A young Sydney violinist presents a tribute to her grandmother
There is no dearth of creative ways to express love, strengthen family bonds or show devotion to a family elder. One such occasion, was a recent violin recital, a memorial concert to a departed soul. It was held with considerable pomp and circumstance at the Sydney Bahai Centre. An audience of over 400 was treated to lilting music on the violin by Myuri Kantharajah, who is an up and coming disciple of well-known Sydney based violinist Sri Balaji Jagannadhan.
She was accompanied by Ghanavenothan Retnam, a well reputed flautist from Singapore on the flute, Pallavarajan Nagendran on mridangam and by Dr. Iynkaran Kantharajah, her own brother, on tabla.
The event was orchestrated by Prof. A.S. Kantharajah, a well-known Tamil author who conceived, planned and successfully executed a musical homage to his departed mother Smt. Muthupillai Sinnathamby. He obviously heads a very talented family with budding musical celebrities and what better way to involve them, but in a proud family event.
Whilst Myuri may be a relative newcomer to the concert circuit, her accompanists were high calibre and well on the way to celebrity status.
The proceedings were kicked off by a witty introduction by Espo, who is an outstanding Tamil writer and author. He spoke glowingly of his friendship with Dr. Kantharajah and their long association. Espo seemed to be enjoying his opening speech so much that he extended his assigned 10 minutes by a further 20 minutes and just as the audience got restless, he concluded and allowed the compere to introduce the artists and commence the violin concert.
Myuri’s guru Sri Balaji Jagannadhan gave a crisp and concise summary of how Myuri was one of his hardworking and enthusiastic students. He gave her credit for her dedication and persistence to learn, from a teacher’s point of view. As there were two percussionists, Sri Balaji told the audience to expect an extended session and time allotted to mridangam and tabla.
Myuri started with a Karur Devudu Iyer composed ‘varnam’ Saami nine kori in ragam Sri. Violin and flute performed in tandem, alternating where necessary.
This was followed by Papanasam Sivan’s ‘karunai seivaai’ in Hamsadhwani ragam.
Sri Ghanavenothan Retnam introduced each item and where applicable pointed their position in the ‘melakarta chakram’, the ‘janya’ and linked ragas.
Sudha mayee sudha nidhi composed by Muthiah Bhagavathar in raga Amritavarshini followed by Saint Thyagaraja’s ‘kanda joodumi’ in Vachaspati ragam were rendered competently by the Myuri and Ghanavenothan combine.
The main raga of the evening was then played. Muthiah Bhagavathar’s Ambavaani nannu in Keeravaani ragam was developed elaborately and while the artists played the ragam and swaram well, the percussionists came into their own during the “thani avarthanam” which enabled them to showcase their considerable skills. Just before the 20 minute interval, Smt. Sownthary Ganesan was invited to speak about the literary genius of Dr. A. Kantharajah. She spoke in chaste Tamil and enlarged upon his wide ranging travels throughout his career in Zambia, Kenya, Germany, Japan and Australia, which also culminated in his writing several books that analyse the differences in those cultures. He is not only a professor, a great thinker, a dramatist and a communicator but he fulfilled his responsibilities and never stopped to search for his roots even though he was fully occupied in his adopted country. He was able to see the big picture through a small aperture and meticulously record the events through his writings.
The last hour of the program was composed of mostly light carnatic music which was easy on the ears. It included Niravathi sugadha in Raga Ravichandrika and Manavyalakinchi in Ragam Nalinakanthi, both composed by Saint Thyagaraja.
Towards the end the devotional songs took over.
Vellai thaamarai in Abheri ragam, Enna thavam seidhanai in Kaappi ragam and Kurai onrum illai in a ragamaalika were played in quick succession.
It would be fair to say that this was not a classical violin concert in the orthodox style. There were two percussionists both of whom were highly accomplished; and the violin and flute were synchronised to suit the playing styles of the artists whose playing standards were markedly different. Each was competent and adopted well to the other. It was not a concert to demonstrate the prowess of any player, but to show their devotion and deference to the solemnity of the occasion.
Most of the audience was able to relate to the occasion, and took home some positives, since there was a variety in the entertainment provided.