The Gudalur Narayanaswamy Balaburamaniam aka GNB's [1910-1965] Centenary Festival held UK was a grand success.
The celebrations were held on both days of the July 4th week-end in east London. We were lucky to have the most popular and learned artistes who enthralled the audience to a feast of unforgettable music fitting the occasion.
The festival boasted the who-is-who of UK and Indian artistes line-up comprising of Charumathi Ramachandran, Sudha Raghunathan, Trichur Ramachandran, Bhushany Kalyanaraman, Subhashree Ramachandran, Dr. Jyotsna Srikanth, B V Raghavendra Rao, Neyveli Skanda Subramaniam, R N Prakash, Chidambaranathan and Trichy Murali - names mentioned in particular order.
GNB is grandly and undoubtedly acknowledged as the architect of the contemporary Carnatic concert and raga delineation formats amongst other novelties he introduced into Carnatic music. To keep up with this theme, in the concert series, we had generous sprinkling of rare and oft heard ragas like Sivasakti, Gavati, Madhyamavathi, Takka, Shankarabharana and Kamavardhini.
We had a short "shruti bedha" in Shankarabharana from Gandhara [resulting in Todi] and Madhyama [resulting in Kalyani] by Sudha Ragunathan.
Dr. Sivakumar and Trichur Ramachandran introduced us to various aspects of GNB through their educative talks.
GNB painted a clear picture of the raga in an unhurried way with his key signature phrases, developed it step by little step, made the raga interesting and entire, whether the alapana was brief or detailed.
Sudha Raghunathan's and Ramachandran's intricate 'brighas' reminded us of the legend for which he was famous.
The festival opened with an instrumental orchestra conducted by UK-based versatile violinist Dr. Jyotsna Srikanth - her senior students brought near-perfect harmony. The second day featured another UK based instrumental orchestra.
Bhushany Kalyanaraman's mellifluous rendition of Sivananda in raga Pantuvarali was captivating. There were more non-GNB kritis than expected in the concerts - which was the only lacuna.
In GNB’s music, the flow of the kriti dictated the flow of the alapana, ensuring its distinctiveness for each kriti. Examples would be the alapana-s he did for Marakatavalli and Sree Subramanyaya namaste in Kambhoji.
His raga alapana was of two kinds – the first preceded kriti-s, while the other, far more elaborate form prefaced ragam-tanam-pallavi.
Dr. Navaratnam and Raveendra Armugam who organised this charity event to fund Jaffna Jaipur Center for Disability Rehabilitation helped us in a way to remember the true legend in the most perfect way. Compère Ashanti Omkar was exquisite and seamlessly integrated the different components of the festival as though it were one.