Priya Sisters Sweeten Rama Navami with Carnatic Vocal Concert

LEMONT, IL (TIP): Shanmukha Priya and Hari Priya, popularly known as the Priya Sisters gave a stellar performance to a packed hall at Sama Rathi auditorium of the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago (HTGC) at Lemont, Ill. on April 19, 2013 on the occasion of Rama Navami. According to the HTGC press release, the concert was also co-sponsored by RR International and Raja Veena Foundation. Usha Pariti, Chair of the HTGC fine arts committee, introduced the event followed by a welcome speech by HTGC President Tilak Marwaha. Supriya Rao then introduced the artists. The concert concluded with a vote of thanks by HTGC Vice- President Bhima Reddy, with all the artistes being honored with silk shawls.

The HTGC press release also shared some highlights from the concert. “Saami Ninne Nammi Naa Pai”, a stately Adi Tala varnam in Pantuvarali, sung in two speeds, began the concert. A brisk “Gana Naayakam” in Poornashadjam followed suit with quick solfege improvisation (kalpanasvara) in the pattern of ‘gmnnsnpmgrs’, which is characteristic of the raga. After a moving “Marugelara” in raga Jayanthashri, the sisters took up Purvikalyani for a detailed delineation of this raga. Despite some minor audio issues and voice not cooperating at times, the sisters gave a wonderful treatment of Thyagaraja’s krithi “Gyana Mosaga Radha.” Kalpanasvaras seemed to flow effortlessly for the aptly chosen line “paripurna nishkalanka” from the end section (caranam). There were some delightful moments during the second section (anupallavi) and (caranam) when Violin Parur M. A. Krishnaswamy and Mridangam (percussion) Neyveli Skandasubramanian added embellishment and color through scholarly phrases and enjoyable rhythms.

Taking the dhaivatham note as the landing point for the svaras in Purvikalyani, was departure from the usual and mridangam accompanying some of the sarvalaghu (i.e., flowing without complex calculation) phrases added sweetness to the delivery. Arunachala Kavi’s Arivaar Yaar Unnai in ragam Mukhaari set to Mishra Chaapu taalam was steeped in devotion. The central attraction of the evening was the portrayal of the ragam Madhyamaavathi, though the transition from Mukhari to Madhyamavathi could have been clearer at the start of the ragam. However Haripriya more than compensates with excellent traditional ‘pidis’ and pleasing ‘brigas’ (brisk passages across the raga’s entire range). Violin M. A. Krishnaswami intervened at this point to soak the Madhyamavathi in emotion (bhaavam) with flourishes on all the three octaves.

The sequences (prayoga) within the lower octave (mandra shthayi) were especially deep and elegant. Very aptly chosen for Rama Navami, was Thyagaraja’s krithi “Rama Katha Sudharasa Paanamu.” The song extols the greatness and healing power of Rama’s story, the underlying emotion being ‘Bhakti’. It did seem like the sisters had this in mind when they chose the lines “Bhama Mani Janaki Saumitri” for neraval (extempore construction, elaboration, and improvisation of svaras for a particular line in the composition). The pace for the krithi (composition) was in tune with the deep devotional meandering during neraval: a gradual progression to the madhyama kala (medium tempo) svaras made for a delectable experience. The sisters chose Bindumalini for Ragam Tanam Pallavi which was a wonderful exercise in creativity and deliberation. After the enjoyable percussion solo (tani avarthanam), the sisters concluded the evening with some of their popular devotional numbers and Sai Bhajans.The concert was very well attended for a Friday evening despite the inclement weather conditions, which is yet another proof of the Chi-towner’s love for Indian classical music! The reviewer ends with “kudos to HTGC Lemont, RR International, and Raja Veena Foundation for always striving to bring high quality classical music and dance programs to Chicago!” (Based on a press release)

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