Krishna Guha
- Merrie Brantseg, Minneapolis
Photos: Sriram Pidaparti

December 8, 2009 

The ‘Krishna Guha’ concert on November 25, 2009 was originally planned to be held at the home of Pratap and Prema Mysore in Plymouth, Minnesota, who had graciously intended to host the event but the RSVP response was so overwhelming, they had to move it to the Hindu Mandir in order to accommodate the scheduled music / dinner concert.

Nirmala Rajasekar on the veena was centered like a jewel in the middle of the violinist and four percussionists, surrounded by a wall of sound. There were two featured visiting artistes from India: Raghavendra Rao on violin, Tanjore Murugaboopathi on mridangam. Sriram Natarajan performed on kanjira along with Balaji Chandran on ghatam and Marcus Wise had been invited to lend his talent on tabla. 

Everyone in the uncertain times we live in is affected by daily reports of gloom / doom / loss and war. Many have no outlet for their feelings or a place to keep the emotions from festering…if there is no place for expression, the feelings can then turn into despair and illness of body and spirit. Music is a wonderful way to unleash pent up energies and I dare say I witnessed some of that during the performance. Few vainakas use the lowest string to such great advantage and fluidity as Nirmala did during the Ragam Thanam section prior to the Tamil song Ka Va Va. Her fingers told stories open to interpretation through tones, inflections and rhythms - it felt to me as if she released much through her playing that evening. My husband Steve compared the violin for this section sounding at times like beams of light dancing on water. I found the violinist to be most technically accomplished as he shadowed Nirmala’s veena but was not finding myself moved by him as emotionally as was Steve. In this particular concert, veena aside, I was completely under the spell of the rhythm section. The guys appeared to be having so much fun and I believe I saw the normally very sober faced Marcus Wise actually crack a rare smile during the performance. The drummers took us for an amazing ride in rhythms with vigorous energy, coordination, and force along with continual sound dynamics.

By my tally, Nirmala did approximately 11 compositions and as Kannan informed me later, most of them were Tamizh in origin- they were in praise of Lords Krishna and Murugan. Mentionable highlights of the evening were compositions by Tyagaraja: Samaja Vara Gamana; Ragam: Hindolam. Papanasam Sivan: Senthil Andavan, Ragam: Kharaharapriya. It was fascinating to hear an instrumental interpretation of Minnesota based composer Sriram Pidaparthi’s composition in praise of the presiding deity of this Mandir: Varadaraja (Vishnu) in the Ragam: Saraswathi.

By the end of the concert, people with children long past their bedtimes had already departed for home and the rest of us found our way to the dining hall. The place was freezing; however, the food was hot and delicious and the company was excellent.

All in all, a very satisfying evening of Krishna Guha.

Merrie Brantseg has been to Chennai twice during the season and cares deeply about Carnatic music