Carnatic Quartet – Instrumental Concert    

Carnatic Quartet – Instrumental Concert    

Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 4:30 PM

Fugett Middle School Auditorium

500 Ellis Lane
West Chester, PA 19380

About This Event

SRUTI is pleased to host a Grand Carnatic Quartet Instrumental Concert featuring Mylai M. Karthikeyan (Nadaswaram), Shreya Devnath (Violin), Praveen Sparsh (Mridangam), and R. Jeeva (Tavil)

Mylai M. Karthikeyan (Nadaswaram)

Mylai M Karthikeyan is a young torchbearer of the Nadaswaram tradition. He started learning at the age of eight from his father Mylai Sri S. Mohanraj, and then proceeded to learn from Vidwan Mylai Sri Rajendran. He then joined the Adyar Music College and went on to complete his Diploma in Nadaswaram under Vidwan Vysarpadi Sri G. Kothandaraman, earning the gold medal.

He has received awards & titles including “Vaadya Visaaradha,” “Vaadhya Kalaimani” and “Nadaswara Eilaval.” He received the MS Subbulakshmi Fellowship Award. He is an A Grade Artist on the All India Radio.

Shreya Devnath (Violin)

Shreya Devnath is a student of the legendary Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman. She is a distinctive solo-violinist and has accompanied leading artists including Vijay Siva, Sikkil Gurucharan, and Neyveli Santhanagopalan. She has recently performed duets with Nadaswaram, Chitraveena, Flute, and Sitar.

Shreya has performed at concerts and workshops in India and around the world. She has also performed with productions of noted writer, playwright, and musician Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan. Recognition has also come to her in the form of awards and titles including MS Subbulakshmi Fellowship, Parur Sundaram Iyer Award, and Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer Award for Youth Excellence. She is also a talented painter, poet, and a short story writer. However, she remains deeply passionate about music.

Praveen Sparsh (Mridangam)

Praveen Sparsh started learning Mridangam at the age of five from Mridangam Maestro Guruvayur Sri Dorai. He is the grandson of Mridangam exponent Thanjavur Sri Upendran.

Praveen is a sought-after Mridangam player, and performs regularly with stalwarts like TM Krishna, Aruna Sairam, Bombay Jayshree, Sikkil Gurcharan. He has performed in India and abroad. Praveen has released his acclaimed solo percussion album, ‘UNRESERVED,’ a mridangam centric album that explores the sounds of everyday life. As a music producer, Praveen has scored and performed music for the play ‘Kurukshetra – When things fall apart.’ He has also scored music for short films, performed at music festivals, and has collaborated with renowned music bands.

Praveen has received prestigious awards and titles including “Laya Ratna,” “Palani Subramanya Pillai Memorial Award,” MS Subbulakshmi Fellowship, “Yuva Kala Bharati,” “Best Performer Award,” and Palghat Mani Iyer’s Endowment Award.

R. Jeeva (Tavil)

R. Jeeva is a well-regarded Tavil artist, and a disciple of Gurus Sri Sozhavaram Nathan and Sri Vetharanyam V.G. Balasubramanyam. He has completed his Music Diploma in Raja Annamalai Mandram, earning the title “Vaadya Visaaradha” upon completion. He has also received the title of “Sangeetha Seva Rathna.” Jeeva is a graded AIR artist.

List of Songs

Track 1 – Mallari – Gambeera Nattai

Track 2 – Inta ParAka – Mayamalavagowlai

Track 3 – Kadaikkan Vaithennai – Begada

Track 4 – Mokshamu Galada – Saramati

Track 5 – Unnai Thudikka – Kuntalavarali

Track 6 – Najivadhara – Bilahari

Track 7 – Tani Avartanam

Track 8 – Rabindra Sangeet

Track 9 – Baaro Krishnayya – Ragamalika

Track 10 – Tillana – Desh

Track 11 – Mangalam

Concert Review

What a lovely evening with the Carnatic quartet

By Dinakar Subramanian

I have been following the group ‘A Carnatic Quartet’ on social media for some time now and was thoroughly enjoying their jam sessions and very slickly created snippets of popular songs. The group was conceptualized by violinist Shreya Devnath and consists of nadaswaram vidwan Mylai Karthikeyan and percussionists Praveen Sparsh on the mridangam and Gummidipoondi Jeevanandham on the tavil.

