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1) Review of a delightful vocal concert by Gowri Raghunandan at 21st Annual Thygaraja Aradhana - New Jersey, USA: by M.G. Prasad - (sent by shammiraghu at yahoo.com )

It was one of those bright days in January when the weather was very pleasant and the audience was treated with another pleasant experience of a delightful vocal concert by Ms. Gowri Raghunandan (winner of Bharataratna M.S. Subbalakshmi award, in recognition of being placed first in the senior vocal competition 2004 conducted by CMANA - Carnatic Music Association of North America). She was accompanied by Ms. Smitha Krishnan on the violin Mr. and Prakash Venkatraman on the mridangam. This year’s Aradhana of saint composer and musician Sri Thyagaraja was celebrated on Saturday January 29, 2005. A highlight of the day was a one-hour concert by the highly talented young artists Gowri, Prakash and Smitha, at Glenrock Community church, NJ.

Gowri sang seven kritis of Thyagaraja reminding us of the seven notes. Her rendering of the well chosen first selection “Shobillu sapta swara….” in Jaganmohini raga set to Roopaka tala was beautiful. The music reflected the spirit of the composition that worships Goddess who presides over the seven notes that shine through navel, heart, throat, tongue, nose, etc and in the Vedas, Gayatri mantra and minds of Gods, holy men and Thyagaraja. In raga Ravichandrika set to Adi tala, the second offering “Maakelera vicharamu…..” was bringing out the melody and devotion to Rama who takes care of the things in the universe. The third kriti “Pariyachakama maata….” in raga Vanaspati and Roopaka tala was nicely sung. It is in Rama that one needs to take refuge as many devotees has been protected by him says Thyagaraja.


The fourth offering was another nice selection of popular kriti “Sogasuga mridanga taalamu…..” in raga Sriranjani set to Roopaka tala. Gowri presented a very nice aalapane and swara prasthara. On violin Smitha performed very well in this and all other kritis. It seemed planned as the tanyaavartane by Prakash in this offering resonated to the meaning of the kriti. Thyagarja humbly asks Lord Rama whether he can offer his music with all devotion and correctness of notes and rhythm. Gowri with Prakash and Smitha gave beautiful experience of sincere devotion and delightful music at their young age.

The next offering was “Okapari joodaga Rada…” in Kalavathi raga and set to Adi tala. Gowri brought the devotional feeling in this kriti in which Thyagaraja prays Rama to bless his grace through sight. In raga Saranga and set to Adi tala, the next kriti “Kamalaapta kula…” was nicely rendered that brought put the bhava of surrender as depicted by Thyagaraja. The final kriti was a popular one “Hechharika Ra Ra Ra…” in Yadukulakamboji raga and set to Khanda chapu tala. This kriti was very pleasantly rendered that brought out the feeling of inviting Rama as composed by Thyagaraja.

It was quite an experience to the audience that these young artisits not only gave high quality performance but also assured the future of Carnatic music is bright and strong in their hands. The organizers have to be congratulated for organizing such a tribute to both Saint Thyagaraja and the great spiritual path of music.

Brief profile of artists – each of them have won several awards over the years in festivals and competitions conducted throughout USA:

Gowri Raghunandan (9th Grade Student, Holmdel High School, student of Smt. Vani Sateesh – A grade Artist of All India Radio and currently residing in USA) Smitha Krishnan (10th Grade student, West Windsor Planesboro High School, student of Sri. Ananantha Krishnan, well known Musicologist and violin teacher, NJ) Prakash Venkatraman (11th Grade student, J.P. Stevens High School, Edison, student of Dr. Suresh Ramachandran, well known Mridangist, NJ)

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