Jayanti Kumaresh’s Rendition: A Harmonious Blend of Creativity and Technique

Senior veena vidushi Jayanthi Kumaresh showcased her clarity and technical prowess in a performance at the K.V. Narayanswamy Centenary concert series held on October 6, 2023, at the Arkay convention centre in Chennai. Accompanied by Bangalore Arjun Kumar on the mridangam and Trichy Krishnaswamy on the ghatam, Jayanthi mesmerized the audience with her innovative methods of manodharma.

Known for her creativity in putting together appealing alapana sections, Jayanthi demonstrated her skills in her rendition of the raga Lathangi. Despite its short duration of about three minutes, her alapana beautifully portrayed the essence of the raga. Playing the veena, she utilized the technique of pulling on frets to access higher swaras, enhancing the melodic quality of her performance. Highlighting the jeeva swaras like madhyamam and dhaivatam, she showcased her judicious use of this technique in Lathangi. Exploring several ideas, she played a long set of one-avartana swaras leading up to the nishadam or upper rishabham. The final swara passage, adorned with vakra phrases and jantai patterns, showcased her deep concentration and innate control over laya.

Continuing her holistic approach, Jayanthi took on the challenge of exploring the raga Nalinakanti. Often considered inappropriate for improvisation, she left no stone unturned in extracting the maximum potential from this relatively less explored raga. The kriti she chose, G.N. Balasubramaniam’s ‘Nee paadhame gati’, was preceded by a brief yet clear outline of Mukhari for the timeless kriti ‘Enraikku shivakripai’. These compositions were poignantly sung by K.V. Narayanaswamy in several of his kutcheris.

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The main raga for the evening was Kiravani, and Jayanthi’s approach to manodharma pushed the boundaries of the instrument. In the tanam section, she showcased several right-hand plucking techniques, skillfully varying the frequency and pattern of meetus to weave new sets of rhythmic interpretations for the same raga. This added more shades to her performance and engaged the audience. As she progressed slowly, she laid out a diverse spread of meetus, allowing the listeners sufficient time to grasp each theme in the tanam. With her right hand, she pointed out the speed and pattern of the phrases that were about to be played, resulting in an immersive experience for the audience. The Tyagaraja composition ‘Kaligiyunte’ played with kalpanaswaras stood out for their invigorating kanakkus.

While Jayanthi’s quality and technique remain unmatched, there is a curiosity among rasikas as to why certain themes and ragas like Kiravani and Nalinakanti are often repeated as the main pieces in most of her kutcheris. Although her approach has enhanced the instrument’s worldwide appeal, there is a desire for more variety. Listeners are eager to hear Jayanthi explore a more diverse set of ragas and kritis, especially as main pieces, considering her rich and vast repertoire of compositions.

The performance also highlighted the importance of understanding and restraint when playing percussion instruments alongside the veena. Accompanied by Bangalore Arjun Kumar on the mridangam and Trichy Krishnaswamy on the ghatam, Jayanthi received competent support from these talented artists. Their engagement during speedy kalpanaswaram sections was highly appreciated. A collaborative feature, where the percussionists followed the chief instrumentalist during kalpanaswaras, added an extra layer of musicality to the performance.

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The concert concluded with the rendition of ‘Smarajanaka’ in Behag and a thillana in Dwijavanti composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman. The audience left the Arkay convention centre in Chennai, captivated by Jayanthi Kumaresh’s extraordinary veena performance and her artistic prowess.

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