Kasim & Babu - Guest Book - P. Swaminatha

Nadaswaram Concert Review (June 6, 2008)
By P. Swaminathan

SRUTI organized a unique nadaswaram concert by Kasim and Babu, grandsons of maestro Sheikh Chinna Maulana on June 6, 2008. They were accompanied by V.M. Ganapathy and V.M. Palanivel on the thavil. This is the second time SRUTI hosted a nadaswaram concert after a lapse of 20 years. The patrons of SRUTI were happy to listen to a full-fledged, quality nadaswaram concert. Both Kasim and Babu presented all facets of nadaswaram depicting its influence on the divine aspects of music and life in south India.

Kasim and Babu started their concert with a brisk rendering of the kanada varnam by Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar in ata thala. The spirited rendering of " Deva Deva Kalayamithe " in ma-yamalavagowla from the repertoire of Swati Tirunal was in keeping with its exclusive lilt. After this Kasim and Babu went on to render one of the five gems of Thyagaraja - Endaro Mahanubhavulu.... in sri raga before launching a pleasing alapana of harikhambodhi. The blowing was powerful and clear, totally sruti aligned with no intruding scratchy, squeaky sounds to spoil the melodic stream of harikhambodhi. The sustained karvais, a well codified structure, and the prayogas offered with calm deliberation contributed to the impressive presentation of Dhinamani Vamsa... of Saint Thyagaraja. Sada Saranga Nayane.., a classic composition of H.Y. Yoganarasimha was rendered in ranjani with considerable melodic flavour worthy of savoring. This was followed by ragamalika swarams in different ragas. After a brisk render-ing of Nee Vada Ne Gana... in saranga, Kasim and Babu went on to render Dikshitar‘s Sri Bala Gopala ...in bhairavi. The colorful phrases in the development of bhairavi were firmly ensconced in the ethos of tradition. The sensitive modulation in the blowing, alternating between the soft and the strong, were worthy of positive assessment. The brothers concluded the concert after rendering Purandaradasa‘s Jagadodharana ... and Venkatachala Nilayam... and a thil- lana by Balamuralikrishna.

The vigorous training the brothers received from their mater-nal grandfather, Sri Sheikh Chinna Maulana was apparent in their perfect and swift rendering of compositions in raga ka-nada, mayamalavagowla, harikhambodhi and bhairavi etc. Kasim and Babu are noted for both the raga alapana and kriti rendering (in gayaki style) especially Dhikhshithar kritis which are very difficult to render properly. This is particularly so in the case of nadaswaram as it requires both power and subtle breath control in a tough instrument to start with!

The rhythmic accompaniment on the thavil by V.M. Ganapathy and V.M. Palanivel was of a high order. To their brilliant accom-paniment the brothers mesmerized the audience with their me-lodic renderings of various krithi‘s.

The nagaswaram, known as a mangala vadya or auspicious instru-ment, is believed to be derived from the pungi used by snake charmers; its name is literally translated as voice of the snake‘ or sound of the snake.‘ However, in terms of sheer volume and sustained tones, its sweetness and its close association with tem-ple rituals in South India, the nagaswaram also merits the other name it is often known by, nadaswaram.‘ Nada is the word used for the Cosmic Sound. While there are three types of nagas-waram, namely the bari nayanam, the thithi nayanam and the ku-run kuzhal, today only the bari is widely in use. It is quite obvi-ous that both nadaswaram and thavil have contributed signifi-cantly to the carnatic music that we listen to in our times. Late G.N.B. and Semmagudi Srinivasa Iyer demonstrated what quan-tum leaps are achievable in utilizing Nadaswara Bhani in raga elaboration . Mridangam maestro Palani Subrahmanya Pillai's incredible laya advancements were derived from the traditions of his thavil expertise.