The Malladi brothers planned the concert to project their individual voices
If the medium tempo brings out the essence of Carnatic music better, then the Malladi brothers carried its spirit through their concert at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan festival. The singing duo intelligently sequenced compositions in ragas with contrasting profiles, individually delimiting the registers that suit each one. Sreeramprasad let his younger brother Ravikumar explore the upper notes, where he always sounded louder.
This was evident from the opening of the alapana in Ritigowla. An invocative viruttam has given way to the “Bale balendu bhushani” of Tyagaraja. The swaraprastara reveled in the ripples typical of bhakti-infused rakti raga, contrasting refreshingly with the lively “Manasa etulortune” that followed.
After this Malayamarutam play, the brothers proposed a niraval, choosing only the anupallavi for the lyrics. “Dinakara kulabhushani”, they later reasoned, highlighted the literary knot of telugu kriti (vis-à-vis the customary “Kalilo rajasa” in the charanam).
In the third sequel, Ravikumar took on an alapana that initially sounded like Shanmukhapriya but quickly woven into threads of Thodi and Subhapantuvarali. It turned out that Bhavapriya can be tricky not only for the listener but also for the musician. Singer and violinist HN Bhaskar deployed the kaleidoscopic quality of this 44th Melakarta raga, highlighting it further in another Tyagaja kriti, “Srikanta niyeda”.
A quick “Nadupai” reiterated Madhyamavati’s tenderness even as his meditation worked here like a load. Begada’s centerpiece carried the classicism of janya raga, with the brothers dividing the alapana into two halves and continuing to sing Muthuswami Dikshitar’s “Thyagarajaya namaste” in three-beat Rupaka tala. The duo looked a bit rushed and skipped the niraval, but gave Manoj Siva (mridangam) and Krishna Sriram (ghatam) a good chance to show off their skills in a well-proportioned and crisp thani. Overall, the package lasted 45 minutes in a two and a quarter hour program.
When the brothers sing together, their sound acquires a calming quality. This feature appeared in the upcoming kriti, granted to the Kalavati raga by their father Malladi Suri Babu. With its Chakravakam affiliation, Bhadrachalam Ramadasu’s ‘Bhalira vairagyamento’ ushered in a morning glory streak for the evening show.
This was followed by Chenchurutti, moving the drone from tampura to madhyama sruti. “Ethanai thaan sonnalum” by 19th century composer Neelakanta Sivan resonated with the flavor of Harikamboji-born raga, often used in folk songs.
The concluding song entered with gusto Jhonpuri, usually showing potential for the vocals to cross up to the upper octave. ‘Pahipahimam paramakripalo’ (Narayana Tirtha Tarangam) carried the touch of the brothers’ mentor, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, who brought him into tune. Even the mangalam in some parts sounded quite as it did when rendered by the guru.