By S Sriharan
Kala Sangam, an arts organisation based in Bradford, UK, presented on 17th November a special concert in which Chitravina Ravikiran performed with a group of musicians from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
The concert started with Ravikiran playing his own composition in the raga Nattai raga in Adi tala, with Balu Raguraman on the violin and RN Prakash on the mridangam.
A string quartet of two violins Julian Gregory and Matthew Watson, viola Ruth Ferreira and cello Rebecca Aldersea played a movement from a composition by Frederick Delius. Born in Bradford, Delius (1862-1934), based many of his compositions on English folk music, though he was of German origin.
The next item Brigg Fair, also by Delius, was arranged by Julian Gregory, leader of the string quartet, for Ravikiran and Prakash to participate in. Ravikiran played some melodic passages and Prakash joined in places, tapping the khanjira with his right forefinger while varying the pitch with his left hand. It was effective and unobtrusive.
The quartet became a quintet when the bassoon player Simon Durnford joined to play with Ravikiran the Tyagaraja kriti Niravadi sukhada in Ravichandrika raga. The quintet had the full notation for the song and other passages arranged by Ravikiran and followed the notation precisely. The quintet appeared to have practised well with Ravikiran’s guidance. They played with much enthusiasm and the bassoonist in particular played the chittaswaram with great gusto. Ravichandrika was a good choice because the raga depends as much on the dynamics as on gamaka, which was amply supplied by Ravikran.
Ravikiran and Prakash, on the ghatam, took a more active part in performing with the quartet an arrangement of a piece by Faure (1845-1924). Ravikiran played melodic passages and long notes with some vibrato. Prakash could be said to have provided sarva laghu in places.
After an interval the second half, devoted to Carnatic music, started with a kirtana in the raga Gaula raga and Adi tala by Oothukkadu Venkatasubba Iyer with short alapana and kalpanaswara. Ravikiran then offered a comprehensive alapana of Kalyani followed by Subbaraya Sastri’s Ninnuvina gati gana in Adi tala. Raguraman on the violin matched Ravikiran’s kalpanaswara well. The tani avartanam by Prakash was short but crisp.
Ravikiran then offered to answer questions from the mixed audience, which consisted mostly of Europeans and North and South Indians. There was a short session with questions mainly on the Chitravina. The longest exchange was about the Chitravina being used like an electronic instrument. Ravikiran responded by saying that the nuances of the music would be inaudible without the electronics and illustrated it by turning off the amplifier. However, the explanation for a pickup built into the instrument, rather than a stereo microphone external to the instrument, simulating human hearing, was neither sought nor proffered.
The programme concluded with a Khamas javali in Rupaka tala followed by a tillana in Behag, with some lines in tisra nadai.
The concert on the whole was enjoyable. The collaboration between the two systems of music was interesting and Ravikiran maintained his usual high standard, his musicality evident throughout.