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North American Melharmonic Orchestra (NAMO) makes mark at Cleveland Tyagaraja Festival
DALLAS, April 2: The 36th Annual Cleveland Tyagaraja festival hosted the premiere concert of the historic North American Melharmonic Orchestra (NAMO) to a packed house at the Waetjen Auditorium, featuring 45 artistes from the U.S. and Canada.

NAMO - a unique blend of artistes trained in Western Classical, Carnatic, Hindustani as well as Jazz, received an overwhelming response from the 1000-plus listeners assembled from all over the continent. Legends such as Sangita Kalanidhis Prof Trichy Sankaran and Shri Trichur Ramachandran as well as numerous other top-level musicians, dancers and connoisseurs were among the listeners.

Conducted by founder Chitravina N Ravikiran, the group, comprising
27 voices, Western and Indian violins, Cello, Trumpet, Clarinet, Guitar, Piano,
Saxophone, Chitravinas, Sitar, Mrdangams and Tabla, presented 6 compositions
based on the theme "Tyagaraja the Traveller".
The concert opened with "Varada navaneetasha" with an appetising prelude by Western violins and Cello in
Ragapanjaram, followed by a crisp rendition of the krti by the vocalists. In the composition "Neevanti daivamunu" (Todi), the brief prelude as well as interlude played by Western artistes projected a different flavor of this majestic raga that contrasted with the Carnatic gamakas brought out by the Indian voices and instruments. It was quite an innovative approach to use sitar and tabla artistes to play a prelude along with the clarinet for another popular Carnatic raga, Kalyani before "Nammi vachina", a part of Tyagaraja's Kovur pancharatna krti.
When the artistes performed "Narasimha" (Bilahari), they brought out the bhavam and bhakti aspect after a brief interaction between the Piano and Chitravina. "Pahi rama doota" (Shadvidhamargini) featured brief appearances by the guitar, saxophone and cello. When the orchestra finished the performance with "Vinayakuni valanu brovave" in Madhyamavati, the audience in the packed hall gave a standing ovation.

NAMO, formed in October 2012, has a clear mandate - create high quality music but maintain a distinctiveness from conventional orchestras and ensembles of both Indian and Western systems by specialising in Melharmony. The artistes of NAMO were selected after auditions with an eye not only on current ability but also on future potential.

Melharmony, a unique form of music introduced to world music by Chitravina N Ravikiran in 2000, can be defined as "harmony and vertical layers of music in an aesthetic manner but with an emphasis on the rules and principles of highly evolved melodic systems such as the raga system of Indian music".