Unity in diversity 
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur 
e-mail: padmajayaraj@gmail.com 

September 7, 2008 
At a time when divisive politics rule our land, artists choose to send a strong message of finding harmony in an apparent assortment that is India. Thalam organized two musical evenings that send the message, "unity in diversity," recently in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala.
The Rhythm, conceived, designed and directed by Soorya Krishnamoorthy, is a fusion of the vocal and the visual that projects the great dream of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation. A group of 55 artists, dancers and percussionists, showcased a mega spectacle.

The performance began with the evocative prayer, "Raghupathy Raghava raja raam...." that set the tone and tenor of a religious India with its multiplicity of faiths and beliefs. It also highlighted the ironic dimension we find ourselves in, today, here. A fusion of contemporary and traditional dance followed. Dancers in different costumes represented the regional diversity of our motherland, expressed through different dress codes. Dance in different styles, folk, classical, and contemporary, attuned to the same rhythmic pattern displayed the spirit of India flowing through the ages. 

Contemporary dance that reminded one of the movements of martial arts and the poise of yoga was a befitting opening. Gujarati folk dance, side by side with Kathak performers was an inspiring jugalbandhi. Mohiniattam and Bharatanatayam gave the same meaning in different formats. Characters from ritual performances like Padayani, Theyyam and the classical Kathakali showcased the same spirit, yet so different in form: the body language special; artistic presentation singular. 
Sandwiched between visuals came a musical interlude of violin recital by Attukal Balasubramanian. Here too, the focus was more on rhythm.
A percussion concert followed another visual performance.  Attukal Balasubraanian played the role of the conductor. A fusion of Carnatic, Hindustani, and Western Classical blended. Western keyboard (Jijith), Chenda (Mattanoor Sankaran kutty), Thavil, (karunamoorthy) Mridangam, (Mahesh) and Drums (Malamuri Sasi) vibrated in the deepening twilight. 
The grand spectacle was a kaleidoscope that showed the nuances of the same life we lead in India. The heart of India beat in the same pulse, show the same cadence. 
If The Rhythm was a mega event, spectacular and loud that subdued the senses, Saptaswara Sudha, two days later, was a different show. From a rhythmic backdrop, music came to the fore, music evocative, soft and soul stirring. Organized by Sopanam and Thalam, clubs that promote culture in Kerala, it was an innovative attempt to enhance the awareness of the lay audience. 
The event had two segments, classical and film songs. The classical part lead by Dr. Sreevalsan introduced a classical raga. A lecture-demo followed. He began with a varnam, "ninnu kori..." in raga Mohanam, adi thalam. Then he spoke on its main features, its history, its folk strains. He also showed how raga Mohanam is found in European, Korean and Japanese music. In Hindustani, the same is known as Bhupali. That all these strains are variants of the same raga was an eye-opener. It acquires a divine aura which is close to a revelation for lay audience.
With Sreerekha, Dr. Satheesh Bhatt, a well-known playback singer focused on film songs, supported by Trans Orchestra. They sang all time hits based in Mohana ragam. Instead of singing the entire song, they sang the beginnings of many hits evoking memories thorough melodies that music lovers carry in their hearts. And they chose film songs from Malayalam, Tamil, and Hindi. Once again the information on how film songs take only one feature or the soul and spirit of a particular raga or some time mix different ragas to create a thing of beauty, brought in a different wakefulness and appreciation. From classical to popular, from folk to standard versions, melody scaled up and down. The rendering established how light music has become a genre enjoyed by all and sundry.

The concert showcased Sree raga, Hindolam, Kamboji, Sindhu Bhairavi, Neelambari, Kapi and Brindavanasaranga.
The focus, ragam Kalyani, was presented in a different way. Film songs based in Kalyani created a receptive mood to the understanding of its classical features. Its Hindustani counterpart Yaman, and film songs in Hindi, was a treat. A jugalbandhi followed between violin (Edappally Ajith) and flute (Rison) that stilled the mind. Then came thaniyavarthanam by the percussionists. The prismatic effect was superb. Music flowed like sunrays through a prism: each instrument giving a different tone to the same note. And all hearts beat in unison. 
The film songs ranged from lullabies to romantic; devotional to sorrowful ones. The melodious evening evoked all moods known to the human mind and played with all emotions known to human hearts revealing how the spirit of music belongs to a realm far above human reach. Here is divinity so near yet above, that the human soul aches and longs for it. 
The fusion program ended with janaganamana.... The event was an invocation to our motherland. 

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com