‘Minakshi – The Warrior Prinicess’, a digital album, themed on Syama Sastri ’s Navaratnamalika

A portrait of composer Syama Sastri.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

This album is not just about songs, but traces Syama Sastri’s devotion to Meenakshi, the powerful warrior, who transformed into a goddess and is enshrined inside the 700-year-old landmark structure at Madurai.

As we celebrate the month of women, it’s a perfect time to understand the essence of Syama Sastri’s ‘Meenakshi Navaratnamalika’, which has been released digitally by the Coimbatore-based Rajalakshmi Fine Arts (RFA).

Titled ‘Minakshi — The Warrior Princess’, it is a collection of nine songs, in praise of Madurai Meenakshi, rendered by senior vocalist Sankari Krishnan, disciple of Lalgudi Jayaraman.

Sankari precedes the first five kritis with five hymns each from Adi Sankarar’s ‘Meenakshi Pancharatnam’ and the rest with alapana. The album begins with ‘Udhyadh bhanu sahasrakoti sadrusham ’, from Meenakshi Pancharatnam, followed by the kriti ‘Devi meena nethri’ in Sankarabharanam, Adi tala, with seamless niraval and swaraprastaras.

Syama Sastri’s next gem, ‘Meena lochana brova’, in raga Dhanyasi set to Mishra Chapu is rendered in a leisurely pace with appropriate gamakas which bring out the richness and myriad shades of the raga.

Sankari’s poignant rendering, well-structured swara sequence in the anu pallavi and the presentation of janta phrases in the sahitya enhance the appeal of the Anandabhairavi piece, ‘Marivere’. H.N. Bhaskar (violin) impresses with his lucid elaboration of the raga.

It’s not just Sankari’s well-nuanced rendition that highlights the beauty of Kalyani in ‘Rave parvatha rajakumari’ (Mishra Chapu), but also Bhaskar’s crisp essays — he plays the distinct notes of the raga with eloquence. The rhythmic and vibrant playing by J. Vaidyanathan on the mridangam and S. Karthick on the ghatam add to the appeal.

The album also includes kritis such as ‘Mayamma’ in raga Ahiri, (Adi), ‘Sarojadala netri’ in Sankarabharanam, (Adi), ‘Nannu brovu’ in Lalitha, (Mishra Chapu), and ‘Brovu brovu’ in Kiravani, (Mishra Chapu). Sankari renders them keeping intact the manodharma aspects.

For the Sankarabharanam kriti, Bhaskar comes up with a comprehensive raga essay, and Sankari sings a niraval followed by the swarakalpana sequence and janta prayogas at the charanam line ‘Samagana vinodini ’.

‘Brovu brovu’, in Kiravani, with a more than seven-minute alapana, by Sankari and Bhaskar, followed by the Tamil virutham ‘poonkondrai manam veesum’, and a few rounds of swarakalpana conclude the album on a meditative note.

‘Meenakshi Navaratnamalika’, can be downloaded from www.rajalakshmionline.com.

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