What a Legacy!

I normally write my reviews on returning from a concert when it is fresh in my mind but I slipped on 2 occasions recently.  Wanting to clear backlog on First in First Out basis, I had written the review of OS Arun’s Indian concert last night and kept the share of my experiences of attending Anil GJR concert for this morning.  When I checked The Hindu online, I saw that Lata Ganapathy had beaten me to release the review of the concert and had done a remarkable job at that.  Not has she taken the salient parts of the event but also the title that I had envisaged.  Be as it may, it forces me to bring out the other details in greater depth as below.

anil-gjr

Photo courtesy The Hindu

Anil Srinivasan had brought his brand new piano for the event and in the process had to get it tuned.  While it was being done behind the screen, the audience started fidgeting and I even saw a tweet about it in a different context.  And when the திரை lifted, there was indeed an ovation out of relief.  The artists expressed their apologies in a musical manner by playing the first few lines of தாமதம் தகாதையா a composition of Lalgudi Gopala Iyer (father of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman) in the ragam MohanaKalyani.  That was a very smart repartee from the team and put everyone at ease.

The program featured Anil Srinivasan on Piano, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan on the Violin, Purushotaman on the Kanjira and Lakshmi Devnath on the vocals at the Krishna Gana Sabha.  Yes, Lakshmi frequently came to the mike to read excerpts from her biography on Lalgudi Jayaraman ‘The Incurable Romantic’.

On 24th Dec 2012 at the same venue, Anil and GJR performed together and were blessed by the Maestro himself in person.  He had remarked, while leaving the venue, that this should be done every year and hence they have come together out of deference to his wishes and also pay homage to the great artist who had passed away on 22nd April this year.  I was shocked to find a portrait of Lalgudi Jayaraman and his wife being garlanded because I was not aware of the demise of the lady.

I have heard Anil play the western classical at the MMB earlier and the Carnatic classical with SG last sunday but did not know that he could sing as well.  On Lakshmi’s request, he sang a few lines of Lalgudi’s Thillana admirably well.  A multi-faceted personality!

Lakshmi traced the origin of Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Tillana compositions to 1956, when the Vasantha Tillana was conceived and created.  He had composed 17 Tana varnams and 4 Pada Varnams during his illustrious career.

What followed this was a soulful rendering of a Saptha Ragamalika varna of Lalgudi Jayaraman with GJR and Anil vying with each other to seamlessly move from one raga to next and in the reverse order as well.  Starting in Charukesi, we were taken to a different world with a mellifluous rendering of Nalinakanthi (brought Ilayaraja’s masterpiece ‘nenjil endrum neengatha’ from the movie ‘Kalaignan’ in the same raga to mind), Valaji, Mohanam, Atana, Shanmugapriya and Bahudhari.  I am hearing it for the first time and so could have erred in the identification of the ragas.  Am willing to correct, when pointed.

GJR explained that  while we pay a lot of attention to the swaras in carnatic music, it is the presence of the unnoticed and un-notated anu swaras that lend the beauty to the swaras themselves.  He connected the dots by likening his mother Smt Rajalakshmi Jayaraman to the anu swaras and his father & guru LJ as the swaras.  He fought hard to control his emotions while talking about his parents.  Incidentally, he never referred to LJ as his father even once during the concert but always as ‘my Guru’. Anil added a snippet to the conversation by referring to Russian composer Arvo Pert who mentioned “if you want to understand the beauty of music turn to South India and specially TR Mahalingam and Lalgudi Jayaraman”.

The music continued with the rendering of கந்தன் செயலன்றோ in நாட்டைக்குறிஞ்சி and before that GJR mentioned that his guru LJ had always attributed all his achievements to the divine grace of their குல தெய்வம் being முருகன். He sang the phrase மலைமேல் தீபம் as if climbing the mountain and so when he played the kriti in violin, we were able to really appreciate the subtle nuances that went into it.

Lakshmi elaborated on how LJ was an ardent admirer of nature and was often inspired by it.  GJR explained a particular phrase in the பஹாடி தில்லானா where the swara pattern resembled the falling of autumn leaves and when he played it, we could visualize the leaf’s journey from the tree to the ground.  Anil embellished it by playing a progression from western music that conveyed the same effect.

More treat followed with the rendering of the மதுவந்தி தில்லானா where GJR explained the imagery of moonlight falling on a lake.  There was a raga malika at this time involving சிந்துபைரவி, மோகனம், த்வ்ஜாவந்தி (remarkable) & தர்மவதி (or was it மதுவந்தி?). Words fail me while I am trying to describe the rendering and really one has to experience it to appreciate the grand music that flowed.

GJR then played a few lines of the Tillanas in கர்ணரஞ்ஜனி, மோஹனகல்யாணி.  Lakshmi made a mention of how LJ had composed Thillanas specially on the requests of fellow artists like Voleti Venkateswaralu (பஹாடி) & Neduneri Krishnamoorthy (ஆனந்தபைரவி).

Those who have enjoyed LJ’s Thillanas would be thrilled to know about their origins and the inspirations.  The தர்பாரி கானடா தில்லானா was inspired by Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer’s rendition of a sloka in a concert, the one in துர்கா was after listening to Ajoy Chakraborty’s concert and the one in வாசந்தி (I hope i got the name right) when LJ listened to a ghazal in a flight, appropriately sending the listeners in a flight of fantasy!!

