Perambulating the Bounds

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mahadevan Sings!

Sankaran Mahadevan is known to many people in Nashville for organizing a longstanding series of classical Indian music concerts at Sri Ganesha Temple and other venues. He is also a singer and a voice teacher, although he has no less a day job than a faculty position in Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt. With all of those responsibilities, it is no great surprise that he does not give a full concert very often, and apparently his concert at the temple this Saturday was his first in 10 years.

He was accompanied by a mridangamist from Memphis, M. Lakshman, and violinist S. Ramakrishnan from Chennai. Dr. Mahadevan was fully convincing in his role at the center of musical attention, not its enabler and organizer. He has a fine voice, sweetest in its bass ranges, and he seemed utterly at ease and joyful throughout. As one expects from Carnatic music, the performance reached its most intense points well into the concert, far from the distractions of whatever one left before coming into the sound-world the performers establish.

The visitor from Indian, Mr. Ramakrishnan was adept at using bow pressure to shape the music. He was particularly skilled in creating filigreed lines with lots of delicate ornamentation that he seemed to whisper from a bow that glanced across the strings. He also made use of surprising intervallic jumps and blues-like slides where again bow pressure seemed everything.

This performance, by a man who obviously takes music seriously but has another career entirely to tend to, shows a level of talent and focus that is pretty much guaranteed to feed one’s – OK, my – sense of inadequacy. But concern for my fragile ego is no reason not to have the chance to hear Dr. Mahadevan’s interpretation of Carnatic music more frequently than once a decade.


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