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ChimataMusic’s Ilaiyaraja Musical Conert: A Big Success!!
Ramana Idury, Silicon Valley CA (06/17/10)
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A musical concert, honoring the living legend, Maestro Ilaiyaraja, was performed at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple Auditorium in Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley, California) on the evening of Sunday, June 13, 2010. This is the third of the series of nostalgic musical concerts being organized by the founder of ChimataMusic.com, Srinivasa Rao Chimata, honoring the music directors of the "Golden Era" of Telugu Film music (the first two were held in the honor of music directors, Sathyam and K. V. Mahadevan in June 2009 and November 2009 respectively). The event was promoted Raghu Malladi (of PravasVani) with additional sponsoring support from Ravi Tax Services, Madras Cafe and Madras Groceries, Dental Solutions, Serene Dental, India Sale & Match Mantra, India Plaza, Channel Real Estate, Shree Travels, Namaste India, Hot Breads, Biryani Bowl, and Koumudi.net. The food during the dinner time was catered by the Peacock Indian Cafe and Cuisine and the local Telugu Radio stations (PravasVani, Virijallu and TeluguAM) were the media partners. Phani Mahavratayajula and Sanjeev Jain of StunningCaputures.com wonderfully handled all HD Video Shooting and Still Photography during the whole four hour long event.

"Malli Malli Idi Raani Roju" (A day that doesn’t repeat) is the name of the event and aptly represents its unique appeal. This concert is by far the best of the series on many counts and indeed a unique blend of talent coming from all corners of the world. First, we had the renowned playback singer Mallikharjun, who is also a great stage dancer, traveling all the way across the globe from Chennai, India just for this show. Tollywood has gone Hollywood on this night with the presence of a virtuoso saxophonist Ramesh Maraj, who has performed for such celebrities as Manoj Night Shyamalan and Ram Gopal Varma. Two female lead singers, the famous Hyderabad nightingale sisters, Shilpa and Deepika Uppuluri (of Geetam.com) travelled all the way from Atlanta, Georgia and Dayton, Ohio respectively just for this show. The other female lead singer Sarada Akunuri, who also happens to be a radio jockey, an anchor, and a secretary of the Houston's Telugu Cultural Association, traveled from Houston, Texas.

The out-of-town singers were also paired with some of the best local singers: Sudha Sastry who has the unique distinction of singing in all three ChimataMusic concerts; Narayanan Raju who has just stepped into films with a song from the recently released movie, Prasthanam; and Vamsi Nadella who is also a key organizer of the whole event.

Finally, what gives life to the concert is the presence of a Live Orchestra. The musicians are the best of the best from the Bay Area, many of whom have been members of the ChimataMusic family from the first concert itself. Krishnamurthy "Kishmu" Kalvai and Nagaraj Varadharajan make a formidable duo on keyboards. Ilaiyaraja, who started his career as a guitarist made extensive use of the instrument in his compositions. To this end, two guitarists, Farhan Mohamed (Bass Guitar) and Renison Macwan(Melody Guitar), were included. Ashwin Krishnakumar (Flute) and Ramesh Maraj (Saxophone) round out the melody group.

On the percussion side, Arun "Caddy" Narasimhan (Pads/Drums) and Rajagopal Iyer (Congos) took care the contemporary rhythm while the pair of Balaji Mahadevan (Dholak/Table/Tavil/Mridangam) and Sathyan Vaidyanathan (Tabla) provided the traditional rhythm. This group of musicians are considered among best of the best on the west coast. The singer Mallikarjun himself complimented that this is the best orchestra he has hitherto worked with (in the USA), next to SP Balu's Orchestra.

A total of twenty five songs were played ranging from classical songs such as "Andela Ravamidi" to fast beat songs such as "Jigi Jigi Jigija"; and from soft melodies such as "Janaki Kalaganaledu" to racy tunes such as "Sande Poddulakada". To add some variety and also to honor Ilaiyaraja’s roots, a full Tamil song was played ("Rakkama" from Dalapathi) and another song ("Ninnukori Varnam") was switched midway from Telugu to Tamil. The audience was also enthralled by stage dancing from Mallikharjun, for most of Chiranjeevi songs and also solo saxophone performance from Ramesh Maraj during the dinner break.

The program started with a prayer by Himaja Movva. Vijaya Aasuri, the main anchor of the event, took the stage and requested the audience to observe a minute of silence in honor of legendary lyricist Sri Veturi Sundararama Murthy who passed away the last month. The "Jyothi Prajwalanam" (lighting of the lamp) was done by Dr. Kumar Gadamasetti, CEO of Delphian Pharmaceuticals, who commented that concerts like this should inspire the second generation Indians to become cultural ambassadors for our music. It was followed by an introductory speech on Ilaiyaraja's bio-data by KiranPrabha (the editor of an online Telugu monthly, Koumudi.net).

