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Every once in a while, you feel blessed. For those who were present for Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s concert at The Music Academy this week, this feeling visited them for sure during (& for a while after) this  concert.

Clad in his trademark white ‘sattai’, Sanjay and his team (S.Varadarajan – Violin, Neyveli B.Venkatesh – Mrudangam, Tripoonithura N Radhakrishnan – Ghatam) got the kutcheri off to a brisk and bright start.

The opening piece was a pleasant surprise – Sendil Aandavan in Kharaharapriya. Like a batsman who declares intent with the every first ball he faces, Sanjay’s song selection indicated he had a great concert plan in mind. BudhamaShrayaami followed and set the mood further for the concert.

The next ragam was Lathangi – which Sanjay opened with a lovely burst of alapanai. And Varadarajan ensured that the raganubhava created by Sanjay was maintained and embellished further by his violin interludes. Aparaadamu was received with much delight by the audience.

For the centerpiece of the concert – Sanjay chose Thodi. By this point, I was already delighted with the string of ragas chosen by Sanjay and most of the audience was in raptures anyway. Well, we hardly realized that things were going to get even better. Anyway: back to Thodi. Sanjay’s raga exploration is something that is steeped in classicism. There is more room for letting the listener soak in the overall feel of the raga. It is blissful when the singer is not compelled to include contrived phrases that only serve to show-off the singer’s voice culture and instead unravels the joys of each raga bit by bit. In this instance, when Sanjay was done with his patient and utterly satisfying Thodi alapanai, even Venkatesh on stage was compelled to join the applause.

 Endu Daagi followed – a rare choice and quite welcome too. The neraval phrases and swara singing were Sanjay at his best – especially the final chorvai.

It is pertinent to note that Sanjay’s perfect concert plan ensured that he allowed a good 50 minutes for the centerpiece before handing over proceedings to Venkatesh and Radhakrishnan for the thani avartanam. The percussion duo ensured that the tempo of the concert was maintained and delivered a great thani avartanam.

Mamava Jagadeeswara in Saraswathi Manohari – a rare Swati Tirunal kriti was a nice piece between Todi and the RTP. Yes, an RTP in one of the most beautiful of ragas  – Arabhi and Sanjay simply took that raga to the next level. Unlike the Thodi alapanai, the Arabhi alapanai was shorter. But the Thanam was where Sanjay completely communicated his class. Varadarajan was an able partner in the RTP – responding both with originality and adhering to the same style as Sanjay. The pallavi lyrics were:

“Kuzhal Inidu yazh Inidu enbaar
Tham aatkal mazhalai sol kellaadavar”

The concert ended with Raghavane Thaalelo and then a Viruttam followed by Naadi thedi. For those who love Sanjay’s music, his voice is something that is simply put – unique. There is an inherent feeling that there is thought and intelligence applied to every aspect of the music and a honest-to-goodness love for the music that comes through in a Sanjay concert. It’s like soul food – wholesome, comforting, delightful all rolled in one. People actually walked out of the concert hall – smiling and happy (after giving Sanjay a standing ovation of course!). Right from the Academy doors to the car park at St.Ebbas school, you could hear so many people appreciating perhaps one of the best concerts this season.

This concert was one of my favorites this Margazhi.