Chicago IL: It was a hazy evening of August 11th, where the sun shone upon the bustling Yellow Box Theatre and the clouds blanketed the tops of the bright blue sky. As the anxious guests bustled with the crowd, Madhav Parthasarathy shone upon like a luminous star, holding his treasure in his hands. The crowd seemed to have settled in the Yellow Box Theatre, when yet another surprise had arrived. With short notice, rain showered over Naperville, like the God’s had well-wished him from the heavens above. The debut concert slowly rolled into motion, Mrs. Uma Iyer, the Master of Ceremonies for the day, introduced the Chief Guests and Honored Guests that had, with such humbleness, accepted to come view the great day for Madhav.
Mrs. Uma Iyer introduced first Congressman Mr. Raja Krishnamoorthy, the 8th District Representative for Illinois. At that moment, Congressman Mr. Raja Krishnamoorthy was received upon stage and stated a few words upon Madhav and his family. Along with a great spark to the evening, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthy granted the Certificate of Commitment to Guru Sri. Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan – Madhav’s guru, a Plaque of Commitment to Designated Sangeetha Kalanidhi, Smt. Aruna Sairam – Madhav’s main artist, and a Certificate of Commitment to Madhav himself. Progressing forward, the MC introduced the Chief Guest, Professor and Sangeetha Kalanidhi Dr. Trichy Sankaran sir, and guest of honors Mrs. Malini Vaidyanathan of Air India, and Mr. Raghu Raghuraman of RR International. The introductions continued into the beginning of the concert, where Madhav boldy walked upon stage with the rest of the ensemble, along with Smt. Aruna Sairam on vocal, Sri. Vittal Ramamurthy on violin, Sri. Guru Prasad on Ghatam, Sri. N. Sundar on morsing and Kumari Akshaya on Tambura. The introductions of the artists were followed by the beginning piece, known as the Varnam.
Smt Aruna Sairam, the doyen of modern Carnatic singers, whose vibrant voice, with its unique timbre, is a rare combination of resonance and range – yet deeply passionate and movingly soulful.
Despite it being the Arangetram (debut performance) of young Mridangist Madhav, in his early teens, Smt. Aruna established the seriousness of the concert when she commenced with the cadenced Gambhira Nattai varnam Amma Ananda Dayini , composed by another Modern Great – Dr. M Balamuralikrishna. Madhav matched the crescendo of Sive, Sive with a frenzied yet controlled rhythm only demonstrated by seasoned percussionists. Sri Thiruvaroor Vaidyanathan’s tutelage of Madhav showed prominently.
Hardly had the reverberation subsided, she broke into the evocative exhortation of Thyagaraja’s Ganamoorthe set in Raga Ganamoorthi. In the charanam after Navaneetha Chora Nanda Dadi Chora, she had a pregnant, enquiring pause, throwing down the gauntlet to young Madhav – whose repartee was a delectable left-handed flourish that had Smt. Aruna smiling and the audience gasping; Madhav the mridangam player had arrived and held his own against a celebrity singer.
Abhogi was next in the inimitable style of Smt. Aruna – who begins with the Thiruvachakam eulogy of Lord Shiva (Namasivaya vaazhga , Nadan thal vazzhga), before she transitions in her incomparable gusto into Sabapathikku Veru Deivyam, a composition of Gopalakrishna Bharati….Madhav’s pulsating mridangam had the powerful yet crisp Nadham which was in joyous harmony with the intense devotional sentiment paying encomiums to Lord Shiva.
The niraval by Smt. Aruna on Sabapathikku was eclectic – but well balanced by the creative tempo of brilliant permutations on the mridangam.
Then we heard Kadanakuthuhala Raga Priye in Ragam Kadanakuthuhalam composed by one of Smt. Aruna’s gurus – Pallavi Venkata Rama Iyer, with its unmistakable resemblance to the captivating Raghuvamsa Sudha. Succinct beats of Madhav’s mridangam embellished this delightful rendering.
It was the segue to the center piece of the Concert – a Thyagaraja Krithi in Bhairavi – Upacharamulanu with dazzling manodharma in Raga Alapana ; elaborate yet exquisitely crafted swara prastharas. Sri Vittal Ramamurthy’s violin adorned Smt. Aruna’s intricate niraval on “Kapata Nataka” with a stunning array of resplendent swaras, leading to the main attraction – the Thani avarthanam of Madhav with well ensconced senior artists – Sri Guruprasad on Ghatam and Sri N Sundar on morsing. The thani was executed with impish rapture – playful yet challenging exchange of rhythmic notes between the mesmerizing percussionists.
Very few singers can bring to life the bhavam (emotion) and bhakti (devotion) of an Abhang like Smt. Aruna. To the uninitiated, Abhangs are the passionate religious hymns of nomadic Marathi saints in praise of Lord Vittal (an incarnation of Vishnu). The anguished tone of one such abhang where Saint Namdev, upon being asked who he is and where is he from and being turned down from singing bhajans (devotional hymns) in front of Nagnath temple in Aundh in present day Maharashtra state of India, goes to the backyard of the temple with his group and sings. His decry – everything is for Vittala – the pilgrimage, his parents, his teachers, everyone is for Vittala.The legend goes that God in order to provide darshan and face his pining devotees is said to have turned the Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbha Griha). Teertha Vittala in Hindustani Raag Ahir Bhairav (close to Carnatic Chakravakam) captures the pain of Saint Namdev and Smt. Aruna moves the audience to delirium with her deeply emotional singing with the help of Madhav’s fervor on the mridangam.
This was followed by the popular Anayampatti Aadisesha Iyer’s Enna Kavi Padinalum in Ragam Neelamani, a desperate call to Lord Muruga to pay heed to his invocations and bless him. Of course, it was time for Smt. Aruna’s signature piece , folk style Maadu Meikkum Kanne in Ragam Senchuruti, composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subba Iyer, in which mother Yashoda and her darling little Krishna’s childish harangue over going to the forest to play.
Then, on audience demand, came another Abhang, Baje Mridunga Taal, depicting the frenzied dance during the visarjan (immersion) of the Deity Ganesha into the water at the end of Ganesh Chaturthi festivities. Madhav’s mridangam accompanying the chorus Ganapathy Bappa Morya (proclaiming Ganapathy’s glory) was lilting and brought the audience to their feet. Well played, Madhav.
Finally, the Kalinga Narthana Thillana, also in Gambheera Nattai, composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subba Iyer, depicting Krishna’s cosmic dance on the head of the Kalinga serpent and preventing it from poisoning the Yamuna river – the cadence of the dance is beautifully captured in this rhythmic composition. Krishna’s furious dance steps can be visualized in the energetic performance of Smt. Aruna – matched fiercely by Madhav on his mridangam.
An excellent, heartwarming and particularly pleasing concert had come to an end; yet it was only the beginning of a wondrous musical journey for magnificent Madhav and his majestic Mridangam.