people, including hundreds of youth. Although the title gives the impression that it is exclusively about Carnatic music, its predominant elements are dance and light-music programmes; there are also many devotional concerts.
Among the leading Carnatic artists who support the venture is Aruna Sairam, whose annual performance in this forum usually features simple and technically uncomplicated pieces — including some of the songs she has made popular in Carnatic music circles —which have universal appeal.
In her concert on Christmas evening, however, Aruna adopted a fresh approach, and rendered a composition of her own in the form of an unusual Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi. That was preceded by some conventional numbers which had set up an intensely spiritual mood in the overflowing auditorium: ‘Jagadananda-karaka’ and ‘Naada-tanumanisam,’ ‘Kalyanarama’ (Hamsanaadam; Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi), and ‘Mahadeva Sambo’ (Revati, Thanjavur Sankara Iyer).
The RTP in Thodi featured short versions of the melodic outline and the pulsating phase, and a concise rendering of the lovely twin-lines: ‘Murugane, Guhane, Unadu Paadam Tunaiye / Vadivelane, Valli-Manaalane’, followed by improvised swaras.
While it is usual to render the swara sequences following a pallavi in ragamalika, Aruna added a twin-line pallavi composed by herself for each of six different ragas, corresponding to the six sacred ‘kshetras’ where the ancient temples of Lord Muruga are situated.
So enthusiastic was the audience response that Aruna was induced to lend a touch of sophistication, by singing side-by-side a Sanskrit verse and a Gregorian chant in praise of Mother Mary, to celebrate Christmas.
The subtle instrumental support provided by Padma Shankar (violin), J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam), and S.V. Ramani (ghatam) enhanced the quality of the soiree.