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Sunday, 22 April 2012





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Swaranjali 2012:

A classical Sitar concert : Spring's fragrance of classical music

Coupled with academic acumen and versatility in performance, Dr. Nirmala Kumari Rodrigo's performance at the Swaranjali 2012 was a demonstration of peerless talent and the applications of diverse techniques with characteristic Gayaki quality. A unique feature of her performance was her ability to exploit the intrinsic properties of the Sitar.

Dr. Nirmala Kumari Rodrigo

As a proponent of the purest classical tradition, her performance was a model to an informed audience at the Lionel Wendt theatre. The audience was contrast to that which attracted by cheap publicity gimmicks. It was, indeed, a memorable evening of classical music rarely offered for Sri Lankan concert goers.


A prominent feature of Swaranjali 2012 solo Sitar concert by Dr. Nirmala Kumari Rodrigo was that it was a rare musical treat for Sri Lankan concert goers. As a leading exponent of pure classical music, Dr. Nirmala Kumari's performance was an object lesson. She, besides employing her vast knowledge on music and experience as a classical Sitarist, has exploited intricate notes manifesting the intrinsic properties of the Ragas such as Hemant and Charukeshi.

One of the significant aspects of her performance was though she made improvisations within the ragas, she has not compromised the fundamentals of them thus preserving the living tradition for the posterity. The difficult role of accompanying artist was masterly played by Pundit Paban Bordoloi, A-Grade Staff Artiste (Tabla Maestro), All India Radio.

The concert commenced with the rag Hemant. First, the main component of the rag; Alap, Jode, Jhala were played set to Vilamba Teen Taal (Slow tempo) and then Drutha Teen Taal (medium tempo) and ended with Jhala set to Athi Drutha (Fast tempo).

Raga Hemant is one of fascinating ragas and the raga is attributed to Ustad Alauddin Khan. Dr.Nirmala Kumari Rodrigo, who is an academic and proponents of purest form of Hindustani classical music, virtually exploited each and every feature of the rag Hemant.

Her ability to derive the classical mood of the rag Hemant is principally due to her application of techniques.


Sri Paban Bordoloi

A prominent feature of her performance is her sheer mastery in diverse techniques. For instance, her playing Sitar with Gayaki quality is really a difficult task.

This unique property of her performance is primarily due to her mastery of techniques particularly fingering on her left hand (using master techniques) which is being supported by her right hand movements.

When she plays melodic phrases or elaborations in fast tempo (Tana Alankara), she uses her right-hand movements which are known in playing Sitar as Da, Diri, and Dara with gusto.

Powerful strokes

Her powerful strokes by her right hand are unique to her and prominent due to this collaboration in playing melodic phrases or elaboration in fast tempo and the characteristic Gayaki right through the performance. Success of a classical performer is much due to the ability of the performer is Sat Sangat, to be in total harmony with the tablist.

Paban Bordoloi who accompanied her on Tabla contributed to the successful employing of techniques such as Sat Sangat. They virtually redefined the atmosphere at Lionel Wendt with such exemplary knack of Sat Sangat.

Her powerful strokes are hallmarks of the performance which virtually characterise her unique style of playing Sitar. Although she plays the Sitar with her tender fingers, her strokes are so powerful that no audience has ever witnessed in any of the male performers.

With an indepth knowledge of Raga and Taala and steep in the tradition with an unshakable devotion, Dr. Nirmala Kumari Rodrigo stirred the evening with a course trodden by great musicians such as Nikhil Benerjee and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan .

Mastery of techniques

She demonstrated her ability to reach any height in theory and practice with her soft touch on the strings and with her unique Gayaki Style. To be present in an informed audience particularly at this moment I felt as an extremely pleasurable experience that one would linger in memory for years to come. Her mastery in the employment of techniques was prominent throughout the concert in general and in maintaining perfect harmony with the Tabla in particular.

It is obvious that the technique or the melodic interaction between the main performer and the tablist cannot be achieved without an in-depth knowledge of Tala.

It should be noted that melodic interaction may occur among the short and delicate gap of a couple of notes. Dr.Nirmala Kumari's success as a performer is due to such factors.

The techniques are intensively employed in Paran, Tihai and Chakradar, different types of Tabla boles (Compositions of syllabic) composed and played according to a mathematical calculations. She skilfully manipulates the Sitar in techniques such as Chikari , the last string of a Gatkari instrument, (the North Indian plucking instruments) and in playing Jhala. Dr. Nirmala engages in a relative elaboration to Alap and Jhala patterns which have sprang from Chanda,Prabanda and Drupad . She is a performer who always strives to keep up the autonomous nature of Hindustani classical music and also stick to Indian form or indigenous motifs of Hindustani classical music. She is also aware of the religious-sacrificial element in Hindustani classical music.

The audience had the joy and the privilege of listening to a performer and an academic of dignity, a credit which an informed audience would like to attribute only to Dr. Nirmala Kumari Rodrigo among the Sri Lankan sitarists as she is the proponent of the purest classical tradition of music without compromising fundamentals under the guise of fusion or concerts organised under advertising slogans such as ragas from Planet Mars, ragas from Florida, ragas from Jupiter.

Evening Raga

The next Rag that Dr.Nirmala Kumari played was rag Charukeshi (The lady with soft hair).

The rag was commenced with Alap and then moved on to a taal Char Taalki Swari ( 11 beats taal ) set to Madya laya (medium tempo) and moved to Drutha teen taal (fast tempo). Though it is attributed to Carnatic tradition, raga Charukeshi is known as a late night raga.

The final segment of the performance was a Dhun, a light classical piece was played as the concluding section of the concert. Dhun is made up of two segments; Tumri and Dhun.

Dhun was an appropriate ending for a solo Sitar performance which concluded on a pleasant note. It was a musical feast for the audience. The right mood for the performance was made with Sanskrit stanza sung by Dr. Nirmala with her enigmatic voice with a wider tonal range.


A special feature of the concert was the accompanying artist Pundi Paban Bordoloi , A-Grade Staff Artiste (Tabla Maestro), All India Radio.

A significant aspect of Sitar recital is the degree of freedom it offers for the accompanying artiste as well as the player for improvisations. Improvisation makes up an important part of the recital.

In teeka, a segment for improvisations before the first note (sum) of the taal, Paban Bordoloi played his improvisations while Dr. Nirmala Kumari kept on playing the gaat (primary composition of the raga). Specialty of Pundit Paban Bordoloi is his soft and sweet playing of the Tabla. His versatility in the Tabla was demonstrated by the very fact that played even the most difficult compositions (11 beats) without ever looking at the Tabla with a masterly due to life-long dedication and practice. He stands out for his technically perfect Tabla strokes.



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