Vijaya Aasuri introduced the famous Hyderabad nightingale sisters, Shilpa and Deepika abd they both received a wide acclaim for their singing prowess. Following the tradition, the show started with a devotional song "Om NamahSivaya" from Sagara Sangamam by Shilpa, the older of the nightingale sisters. Balaji on Mridangam provided a glimpse of all the excellent rhythm that was going to follow throughout the concert.

Vijaya Aasuri then gave a special introduction to Mallikharjun, who came all the way from India just for this show. She said he is not only an accomplished playback singer but a great stage dancer as well. To set stage for the next song, a duet, she also introduced Sarada Akunuri as an accomplished singer.

Malli, as Mallikharjun likes to be called, and Sarada sang the catchy "Sandepoddula KaaDa" from Abhilasha, a movie that started out a series of hits in the Ilaiyraja-Chiranjeevi combination. Malli jokingly said he couldn’t help dancing whenever he sang a Chiranjeevi song and promptly started his trademark stage dancing to an applause from the audience.

After Malli and Shilpa finished with the melody "Priya Priyathama Ragalu" from Killer, Vijaya introduced Sudha Sastry (one of the best local singers and the only one who has sung for all three ChimataMusic concerts) to pair up with Malli for a very nice song "Manchu Kurise VeLalo" from Abhinandana. Another local singer Vamsi Nadella joined Sarada for the title song "Erragulabi Virisinadi" from Erragulabeelu. Nagaraj showed his awesome keyboard talent in the interludes of this song.

Deepika, the younger nightingale sister, took the stage with Malli for the song "Maata Rani Mounamidi" from Maharshi. She was joined by the last singer of the show, Narayan Raju, for another melody "Balapam patti Bhama BaLlo" from Bobbili Raja. Both of them did an awesome job and got a big round of applause from the audience. Viajaya Aasuri along with her co-anchor, Kalyan Kattamoori entertained the audience with their quiz questions of the Ilaiyaraja movies/songs related trivia throughout the show.

The next song is one of the masterpieces of Ilaiyaraja’s compositions. It is also one of the few songs by the greatest female duo of south Indian film songs -- P. Susheela and S. Janaki. The song "Thamthana Thamthana ThaLalamlo" from Kotta Jeevitalu requires a great coordination between the two singers and with no doubt, the nightingale sisters did full justice to it. One could see the great chemistry between them and Srinivas Chimata mentioned that he had specifically selected this song just for the sake of the sisters.

Sudha sang her solo of the concert, "Ninnukori Varnam" from Gharshana. When she switched midway from Telugu to Tamil the audience, especially from the Tamil section, clapped in appreciation. Caddy also showed his mettle with a range of complex drum beats for this song.

Sarada and Malli paired up for another Chiranjeevi hit, "Subhalekha Raasukunna" from Kondaveeti Donga. This is one of the fast beat melodies of Ilaiyaraja and required a great deal of coordination between the melody group (mainly keyboards and guitars) and the contemporary percussion duo and all musicians stood up to challenge as they did for many other songs throughout the concert.

Malli and Shilpa followed it up with another Chiranjeevi hit, "Arey Emaindi" from Aaradhana. The chorus for this song was rendered by Deepika, Vamsi, Narayanan and Prasad Mangina. This was followed by one of the classic melodies, "Minneti Sooreedu" from Seetakoka Chiluka by Sarada and Vamsi. They both did such an excellent job that Srinii said on stage that they both "Iraga deesaru" (Telugu slang for "they rocked")!

Deepika and Malli took the stage with a fast and racy song "Jigi Jigi Jigija" from Chettu Kinda Pleader. This was followed by a solo by Sarada "Nuvvadigindi Enadaina" from one of Ilaiyaraja’s early movies "Vayasu Pilichindi".

As customary with all ChimataMusic concerts, the theme song of the concert was played just before the dinner break. Malllik and Shilpa sang the melodious duet "Malli Malli Idi Raani Roju" from the movie Rakshasudu.

This was not a usual dinner break though!! As people were relaxing eating their dinner, the Karaoke track of "Hello Guru" from Nirnayam suddenly started playing on the stage. Before they realized what was going on, Ramesh Maraj, the renowned saxophonist with Hollywood roots, jolted the audience from the back of the stage, playing the lyric (vocal) part on his saxophone! As he walked around the hall playing on his saxophone people were awestruck by his ease and grace! He followed this with the soulful "O Priya Priya" from Geetanjali to conclude the dinner break. This unexpected and pleasant saxo performance turned out to be one of the best memories for the audience.

