By Akhil Parambath
FRAMINGHAM, MA— Manitha Neyam Trust, a tax-exempt charity in the United States, held a successful musical event to help fund its charitable activities. Held at Joseph P Keefe Technical High School auditorium in Framingham, MA, the event was organized for the second year in a row for many music lovers in and around New England.
Founded in 1999, Manitha Neyam Trust helps and supports its projects in Sri Lanka, providing much needed assistance to the needy, especially children, the disabled and elders, usually the most disadvantaged stratum of any given society. .
This year’s program, aptly named Deepavali Tamizh Musical Treat, was a commendable function for its organization and attendance, all for a highly worthy cause. Foot tapping music from tamizh movies of arguably the most romantic era, carefully chosen and executed to perfection by AAROH Band, with an energized crowd in attendance, it was difficult to judge if the musicians were drawing inspiration from the crowd or the assembled audience was resonating with a commendable performance on the stage.
The gathering comprised of well over 250 members of the South Asian diaspora that calls these picturesque shores of New England, home away from home. Lilting numbers were warming up hearts and souls inside the auditorium, outside of the hall, great food was on offer to satiate the hunger, thanks to sumptuous donations from Sairuchira Bhojan and Janaki Mohan as well as hot beverages by Dosa Temple. Also there were plenty of ethnic accoutrements to upgrade one’s wardrobe. Collectively, these efforts raised nearly $15,000.
The proceedings of the evening commenced with a welcoming note by Suresh Sivasithamparam, who briefly covered the various initiatives undertaken by The Trust and how the funds raised by various means are effectively utilized for worthy causes.
Anu Chitrapu and Anuradha Warrier gracefully stepped in to host the event aplomb and with chutzpah, ensuring that each song and respective singer(s) got introduced with endearing banter, providing endless amusement to the audience. Together they compered the ‘tamizh’ program, even if the lingua franca for the evening, occasionally, was ‘tamil’.
When it comes to music, more often than not, individuals associate it to specific events or periods in their lives. It holds a certain bearing and entertainment value that is distinctly unique, hence, provide an entirely personal listening experience, often connecting with a certain part of their past. When the entertainment section of the evening commenced with that inimitable MSV composition, “ezhu swarangalukkul…”, the audience got transported to an ethereal world, on the wings of the silky voice of Uma Sankar. What a master stroke to begin the proceedings of the evening with… in seven heavenly swaras, countless moods have indeed been expressed all over the world. Joining hands with AAROH on stage was Pravin Sitaram, who needs no introduction to music lovers. Pravin’s mesmerizingly masterful ministrations on mridangam provided the fireworks. But, the audience got a pleasant surprise with introduction of a hidden talent, when Asha Manish played accompanying violin to this MSV signature, a ragamalika that also provided a big break for Vani Jayaram. Having picked up the violin for a stage performance after nearly fifteen years, we do certainly hope that those strings may never remain silent again.
What followed was a vibrant display of musical excellence with compositions by MSV, Ilayaraja and A R Rahman. The commendable song selection for the evening comprised of Unakkenna (Simla Special), Anubavam pudumai & Malarendru (Kadhalikka Neramillai), Rajavin paarvai (Anbe Vaa), Pon Ondru kanden (Padithaal Mattum poduma), Andi mazhai (Raaja Paarvai), Namma Ooru Singari & Engeyum eppodum (Ninaithalae inikkum), Udaya Udaya (Udhaya), Aduthathu ambujam (Ethir neechal), Naalai Inda vellai paarthu (Uyarntha Manidan), Chippi irukkuthu (Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu), Kaanukkul nooru nilava (Vedam puthithu), Oo La La La! Oohu la la la (Minsara Kanavu) and Kattu kuiyil (Dhalapathi). And singers brought their histrionic skills and mirth in their performances, without missing a single chord or beat. Particularly noteworthy was Sudha Rao’s enactment of the quintessential “Madras Mami”, replete with Sankar Gangaikondan’s perfect spoiler. Was that a real wad of precious dollar, wonder?
AAROH musicians have become familiar names for music lovers through their scintillating performances. Vasanth Murthy, Sudha (Lakshmi) Rao, Raghu Saranathan, Sankar Gangaikondan, Priya Anand, Uma Shankar have all carved their niche, with characteristic performances and signature styles. Introducing Shraddha Agrwal, the group proved that music knows no barriers of language and much to her credit, Shraddha’s diction was flawless, training ceaselessly with Vasanth. It is not unusual that the accompanists remain in the background, but their performance was exceptional and managed to steal the limelight with scintillating performances. The team comprising of Manish Kurup (Lead Guitar) Angshuman Parashar (Bass), Alden D’Souza & Nikhil Pendharkar (Keyboard), Sridhar Ganapuram (Drums), Bharat Lagu (Tabla) and Pravin Sitaram (Mridangam) enjoyed such chemistry with the singers that many songs were instinctively requested for encore performance and the troupe often complied with the audience’s demand. They went further and made the audience participate with chorus singing and it made for a memorable evening.
This note on Deepavali Musical Treat will not be complete without mentioning one aspect that filled the stage and made its presence felt, quite profoundly in silence. The stage decorations and special decorative lighting, befitting the festival of lights was aesthetically arranged much to the admiration of one and all and we have to thank profusely, Alankar Decorators and Shobha Shastry for an eyeful of magnificent display.
Jawed Wahid worked in the background to ensure that sound systems’ performance stayed on top, to ensure a smooth listening experience from the first chord to the last beat. Then there was the ubiquitous raffle that added some more fun to the evening, when the son picked his father as the winner, although not by design. Last, but certainly not the least, the youngsters as well as the family members of the AAROH band as also the entire team of organizers, strived hard to ensure that there was no stone left unturned in ensuring that the evening was a complete success in every respect.
A vote of thanks by Mano Shan summed up the evening’s efforts.
The evening also had the overhead projector playing visuals of Manitha Neyam Trust’s activities and some of the specific projects that derives support from these fund raising efforts. This was being played during the break in program for dinner. A friendly suggestion would be to make a presentation with the audience in attendance to make sure they are able to witness the true worth of their contribution. It might help further the cause of volunteer activism as well fund raising efforts. It is certain that there were many who were suitably impressed with the efforts of Manitha Neyam, silently praying for continued success of these projects as well as saying a vote of gratitude for an opportunity to keep the ‘diya’ of humanity aglow within.