A Musical Double Delight! KGSMA’s Annual Music Recital & Vidushi Dr. Sowmya’s Grand Carnatic Concert

KGSMA inBy Dr. Lakshmi Srivaths

HOUSTON: How can a pleasant spring weekend in Houston be made even sweeter? Only by intertwining vibrant musical presentations by the vivacious Houstonian children with a state-of-the art carnatic concert,  dulcet yet drenched in classicism! Houston was fortunate to witness and experience this rare amalgamation of back-to-back musical presentations by the young students of Krishna Gana Sudha Music Academy (KGSMA) and the splendid carnatic music concert by Vidushi Dr. S. Sowmya and party.

On May 2, the KGSMA celebrated with grandeur, its first annual music recital, at the Old Stafford Civic Center, Stafford, Texas. More than hundred children receiving tutelage from Vidushi Smt. Raja Rajeshwary Bhat presented a glimpse of their musical erudition as four group performances.  The unique introduction by talented children of KGSMA by means of human puppetry, set the stage for the children’s performances. Entitled “Hemavathi” (denoting those just initiated into music), “Dharmavathi” (indicating those who need to practice music regularly with discipline), “Senavathi” (implying those who need to strive harder to accomplish in music) , and “Kalavathi” (referring to those inducted into the art of music as a result of their of persistent efforts), the four groups presented songs of several legendary composers including Sri Purandara Dasa, Saint Thyagaraja, Sri Muthuswamy Dikshithar, Sri Shyama Shasthri, Maharaja Sri Swathi Thirunal, Sri Patnam Subramanya Iyer, Sri Thachur Singarachar, Mahakavi Sri Subramanya Bharathiyar, and contemporary composers namely Dr. Balamurali Krishna and their music teacher’s esteemed guru Sri Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. The tireless efforts and able guidance of their beloved carnatic music guru Smt. Raja Rajeshwary Bhat was evident in the near flawless performances by the tiny tots and the refined and classy presentations embellished with manodharma by the advanced level students. The group performances were ably accompanied on the violin by Maya Iyer, Kruthi Bhat and Deepa Ramachandran and on the mridangam by Karun Salvady and Charan Rajan. The members of Houston Youth Music Association were the emcees for the annual recital, who complimented the students’ earnest efforts and thanked the Guru for honing the skills of all her students, age no bar. At the end of each presentation, it was a visual treat to see the young and old students of KGSMA presented with a trophy for their musical achievement. KGSMA expressed their sincere thanks by felicitating Mr. Darshak of Krishna Sounds for his skilful handling of the sound system throughout the event. Thanks were in order for all the children and parent volunteers who contributed several hours of efforts despite their busy schedules.

As the audience savored the musical nectar presented by the children, the evening’s crowning event followed next. What an honor and privilege it was for Houston’s young learners and yearning audience to be treated with a classic carnatic concert by none other than the music virtuoso Vidushi Dr. S. Sowmya. She was accompanied by master musicians, Vidwan Sri Embar S. Kannan on the violin, Vidwan Sri Neyveli R. Narayanan on the mridangam and Vidwan Sri G. Chandrasekara Sharma on the ghatam. The concert opened with the melodious Sahana varnam. An accomplished guru herself, it was enlightening to listen to the educational pearls in the songs that ensued by Smt Sowmya, when she explained the deceptively simple, yet complex to handle ragam Gurjari in the Tyagaraja krithi, the “DhanammaL BaaNi” of handling ragam Saveri in the alapana that preceded the krithi “Etunamminaa O Manasaa”. It was equally enriching to learn about the significance of her song choices: “Gnaana Sabayil Thillai Gaanam Thanil Nindraadum” in Saranga set to Misra chapu coincided with the “Kumbabishekam” in Chidambaram; “Narasimha Aagacha Parabrahma” in Mohanam and Misra chapu was sung as the day marked Narasimha Jayanthi. The mellifluous and mesmerizing RTP in Reeti Gowlai was followed by the invigorating thani avarthanam on the mridangam and ghatam, a percussionist conversation that enthralled the audience. Sri Embar Kannan’s violin spoke a million melodic words that reverberated in the listeners’ ears and hearts well after the concert. The concluding phase was adorned by the Swathi Thirunal Bhajan “Sundari Bhaje” in Desh, Sadasiva Brahmendra’s “Bhajare Yadhu Naatham” in ragam Pilu, the lilting Kavadi Sindhu “Villinai Oththa Puruvam” by Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar and the  pleasing Arunagirinathar’s Thiruppugazh “ThuLLuvadhu Vaettai” in Hamsanandhi. As the audience sat completely spellbound in the concert, an inevitable thought crossed one’s mind: did Goddess Saraswathi herself descend on earth with her ensemble to treat the Houstonians with a divine musical experience? These thoughts were aptly brought forth in the emcee’s introductory statements and Janaki Mami’s congratulatory interlude when the latter also acknowledged and applauded the efforts of the KGSMA students and their beloved teacher. The event concluded with a thank you note from a KGSMA senior student; but the passion to learn, listen to and indulge in classical carnatic music continued to burn fully ablaze in the hearts of one and all!