Lakshmi then made a detailed reference to the லால்குடி பாணி but I shall sum it in just 2 words “Singing Violin”.  GJR talked at length about how his Guru invested a lot of time and effort in embellishing kritis by paying close attention to the bhava, lyrical content and the raga lakshana.  He delighted the audience by playing the pallavi of தியாகராஜரின் நஜீவனதாரா  in பிலஹரி with multiple sangathis, each outdoing the previous ones.

GJR  also talked about how as a Violinist, his guru had popularized many kritis such as நாதலோலுடை (கல்யாணவசந்தம்), சபாபதிக்கு (ஆபோகி), நீ தயராத(வஸந்தபைரவி), மோக்‌ஷமு கலதா (சாரமதி) & மீனாஷி (பூர்வி கல்யாணி). It was so soothing to listen to these songs (albeit only in parts) in rapid succession.  GJR also recounted an incident when he and his Guru had recorded the மீனாஷி kriti in HMV and had literally sweated it out thanks to the lack of ac and the use of thick jamakaalams to cover the walls for noise reduction.

The concert ended with the தேஷ் தில்லானா.  The entire audience responded in unison when Shri Prabhu, Secretary of the Krishna Gana Sabha mentioned “While Lalgudi Jayaraman is no more physically with us, he has left behind a very prodigious and talented legacy in his son Krishnan” with a sustained ovation for the artists.

Anil Srinivasan, while excelling with his anecdotes, played ‘second fiddle’ (pun intended) to give more prominence to LG and to his compositions rendered majestically by GJR Krishnan.  Purushottaman on the kanjira was soft on the instrument to add finesse to the concert.

Great show and a fitting tribute to the late maestro shri Lalgudi Jayaraman.

PS: Some errors have been corrected and updated.

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6 Comments

  1. N Ramesh said,

    December 20, 2013 at 5:46 am

    While I appreciate the coverage of the Musical Concert, the act of citing the names of the Ragas in Tamil language is not welcomed as a person who cannot even read Tamil Alphabets will not be ble to read and understand the same, which could have been ‘notated’ using English Alphabets as was done before and all along by yourself and others as well !

    I hope this worthy comment of mine will be taken in the right spirit by yourself, with which it is conveyed on all fairness to the readers, as it will only then make the whole piece of yours readable and thus make the blog post of yours fairly understandable to all, including myself !

    And herein, I find that there was an overdose of the word or term ‘Artists’ in the blog, which I humbly feel should have been ‘Artistes’, and I am willing to be corrected in case if both these expressions always mean the same or at the least denote a similar meaning !

    And by the way, I think you have given a shock to Shri. Krishnaswamy the Secretary of Narada Gana Sabha, even though you had not intended it to happen and Shri. Prabhu is the Secretary of Krishna Gana Sabha, under whose auspices alone the above mentioned concert was held, and I am sure you had mentioned only that and that somehow Narada usurped the place of Krishna through your pen or rather through your Key Board, thereby making your goodself unwittingly type out the name of the mischief monger cum maker Narada instead of the Primordial Solver and Creator Krishna !

    And that’s it from me for the time being, which I believe serves as a fitting comment (atleast in terms of length !) to a fairly lengthy blog of yours !

    Anyhow keep writing during the remaining days of the December Music Season !

    Thus Spake the New Age Sage !

    N Ra

    • badrirag said,

      December 20, 2013 at 7:40 am

      Ramesh,

      Thanks for the lengthy feedback.

      a. Thanks also for pointing out the mix-up in the names of the Sabhas. Have made the correction.

      b. Regarding your ‘demand’ that I provide better readability by having English words mentioned along with Tamizh, I am reminded of the conversation that Gandhiji had with T K C. When Gandhiji asked TKC how he can enjoy ‘Kamba Ramayanam’, the others expected TKC to provide a translation of the literary work. Instead, he said “You have to be born a tamilian to enjoy Kamba Ramayanam” and shocked everyone around. I think this is a great opportunity for you to learn to read basic tamizh, which you can, if you set your mind on it.

      c. Artists vs Artistes: While the former is an English word, the latter is of French origin but they mean the same.

      Anbudan

      Badri

      • N Ramesh said,

        December 21, 2013 at 3:16 pm

        I am not at all demanding it from my angle, but instead appealing to you to refrain from using Tamil Script in an English Essay thereby enabling the readability to happen even to a Non Tamil fellow, especially when the Tamil or for that matter any other foreign expression (to English) can ably be spelt out in English to a large extent thereby ensuring the smooth reading of the same by any of the discerning readers !

        By the way, who is TKC ! – Must be a originator of snobing, who must be appreciated for having the audacity to throw back a heavy on the face of a great personality like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi !

        To my little understanding of the English language, I feel that the word ‘Artist’ is normally used for the one who draws out a piece of Art or wields a Painting brush, whereas ‘Artiste’ refers to all those who are in the performing arts, as in the case of music and dance, drama and other art forms !

        That’s about the reply cum clarification from my side as of now !

        N Ra

  2. December 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    […] Read more on this concert review here […]

  3. iraivanadi said,

    July 29, 2015 at 3:36 am

    I love the fact that you used tamil script. It was so seamless for me and I only realised what you were doing when I came to தியாகராஜரின் நஜீவனதாரா where you have mentioned the composer’s name in tamil.
    It adds a great touch to the article which is very enjoyable to a lay reader like me. Thank you.

    • badrirag said,

      July 29, 2015 at 4:16 am

      Thank you for sharing your feedback and for your words of encouragement. Have a great day and keep smiling.


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