If ever there was one musician (or magician) whose concert I did not want to miss, this Margazhi season, it was Dasettan’s (as Gana Gandharvan Padmashree Dr. Kattassery Joseph Yesudas is fondly called).
The concert which took place in Raja Annamalai Mandram (Parrys, Chennai) was organized by “Tamil Isai Mandram”, which meant only Tamil songs could be sung, thus eliminating thousands of krithis by the “Mummorthigal” right away.
Dasettan offered a complete package to the audience who had turned out in large numbers in the huge auditorium hall.
He started with “Omkara Porule Ayngaraney” in Hamsavinodhini raagam, setting the stage on fire and making just the perfect start for the evening.
This song was followed by appetizers, the not-so-well-known songs, which included “En Gurunathar”, “Arul Purivai”, “Sangeethamey”, “Unnai Ninaippavarkku”, “Sindhanai Sei”, “Nalladhai ninai” and the likes.
Then came the “Main Course”, starting with Papanasam Sivan’s popular song, “Ka Va Va” in Varali raagam.
He pepped up the concert by giving some gyan and interacting with the audience in between, like he always does. For example, when he had once told an Englishman that Carnatic Music has 72 scales in total (the melakartha raagams), the guy had stood up instinctively in awe. In another instance, he showed the audience what is the best way to practice a raagam, taking examples of Kanakaangi and Rasikapriya (the first and last Melakartha raagams).
The second half of the concert witnessed Dasettan render some evergreen numbers, as the audience watched indefatigably. My day was made when he sang “En Nenjil Pallikondavan”, my personal favorite.
Few people from the audience stood up and requested Dasettan to sing their favorites. He funnily remarked, “Ungalukku laan veedu poga vendaama? (Don’t you all want to go back home?)”. It was well past 10 pm. He did heed to few of their (our) requests and sung “Enna Varam Ketten” and “Thiruppaarkadalil Palli Kondaye”.
Just like how a perfect meal is incomplete without a dessert, Dasettan’s concert is incomplete without Harivarasanam. With Harivarasanam and “Jaya Vande Mataram”, he put to rest a concert which exceeded 3 hours. That’s SOMETHING for a 73 year “young” singer.
Dasettan’s style of singing appeals to all types of people – people who sing, people who know music and people who don’t.
To quote him,
“Very often I feel the pull of strong, diverse forces. One, the ordinary listener, who insists that I should not turn complex during my concerts and the other, who coaxes me to become more elaborate and intricate. I have tried to adopt a style and method that satisfies both.”
He’s being humble when he says “tried to adopt…”. He has mastered the art of singing that appeals both to the nonchalant listener as well as the music critic who doesn’t hesitate to pass lacerating remarks.
Dasettan says, “I have always believed that any artiste should stop, the moment he senses that his audiences no longer want him”. For Dasettan though, that “moment” is never going to come, I am sure.