After the break, Narayanan and Shilpa started off with "Kinnerasani Vachchindamma" from Sitara. Their perfect rendering of the song was equally matched on flute by Ashwin, the "Chaurasia" of Bay area. The traditional percussions by Satya and Balaji (Tabla, Dholak and Dafli) were the main asset of this song. Before moving on to the next song (which happens to be her solo performance in the show), Deepika said it was one of her most favorite songs and one could see why. She sang "Raanela Vasanthale" from Dance Master with such emotion found in the original.

Malli and Sarada came back to the stage for another Chiranjeevi hit, "Yamaho Nee Yama Yama Andam" from JVAS. It is interesting to note that all duets sung by this pair are Chiranjeevi hits which required lot of energy (physically as well in the case of dancing Malli!!) and they did full justice to it. Some of the audience (BATA President Srilu Veligeti and another BATA volunteer, Kiran Vinnakota) joined them on the stage as well dancing along with Malli.

After energizing the audience with Yamaho song, Malli decided to relax them a bit with a soothing melody and sang "Keeravani.. Chilakalaa" from Anveshana along with Shilpa. Narayanan provided the important chorus humming for this song.

Narayanan and Shilpa have kept their best for the next song. The song "Andela Ravamidi" from Swarnakamalam is a 7-minute long classical song requiring a lot of variations of the tune and also perfect rendering of Sanskritam. They did full justice to it. The traditional rhythm duo of Balaji and Satya also got a chance to show their prowess in this classical piece.

Sudha and Vamsi came back to the stage for their final appearance with the melody "Janaki Kalaganaledu" from Rajkumar. Kishmu and Naragaj showed their keyboard magic in this song. Mallik and Sarada followed it up with their last Chiranjeevi hit, "Induvadana Kundaradana" from Challenge. This is one of the songs that needed the full coordination between the melody and rhythm groups and all of them did an awesome job. Malli then brought a child prodigy, Amrutha Turlapati (4) on to the stage and she wonderfully sang the song, Maate Mantramo from Seethakoka Chiluka with an impromptu orchestration to the song by the musicians. Every one in the auditorium was just in awe with Amrutha's awesome talent and the hall reverberated with a big round of applause for her.

What is an Ilaiyaraja’s concert without a Tamil song? Mallikarjun, who originally hails from Vizag but settled in Chennai, decided to connect with the Tamil speaking audience and promised them with a Rajanikanth hit. Deepika joined him and together they enthralled the audience with the popular "Adi Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu" from Dalapathi. Again it was keyboard magic by Kishmu and Nagaraj by almost replicating the orginiality of 75 violins that were used in the orginal orchestration of the song into just two key boards and Caddy nicely complemented them with awesome percussion beats.

Narayanan came back to the stage for his solo "Jagada Jagada Jagadam" from Geetanjali where the Uppuluri sisters provided him the chorus. Narayanan did a very good job with this cheerful voice that aptly suited to this song.

It is almost time for the end but the energetic Malli was not done yet! He walked to the musicians and appeared to make "some special dealing" with them. He started off on high pitch with the song "O Muthyamalle Merisipoye" from Vayasu Pilichindi, reminding us every bit off of Kamal Hassan! As he started singing a whole of section of audience got excited too and joined him with dancing on the stage. This is also one of the few songs where all ten musicians had a huge part to play. Malli got down the stage during the interludes of this song and brought Srinivas Chimata up to the stage and made him dance for a few seconds for this grand finale song. When the original song part was concluded the musicians did not stop and went on for an extra two minutes of energetic music to go along with the dancing!! Balaji's Dafli beat is still haunting when you think about this song.

All great things come to an end and this was no exception. This show has exceeded all the high expectations set because of the previous two shows from the ChimataMusic banner. Srini, the perfectionist that he is, has again set a very high bar not only for others but for himself as well!

There was an Ilaiyaraja Songs' singing competition that was held from 1: 00 PM until 4: 00 PM and almost 45 contestants parcipated in the event. Padma Viswanadha along with her daughter, Sruti Viswanadha beautifully anchored the whole competition event. After the grand finale song was over, the winners in the singing competition (Sub-Junior: Amrutha Turlapati, Shreya Buddhavarapu and Shriya Araveeti; Junior: Navyamaitri Konda, Poojitha Dasika and Nitya Kasturi; Senior: Karthi Nooli, Sailaja Bhagavathula and Srinivas Varanasi) were presented the mementoes by Mallikarjun. Srini Chimata, Sarada Akunuri and Mallikarjun together presented the mementoes to all singers, musicians and sponsors.