I was really looking forward to their US tour. I even attended their concert in New Jersey just a few weeks before the Sruti concert. The whole idea of two instruments such as the violin and nadaswaram together is unique and novel by itself and the blending with a mridangam and an atonal instrument like the tavil made it even more special.

How they wove together a symphonic rendering that evening at the Fugett Middle School was pure magic. We have all heard different instrumental jugalbandis including instruments such as the veena, flute, violin etc but a violin and a nadaswaram was a first for Sruti. I was also apprehensive about how the sound of the nadaswaram which is naturally loud would fit in with the rest of the instruments. My fears were unfounded as the Sruti audio team did a great job of ensuring that all the instruments were well-balanced and the resultant sound was euphonic.

Fun fact: The last time Sruti had a nadaswaram concert was in June of 2008 with Sri Kasim and Sri Babu (grandsons of the legend Dr. Sheik Chinna Moulana).

As the quartet has been doing for many of their concerts, they started with a mallari – a traditional nadaswaram piece played during South Indian temple rituals.This majestic piece in the raga gambIra nAttai made a strong impact right from the start of the concert with its brisk pace.This piece composed by Mylai Karthikeyan was set to sankIrNa jhampa talam in khanda nadai took people back to their earlier music lessons to count the beats in the whole cycle.

Anai Ayya’s inta parAkA in mAyamALavagowlai followed which offered a brilliant improvisation in the kalpanaswarams with many variations derived from the sapta tAla alankarams and ending in a wonderful crescendo korvai.

A classical AlapanA in bEgadA for about 10 min seamlessly played between Shreya and Karthikeyan set the stage for Ramaswamy Sivan’s kadaikkaN vaithennai pArammA.A brilliant and prolonged kalpanaswaram exchange at the caraNam tanjamenbOr tammai nOkki capped off a very memorable bEgadA composition. A slow mridangam beat by Praveen for about half a minute introduced the mellow anupallavi of Thyagaraja’s mOkshamU galadA at sAkSAt kAranI which was a unique start to the beautiful sAramatI composition.

Papanasam Sivan’s unnaittudikka aruL tA in kuntalavarALi – a very lilting tamizh kriti with a very catchy use of the second akshara prasam like unnai, ponnai, cinnatanam etc. was the bridge between bEgadA and bilaharI pieces.

Thyagaraja’s nA jIvAdhAra in bilaharI was the main piece and the AlapanA started off with the starting notes of the famous swarajati – rA rA venu and then went into a solid and complete description of the rAgA with appropriate nuanced uses of the kaishiki nishAdam (N2) that is an anya swara for this ragam. Mylai Karthikeyan excelled in the tAra sthayi passages in the Alapana with ease. As the kriti began, Shreya and Mylai Karthikeyan presented an exhaustive pallavi with many sangatis and the whole song was reminiscent of Shreya’s guru Lalgudi Jayaraman’s and Shrimati’s rendition of the same kriti from a yesteryear recording. The kalpanaswara exchange also reminded me of a Lalgudi concert. Kudos to her for showcasing her patantaram.

The icing of the concert cake in addition to the whole synergistic presentation of the music by this unique set of musicians was the tani avartanam. The percussionists decided to enhance the tani by performing the konnakOl – which is the art of performing percussion syllables vocally. Praveen and Jeeva in turn played and vocalized the syllables that added a new dimension to the concert. The tani with the konnakkOl has not happened for Sruti very often and the audience were mesmerized by this treat.

A pensive Rabindra Sangeet – mallikA bOnE in rAgamAlikA led to KanakadAsa’s bArO kriSnayyA started rounding out the lighter pieces of the concert. Given Shreya’s Lalgudi tradition, I was eagerly waiting for one of her gurus tillAnAs and was thrilled when the artists started playing the dES tillAnA – released initially in the Dance of Sound album by Lalgudi Jayaraman in 1978. This evergreen tillAnA definitely brought back memories and the artists offered a few rounds of elaboration to complete this lovely piece.

These four performers engaged the audience with a cozy and most pleasurable performance, leaving me feeling especially happy. The stitching together of these unique instruments and delivering such a class performance is a testament to their skill and musicality. Their camaraderie on stage only added to the enjoyment of the audience.

Dinakar Subramanian is a long-time resident of the Philadelphia area, an avid rasikA and musician and has served in various capacities on the SRUTI Board.