A musical tribute to Suguna Purushothaman
A concert by the students of Suguna Varadachari marked the 80th birth anniversary of musician and composer Suguna Purushothaman
These two erstwhile disciples of Musiri Subramania Iyer shared more than just a name. As senior musicians, Suguna Purushothaman and Suguna Varadachari shared a strong bond over the years and often performed together, until the former passed away five years ago. Recently, a group of Suguna Varadachari’s students rendered a number of Suguna Purushothaman’s compositions on the occasion of the latter’s 80th birth anniversary, at a concert hosted by Sunaadalahari, the Indira Ranganathan Trust’s musical wing.
Suguna Purushothaman was an accomplished vocalist, teacher and prolific composer whose kritis drew Professor P. Sambamurthy’s appreciation. Her compositions run the gamut of varnams, kritis, ragamalikas, javalis, tukkadas and thillanas, including one in 128 akshara talam. Thinniyam Venkatarama Iyer, who taught her the nuances of pallavi singing, had encouraged her to compose more and more. Her layam training helped her to master the dwi tala avadhaana, maintaining two talams of different gathis simultaneously on each hand while singing.
In this tribute concert, Varadachari’s disciples presented ten compositions, starting with the ‘Priya’ ragamalika varnam, ‘Sankaraharapriya’, in ragas Kharaharapriya, Kokilapriya, Ramapriya, Shanmukhapriya, Pasupatipriya, Rishabhapriya, Gayakapriya and Rasikapriya. It was followed by ‘Ganapathiye saranam’ (Yadukula Kamboji). Bharati Kamakoti presented a splendid Varali alapana, with an equally enthralling response by Haritha Narayanan on the violin, who is a disciple of R. Hemalatha and Delhi Sunder Rajan. The next item was ‘Varaalippoadhe’ (Misra Chapu) with niraval and swaras at the pallavi. ‘Sri Ranganatham’, a gentle piece in Ritigowla (Adi talam), was exquisitely rendered.
This was followed by ‘Tirumagale kadaikkan paarththarulvaay’ in a lilting Valaji set to Tisra Jampa talam. The composer had once said that she was inspired by a Tiruppugazh that Thinniyam Venkatarama Iyer had taught her in this talam. The artistes rendered kalpanaswaras in this difficult talam with ease.
After Rohini Srinath’s elaborate Simhendramadhyamam and a soulful violin response, the team rendered ‘Narasimhane’ in Misra Chapu. Niraval and swaras were at ‘Parama kripa sagaram neeyanro.’ In this all-women concert, the thani by Aswini Srinivasan (mridangam), disciple of the veteran mridangist T.K. Murthy, was remarkable.
Another ragamalika was ‘Govinda Hare Govinda’ in ragas such as Kapi, Varamu, Behag, Sindhu Bhairavi, Desh, Sivaranjani and Hamsanandi. They wound up the engaging 90-minute concert with a javali, ‘Naanenna seyvenadi’ (Paras), a thillana in Khamas and a mangalam in Surutti set to Khanda Chapu talam.
Suguna Varadachari must be lauded for teaching these exquisite compositions to her students as a tribute to her long-time associate. The music team also included P. Pavithra, Maithini Sridharan, R. Sandhya, Svarathmika Sureshkumar, Aparajitha Aruna Giridar, M. Vasupradha and R.S. Shankari. The concert was also streamed live on Facebook.
The Chennai-based author writes on music and culture.