At her musical best

Shantala Subramanyam has something special to offer in each concert. She succeeded in evoking the gracious charms of Dharmavathi with impressive sensitivity at her concert for RMT Samskruthi. Her technique is contemplative, especially when she intermittently uses the long flute in the lower octave. The more she traversed deeper, the more she brought out the subtleties of the stately raga. L. Ramakrishnan, disciple of A. Kanyakumari, responded with an emotive alapana. Shantala’s choice was ‘Bhajana Seya Rada’ of Mysore Vasudevachar, whose compositions are characterised by mellifluence. A few sangatis of the kirtana in her play elicited the beauties embedded in them. In the swaraprastara again, the slow tempo phrases stood out. No wonder, her tisra nadai and the concluding korvai were a blend of rhythm and melody, for, she has been a sincere student of mridangam too.

Shantala Subramanyam. The Hindu Archives

In elucidating Madhyamavathi, she opened up fresh vistas of inspiration. Ramakrishnan too offered a sumptuous elaboration. Saint Tyagaraja’s ‘Ramakathasudha’ provides the right scope for the fulfilment of spiritual anubhava and Shantala made full use of it. In the kalpanaswaras at ‘Bhama Mani Janaki,’ she was at her musical best in the Khanda nadai in which she showcased a number of permutations and combinations. Ramakrishnan tried his best to catch up.

In the thani, Guru Raghavendra, a product of Thinniyam Krishnan, stayed anchored to the intricacies of Khanda nadai almost throughout. He also rendered a soft and sweet Konnakkol in one avarthanam.

The very sketch of Saranga with which she commenced her recital, Shantala indicated a touch of genius. She rendered the charanas of the varnam in tisra nadai too. In Nalinakanti, she played the Saint’s ‘Manavyalakinchara.’ In the swara segment, her tala gnana again came to the fore. The innate beauty of raga Manjari was revealed in Tygaraja’s ‘Paattividuvaradu.’ The Saint says, “having held me by the hand, you should not give me up now.”

Perhaps Tyagaraja created his Navarasakannada piece ‘Ninnuvina’ exclusively for flautists! Of course, it was Mali who affixed his stamp of melodic splendour to the composition, making it immortal. It tempted Shantala too to follow his interpretation. Shantala’s father and guru, Subramanyam was trained by Mali’s disciple S.P. Natarajan.

Shantala concluded her recital with the Sindhu Bhairavi Bhajan of Swati Thirunal, ‘Visweswara’, Purandaradasa Devarnama ‘Baro Krishnayya’ (ragamalika) and the Dhanasri thillana (also of Swati Thirunal.)

Incidentally, the contribution of neighbourhood sabhas to our music is immeasurable. For those in and around Thorapakkam in OMR, RMT Samskruthi is a boon. Happily, it has a sound patronage too.

Keywords: Shantala Subramanyam, sangatis, kirtanas, flute, tempo