Srinivas Chimata, in his vote of thanks note, cordially thanked all the event organizers (Vamsi Nadella, Prasad Mangina, Ramana Idury and Masthan Rao Chimata) and volunteers (Subbu Vadali, Chakrapani Innamuri, Surendera Gyanmote, Sreekanth Godey, Srinivas Thirunagari, Bhaskar Bandikallu, Viswanadham Bokkisam, Satya Vatti, Babu Movva, Dheeru Puligadda, Naresh Maddimsetty, Janardhan Ammisetty, Ravi Gubbala, Sriram Gundu, Kamesh Gottumukkala, Alwal Reddy Putta, Veera Swamy Dadi, Srinivas Ramisetti, Ranadheer Reddy, Prasad Durvasula, Reddiah Prathipati and Veerababu Prattipati). Srini expressed special thanks to the editors of Koumudi.net, Dileep Kondiparthi (of Silicon Andhra) and the BATA committee. He finally thanked all singers, musicians and anchors for making the concert

Special Attractions of the event:
* Live Orchestra with ten awesome local musicians
* Presence of the singer Mallikarjun along with Shilpa, Deepika, Sarada, Sudha, Narayanan and Vamsi
* Ramesh Maraj's mind-boggling solo saxo performances during the dinner-break
* Amrutha Turlapati's (a four year old little angel) impromptu cute performance of Maate Mantromo song with the live band
* Ilaiyaraja's 10 ft. taller cut-outs (three of them) and a gallery setup with Ilaiyaraja's rarely available pictures (about 100 pictures)
* Cheerful anchoring of Vijaya Aasuri

List of the songs performed:
1. Om Namassivaya (Saagara Sangamam) by Shilpa Uppuluri
2. Sande Poddula Kaada (Abhilasha) by Mallikarjun and Sarada Akunuri
3. Priyaa Priyatama Raagaalu (Killer) by Mallikarjun and Shilpa Uppuluri
4. Manchu Kurise Velalo (Abhinandana) by Mallikarjun and Sudha Sastry
5. Erra Gulaabee Virisindi (Erra Gulaabeelu) by Vamsi Nadella and Sarada Akunuri
6. Maata Raani Mounamidi (Maharshi) by Mallikarjun and Deepika Uppuluri
7. Balapam Patti Bhama Vallo (Bobbili Raja) by Narayanan Raju and Deepika Uppuluri
8. Tamtana Tananam Taalamlo (Kotha Jeevithalu) by Shilpa Uppuluri and Deepika Uppuluri
9. Ninnu Kori Varnam (Gharshana) by Sudha Sastry
10. Subhalekha Raasukunnaa (Kodaveeti Donga) by Mallikarjun and Sarada Akunuri
11. Are Emaindi (Aaradhana) by Mallikarjun and Shilpa
12. Minneti Sureedu (Seethakoka Chiluka) by Vamsi Nadella and Sarada Akunuri
13. Jigi Jigi Jaa (Chettu Kinda Pleader) by Mallikarjun and Deepika Uppuluri
14. NuvvaDigindi Enadaina (Vayasu Pilichindi) by Sarada Akunuri
15. Mallee Mallee Idi Raani Roju (Rakshasudu) by Mallikarjun and Shilpa Uppuluri

Dinner Break

a. Solo Saxophone Performance of Hello Guru song (Niryayam) by Ramesh Maraj
b. Solo Saxophone Performance of O Priyaa Priyaa song (Geethanjali) by Ramesh Maraj

16. Kinnerasaani Vachindamma (Sitaara) by Narayanan Raju and Shilpa Uppuluri
17. Raanela Vasantaale (Dance Master) by Deepika Uppuluri
18. Yamaho Nee Yama Yama (JVAS) by Mallikarjun and Sarada Akunuri
19. Keeravani.. Chilakalaa (Anveshana) by Mallikarjun and Deepika Uppuluri
20. Andela Ravamidi (Swarna Kamalam) by Narayanan Raju and Shilpa Uppuluri
21. Janaki Kalaganaledu (Raja Kumar) by Vamsi Nadella and Sudha Sastry
22. Induvadana Kundaradana (Challenge) by Mallikarjun and Sarada Akunuri
23. Adi Rakkamma Kaiyya Thattu (Tamil song from Dalapathi)
24. Jagada Jagada Jagadam (Geetanjali) by Narayanan Raju and Deepika/Shilpa Uppuluri
25. Mabbe Masakesindile (Grand Finale song from Vayasu Pilichindi)

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