Wednesday, 24 April 2013

When the swaras spoke and the violin sang..

It was a Saturday morning in the year 1986. With so many thoughts and expectations in my mind, I was rushing to catch a bus. Where was I rushing and what kind of expectations were there in my mind?

Cut back to the year 1980 when I started listening to Classical Music seriously (thanks to one gentleman!) and was getting exposed to names like Maharajapuram, D.K.Jayaraman, Ravi Shankar, Amjad Ali Khan, Ramani, MSG, Lalgudi… Over a period of time, I was able to identify and discern the various styles not only in vocal music but also in instrumental music.

Of all the instruments, the violin caught my eye (or is it the ear? perhaps the heart!) and the reason is not very difficult to understand. The violin always played a very important role in ILaiyaraaja’s music and it was natural for me to like the sound from this particular instrument. Moreover, no carnatic music concert is complete without the violin as an accompaniment.

As I listened to concert after concert-thanks to the radio and Madras ‘A’- the sound from the violins of two artistes was surely very different. One artiste was Shri.M.S.Gopalakrishnan. My exposure to Hindustani Music through a programme called ‘Sangeet sarita’ on Vividh Bharati every morning at 7.30 am made me a great fan of Hindustani form too and I found the Hindustani style predominant in Shri.MSG’s playing. That was the time when I was also listening to songs like ‘Jyan Jyan’(PoonthaLir) and ‘Yaar maamano’(Vetrikku oruvan) and I was able to relate to the Hindustani style of bowing very easily.

The sound from the other artiste was somewhat different. I could hear the violin speak(please note that I am not talking about ‘gimmicks’ in violin where some people imitate the human voice in violin throwing all classicism to the wind!). It was obvious that the musician was in love with each swara and the raga and caressed them with affection. It was almost like listening to vocal music. For the first time in my life, I felt the meaning of meditation, though I learnt meditation only 9 years after this.

The name of the musician is Lalgudi Jayaraman and I became instantly attached to his music.

It was to this great musician’s lecture/demonstration session that I was heading to on that Saturday morning in 1986 with excitement. I would be watching him for the first time and hearing him talk about music. Could there have been a better moment?

His talk was as sweet as his music and he touched various aspects of life itself. My respect for him grew by leaps and bounds when he said ‘If I say something that might hurt somebody, then it is ‘apaswara’ in real life’. I knew here was a man who respected life and enjoyed life to the fullest.

After this, I attended many of his lec/dems and concerts and each and every lecture/concert was an experience by itself. He would quote Bharati and go on to describe the beauty in a cuckoo’s call. His childlike enthusiasm while explaining the intricacies of a particular raga had to be seen to be believed.

As a person who appreciated all forms of music, it was not surprising that he loved ILaiyaraaja’s music. Once he said that this kind of music is surely the result of ‘puNyas’ from seven janmas. He was also very appreciative of Raaja sir’s orchestration and his ability to write music in a jiffy. In fact, the admiration was mutual. Raaja sir was a special guest in the audio release function of ‘Sringaram’, the music of which was scored by Lalgudi sir himself and remarked that he was a great fan of Lalgudi’s and that he simply loved the Thillanas of his composed in Hindustani raags with western style orchestration in the preludes and the interludes.

Today’s rare gem from the movie ‘Isai Paadum ThendRal’ is dedicated to this great legend. The speciality of this composition is that it has only the ‘swara korvais’.

The gandhrava voice of Yesudass sings only the Shadjamam and we hear only this swara for two cycles of Roopaka taaLam. The swaras ‘ri’, ‘ga’ and ‘ni’ join now and with the gamakams we clearly get to see the sketch of Kharaharapriya. The mridangam follows suit and plays a brief korvai of four avartanams in roopakam. It is 3 avartanams then and the mridangam starting at the ‘dha’ in the third avaratanam with the ‘dha’ being given the ‘kaarvai’ is a master stroke..

The violin joins the vocals rather subtly and from then on, the swaras move in single avartanam. Kharaharapriya smiles, caresses, fondles and dances. The ‘teermanam’ in the end is a connoisseur’s delight. The composition ends with the akaaram of Yesudass.

And we start humming ‘Samaanam evaru..(Jaya)Raama nee samaanamevru..Raaja nee samaanameveru..

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