The Malladi Brothers planned the concert in a way that would project their individual voices
If the medium tempo brings out the essence of Carnatic music best, then the Malladi brothers carried its spirit through their concert at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s festival. The vocalist duo intelligently sequenced compositions in ragas of contrasting profiles, individually delineating the registers which suit each one. Sreeramprasad would let his younger brother Ravikumar explore the upper notes, where he always sounded stronger.
This was evident right from the opening alapana in Ritigowla. An invocatory viruttam gave way to Tyagaraja’s ‘Bale balendu bhushani’. The swaraprastara revelled in undulations typical of the rakti raga steeped in bhakti, contrasting refreshingly with the sprightly ‘Manasa etulortune’ that followed.
After this Malayamarutam piece, the brothers came up with a niraval, uniquely choosing the anupallavi for lyrics. ‘Dinakara kulabhushani’, they reasoned subsequently, highlighted the literary crux of the Telugu kriti (vis-à-vis the customary ‘Kalilo rajasa’ in the charanam).
Into the third suite, Ravikumar took up an alapana that at first sounded like Shanmukhapriya but soon wove in threads of Thodi and Subhapantuvarali. Bhavapriya, as it turned out, can be tricky to not just the listener but the musician too. Both the vocalist and the violinist, H.N. Bhaskar, rolled out the kaleidoscopic quality of this 44th Melakarta raga, highlighting it further in another Tyagaja kriti, ‘Srikanta niyeda’.
A quick ‘Nadupai’ reiterated the tenderness of Madhyamavati even as its meditativeness functioned here as a filler. The centrepiece in Begada bore the janya raga’s classicism, with the brothers sharing the alapana in two halves and going on to sing ‘Thyagarajaya namaste’ by Muthuswami Dikshitar in Rupaka tala of three beats. The duo sounded a bit hurried and skipped niraval, but gave Manoj Siva (mridangam) and Krishna Sriram (ghatam) a fair chance to showcase their skill in a well-proportioned and crisp thani. Overall, the package spanned 45 minutes in two-and-a-quarter hour programme.
When the brothers sing together, their sound gains a soothing quality. This feature came through in the next kriti, tuned to Kalavati raga by their father Malladi Suri Babu. With its affiliation to Chakravakam, ‘Bhalira vairagyamento’ by Bhadrachalam Ramadasu ushered in a streak of morning glory to the evening show.
This was followed by Chenchurutti, shifting the tampura’s drone to madhyama sruti. ‘Ethanai thaan sonnalum’ by the 19th century composer, Neelakanta Sivan, resonated with the flavour of the Harikamboji-born raga, often used in folk songs.
The concluding song came in sprightly Jhonpuri, typically exhibiting a potential for the voice to traverse to the upper octave. ‘Pahipahimam paramakripalo’ (Narayana Tirtha Tarangam) carried the touch of the brothers’ mentor, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, who set it to tune. Even the mangalam in parts sounded quite the way it used to when rendered by the guru.