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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.