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Fretless, but effortless

Chitravina N Ravikiran in a SPIC MACAY concert

On one side is a child prodigy who at the mere age of two years impressed many legends, such as Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and M S Subbulakshmi, with his ability to identify and render as many as 325 melodic scales and 175 rhythmic cycles. On the other is a fairly uncommon fretless instrument, which owing to its very nature, makes possible many perfect intonations that closely resemble the vocal standards. When you have these two - Ravikiran and his 20-stringed Chitravina - a carnatic classical music aficionado is sure to have some exalted experience.

Dr Yella Venkateswara Rao and Nemani Somayajulu
Chitravina Ravikiran, grandson of famous Gottuvadyam musician Narayan Iyengar, recently played at the SPIC MACAY organized concert in the University of Hyderabad campus. Accompanying him on the Mridangam was Padmashri awardee Dr Yella Venkateswara Rao, on the Ghatam was Nemani Somayajulu and on the Violin was Dwaram Satyanarayana Rao.

When you have such an impressive and energetic musical gathering, a moderately spread out duration is a sine qua non. Unfortunately, the evening began on a disappointing note when the recital, owing to unforeseen logistical disarrays, had to be cut short, leaving room for only a brief rendering of popular classics. But nevertheless, sometimes even short spells are good enough for a lingering fulfillment.

The highlight of the concert was Ravikiran's rendering of Thyagaraja's Samaja Varagamana. This composition, set to raga Hindolam and Adi tala, and regarded as one of the nine gems of the saint composer, was played on popular demand by a few students in the audience who seemed to have a discerning taste for music. The graceful ease with which Ravikiran touched the depths of the composition concealed the consummate artistry required in playing the instrument.

His high spirited onstage presence, combined with brief dialogues with and due respect extended to his accompanists, was a treat to watch.