In April 2011 the M.A. Center in Castro Valley hosted a “Concerts of Compassion” series to raise funds for embracingtheworld.org and its efforts to help tsunami victims in Japan.
No stranger to disaster relief, embracingtheworld.org has responded to the 2004 Asian Tsunami, and the Haiti earthquake. Embracingtheworld.org responded quickly to the events in Japan and their efforts are ongoing.
The concerts featured some of the best names in Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) and Hindustani (North Indian Classical). The concert was unique as it was a “double-header” format featuring two dynamic performances back to back in the same day.
First up was Dr. Saravanapriyan, Bay area Carnatic violinist and Shri Shriram Brahmanandam on Mrudangam (a double-headed hand drum).
The playing was excellent filled with dynamic rhythm and sensuous violin lines. Dr. Saravanapriyan is a native Tamil speaker and he chose a program of all modern Tamil compositions ranging from 1900 the the present. He also played an Amma bhajan (devotional song) that was very moving.
The sound of Dr. Saravanapriyan’s violin was rich, deep and full it’s sound is due in part to the skill of the performer but also to the unique instrument he plays: a hand-crafted, luthier made instrument modeled after the ancient baroque Viola D’ Amore.
It has a hollow neck with five sympathetic strings that resonate when the main playing strings are played adding rich harmonics to the sound.
His playing had a deeply spiritual quality to it that elevated the listener above the mundane and journey for a time to the divine realms to return yet again filled with renewal and peace.
On Mrudungum Shri Shriram Brahmanandam played a variety of Taala’s (cycles of rhythm) in accompaniment to the violin.
His playing was varied and pristine. As part of the performance he did a Mrudangam solo that was beyond compare. His playing was energetic and the rhythm’s were exciting and captivating.
He was very skilled at procuring a wide variety of tones from the instrument adding to the awe-inspiring aspect of his playing. Hopefully we will see more performances by these magnificent performers in the future.
The second concert in the double-header featured a duet between Bansuri (Hindustani bamboo flute) and Tabla (Indian hand drums). The performers were Mr.Prasad Bhandarkar, Hindustani Bamboo Flutist on the Bansuri and Vikas Yendluri on Tabla.
Mr. Bhandarkar, played a truly exquisite instrument: a long bass bansuri flute that was over thirty inches in length and adorned with silver tassels at either end. The sound was deep, rich, mellow and completely soulful.
His alaps (melodic flute introductions) were georgeous and filled with grandeur. Vikas Yendluri did a terrific job of playing the tabla when it was time for it to kick in. Vikas Yendluri is a disciple of tabla/santoor master Arshad Syed and has also taken lessons with Zakir Hussein. It was clearly evident in his playing that he had spent some time with these masters and has done extensive study and practice on the instrument.
Their set opened in a non-traditional way with a composition that was newly completed for the concert. It was written by the flute player in response to the tragic events and loss of life during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
In his comments preceding the performance Mr. Bhandarkar indicated gratitude for those who came and donated money to help the disaster victims but he also wanted the people in Japan to know that his prayers and that of those assembled there were with them.
The composition had varied moods and was filled with emotion, interesting textures and tone colors.
Mr. Bhandarkar’s set also included traditional compositions and a melodious variety of raags one of which has rarely been played on the Bansuri flute. His playing took the listener through many moods and was filled with tasteful melodic improvisations.
When it came time for a tabla solo Vikas Yendluri did an exceptional job of playing. He did an unusual taal called “Chartaal ki Sawari” in eleven beats that he subdivided into 4+4+1.5+1.5 to complete the eleven beat cycle.
The concert was truly exceptional, the interaction between the performers was dynamic and the rhythms and melody were well developed. It was an aural delight that was very memorable. Hopefully the M.A. Center will host more culturally enriching concerts like these in the future.
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