Navarasam during Navarathiri: Concert by Sriranjani Santhanagopalan

By Sudha Mani

HOUSTON: SRIRANJANI SANTHANAGOPALAN is a young artiste is who taking the world of Carnatic music by storm and has expanded its reach , particularly among younger audiences . She is the disciple of her father eminent Vocalist Sri. Neyveli Santhanagoplan .Even though she started her serious formal training to become a professional singer relatively late, she has established a strong place for herself in the music circles.  Within the framework of the strong traditional style of her father’s teaching, she has developed a Baani that is quite uniquely hers. We in Houston were treated to wonderful concert on the opening day of Navarathri.

On October 15, 2023, Classical Arts Society presented at the Sri Meenakshi Temple a special concert by Vocalist Sriranjani Santhangopalan, with Sayee Rakshith on the violin and Praveen Sparsh on the Mridangam. And special it truly was! It was so imbued in Bhakthi and given the auspicious time of year, it left no doubt in the minds of the audience that Music is one of the surest ways of experiencing the Divine.

Lakshmi Srivaths, Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, Nalini Sadagopan ,Partha Krishnamurthy

As the curtains opened showing the artistically decorated stage, the seated artists had a presence indicating a “kallai” concert ahead.

CAS Board member Lakshmi Srivaths warmly welcomed and introduced the artists and thanked President Nalini Sadagopan for enabling to bring such a wonderful artist for our Special Navaratri Concert.

In her choice of kritis, Sriranjani kept the occasion and venue in mind and adorned the Goddess with a garland that got more fragrant with each piece. Starting with an ode to Saraswathi, the Goddess of Music and Wisdom, Sarasiruha Sanapriye Amba in Nattai Ragam, the artiste set the stage for what was to come.

Akhilandeshwari in Jujawanthi/Dwijawanthi followed and was sung at a leisurely pace highlighting all the loops and curves of this raga.

Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitars adaptation of the Hindustani Rag to the Carnatic style was showcased so beautifully as Sriranjani straddled the t two schools easily in the Prayogams. The feeling of intimate devotion and love for Devi that this kriti evokes everytime one listens to it, speaks to its intrinsic beauty, making us surrender to her protection: Rakshamaam.

A quick transition to Nalinakanthi in NathajanaPaalini composed by Tanjavur Sri Shankara Iyer , changed the mood slightly . Every word of this composition is descriptive of the Devis attributes…. calling Her Navarasa kala rasike, Janani, Pankaja Netri, Parama Pavitra, Marakatha Varna, and above all Parama kripakari . Here the artists elaboration at Parama kripakari was very poignant, establishing that the Mother Goddess is the Ultimate protector of Her devotees.

Janani Ninnuvinna Amba a composition of Subbaraya Shastry in Reetigowlai implores Her to hear the devotees’ plea to be the savior and come to their rescue without delay.  The presentation of the lilting

chittaswaram and the devotion laden lyrics had a healing effect.

Sriranjani announced the next piece Kamala Charane as an example of GNBs genius in a Raga of his creation, Amritabehag . It has resemblance to both Amrithavarshini and Behag and is rather interesting because of the Vakra swaras. What an endless ocean our music system is with so many permutations and combinations!

The main Ragam presented was Mohanam. The raga exploration brought out, true to its name, all the sweetness of Mohanam. But it was more that that. The hallmark of Sriranjani’s voice is its malleability. She is capable of portraying power and pathos, adoration, and agile twists. Mohanam was presented with equal ease in the higher and lower octaves. Every embellishment could be discerned in the higher registers and every loop and glide appreciated in the lower.

Dikshitars grand composition Jagadeeshwari Kripai Puri was presented with passion begging the goddess to confer her Grace to those who worship at her feet. The Chittaswaram was apparently composed highlighting the Daiwatham : and so Sriranjani chose Da as the fulcrum point to traverse the Mohanam scale . The exchange between the vocalist and violinist had been very engaging and here in this main piece, their delight in their exchange was palpable.

The Mridangam solo section by Sri Praveen Sparsh was extraordinary. The sound quality and energy that he delivered was unparalleled. It was sharp and precise, engaging and invigorating. Many a time, it was like spoken syllables were emanating from the percussionist’s fingers.

The audience applauded in true appreciation at the end of his Thani.

Two Ragamalikai compositions followed, one being the Ranjanamala showcasing the Devis beauty in each the four ragas of the Ranjani family. The Tirupugazh Maatha Marakatha Shalini was very soulful.

And finally in a true outpouring of Bhakti Bhava and Oneness, Sriranjani concluded with an Abhang in Brindavanasaranga. The devotee is praying to Panduranga with such fevour and devotion that he/she goes into a trance, and visualizes Panduranga as Jagadamba, Devi. The Mother is Omniscient. The Mother is the creator, the healer, the protector. Momentarily, many in the audience were transported, transfixed. Sriranjani ‘s music took us all to a different realm; for many, a new realm.

There was so much New in the Old..