We walked into the Wong Auditorium @MIT a few minutes late. It was rainy,windy,and cold. The walk didn't help either.As we walked in, he was just getting done with his Varnam.

Sikkil Gurucharan. All I knew before this concert was that he was from the Sikkil lineage, and if his youtube videos were anything to go by, talented. As I sat there, he started with a "Kannadai" followed by composition in Bhavapriya. The Karaharapriya main peice was effortless, crisp and fast.

Not once during the Aalapanai did I feel the need to get out and get some fresh air, as is the case with people who sing Thodi and Kalyani. Yes, I judge people who sing Thodi as the main peice. Even as the sub-main. Call me a snob, I don't care. Thats how much I hate Thodi. Are you people heartless slobs? Music is all about feeling. Bhaavam. Character. Emotions.Yes, it has to do with complex math, arithmetic and geometric progressions. But in a way that embellishes the mood set by the Raaga. These progressions have to flow, it cannot be forced upon the listener.Granted these raagas are "strong" , but they fail to invoke any emotion in me. Its not the fact that they are melakarthas. Believe me. I love Shamugapriya. It has depth, it has beauty.

But somehow Thodi and Kalyani - Trite. Done to death.Beaten, used.Cloying.Its like seeing the Microsoft default desktop and crooning "Wow!! Soo pretty". Or, eating a store-bought and microwaved mac and cheese, and saying "you are the best cook in the world". Or going to every damn ice-cream shop in the world and ordering vanilla ice-cream everytime.Shut up !! It makes me want to rip my hand off just so I can hit these people. And don't even get me started on the Aadi thaalam kalyani Thyagaraja krithi. (No offense to the great composer - it's just a BANAL combo!)

Anyway, now that I have offloaded my rants, let me get on with the concert review. Where were we? Oh, yes. The Kharaharapriya main peice. It was fast-paced , and Nagai Sriram on the violin did an amazing job. Neyveli Skandasubramanian as always , was brilliant on the mridangam and the whole peice was orchestrated beautifully.

I want to take a moment and talk about a beautiful Panchalinga krithi called "Ananda Natanaprakasam" set to Kedaram. Composed by my favorite trinity Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Gurucharan knocked this one out of the park . He was simply brilliant. I want to emphasise why this part was sooo fasinating to us. No offence to the yesteryear stalwarts, you guys were good, but IMHO the male singers of yore while being technically competent,weren't particularly bhava-centric. In other words, they catered more to people's brains rather than emotions. Since Yesudas and Unnikrishnan, things have changed, and I am thrilled to see that the modern day singers including Sanjay Subramaniam and Gurucharan modulate voices and notes to enhance the emotion of the raaga. We were mesmerized by his Kedaram - He made us want to run home,search this song online and learn it ASAP.

Gurucharan proved that he is an artiste of professional caliber as he presented an RTP in Reethigowlai. (My fascination for this raagam started since - you guessed it "Azhagana Ratchasiye.") A semi- elaborate raagam and a quick thaanam later, we were treated to a swara spelt of Reethigowlai, gowlai, kannadagowlai and kedaragowlai. Borrowing from the Gowlai Pancharatna, Gurucharan effectively used manodharma to string together unusual swara patterns.

Another example in point about how contemporary carnatic music has evolved is when, seeing our puzzled faces trying to figure out the raaga that followed after gowlai, he gave out the name of the raagam as soon as he was done with the swarams and Nagai sriram was exploring Kannadagowlai. It saved me a whole lot of thinking, going crazy, and searching online. :)

The concert was wrapped up with a a virutham followed by a bhajan,Javali in Paras, the behag thillana and the Mangalam.

Some nuances in concert that may not have been apparent yesterday : Gurucharan took particular care in choosing raagams (no repetitions, no janyas or similar sounding ones), composers (all major composers covered), languages (Telugu,Tamil,Hindi,Sanskrit,Kannada),types of krithis (from the Varnam,thillana,RTP,bhajans to the oft-forgotten javali, devara viruththam), thaalam (Aadi, rupakam,mishra chapu, kanda chapu and a thaalam that I haven't quite figured out yet - no complete lagu and one dhrutham). His Hindi pronounciation was perfect, with no hint of the southie accent.

Overall, I was very impressed. This guy is definitely someone to watch out for.

Fine Print : I swear the fact that he is in his early twenties (and good looking) did not affect this review at all ;)

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