The Mambalam Sisters fed off each other’s strengths to present an unhurried and pleasing experience
Having performed together for long, the Mambalam Sisters, Vijayalakshmi and Chitra, have a perfect understanding of each other’s strengths and individual expertise. Their concert at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Navaratri music festival was marked by an enjoyable and unhurried kalapramanam from start to finish.
They displayed remarkable maturity in their handling of kritis and kalpanaswaras, particularly in Sankarabharanam, the main raga of the evening, with Vijayalaksmi revealing its grandeur through her imaginative approach. Syama Sastri’s ‘Sarojadala netri’ in a relaxed pace followed. In the niraval and kalpanaswara segments in the charanam line ‘Samagana vinodini’, the sisters divided and sang the portions that suited each one’s strengths, with the swarakshara and the occasional panchama varjitha phrases adding beauty.
Another notable part of the concert was the imposing prelude to the Lalitha Sahasranamam dhyana shloka, ‘Sinduraruna vigraham’, in Saveri and Dharmavati, sung individually by the sisters, followed by Dikshitar’s ‘Parandhamavathi jayati’ in Dhamavati raga, as it is known in Dikshitar’s school. Madhyama kala kalpanaswaras at the phrase ‘brhadeesa ranjani’, with one of them ending the phrases at mel sthayi ‘sa’ and the other in ‘ni’ were interesting.
In the opening kriti, ‘Pahimam Sri Rajarajeswari’ in Janaranjani, a composition by Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan, the sisters delved into an elaborate sequence of kalpanaswaras apart from the chittaswaram that is a staple to the composition. This exercise did give their violinist-sister R. Hemalatha an opportunity to showcase some creative flashes at the very beginning of the concert while being a perfect warm-up for percussionists Poongulam Subramaniam on mridangam and G. Harihara Sarma on kanjira.
Hemalatha’s spontaneity through the concert felt like a breath of fresh air, while the repartees between singers and percussionists in the kalpanaswara segments enhanced the musical experience. Choosing to present Dikshitar’s ‘Kamalamba samrakshathumam’ in Anandabhairavi without a detailed raga alapana helped one immerse in the layered lyrics. Tyagaraja’s ‘Dharini telusukonti’ (Suddhasaveri, Adi) in a controlled, subdued tempo gave the two the scope to explore some nicer variations in the sangatis.
Subramaniam provided an absorbing tani avarthanam with Harihara Sarma. A rarely heard Tamil kriti by Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavatar, ‘Maavur valar maharani’, in Jhonpuri was a nice choice for the post-thani session.
The concert was rounded off with a Thiruppugazh in Nattakurinji and a mangalam in Kedaram.