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When describing Lalgudi Jayaraman, one can not avoid resorting to hyperbole.  The violin virtuoso, professionally much younger than some of the senior violinists today, has excelled far beyond anyone else since the time of Dwaram Sri Venkateswara Naidu, by sheer dint of perseverance and hard work, totally unaided by any godfatherly legend.

The unique feature about Lalgudi is that his music is very expressive. Indian music or more aptly, Carnatic Instrumental Music, is mostly vocal in conception.  There are no separate instrumental scores and the elements of liberty and licence exist only in the form of Alapanas and swaraprastharas.  It is this foundation that has been inlaid deep in  Lalgudi by his father, the late Sri Gopala Iyer.  And it is in this
context that Lalgudi's instrumental genius comes to the fore in the form of lyrical excellence.  More particularly, there is no structural damage done to the edifice of the composition as envisaged by the composer, be it a Varnam, Kriti, Tillana or a Padam.  He is probably one of a select few instrumentalists who is capable of rendering a very good vocal music concert.  His rendition thus devoid of any mutilation, blossoms into one of instrumental virtuosity and aesthetic excellence. 

The quality in his playing is spellbinding and his technique is immaculate.  In short his violin sings.  There is a tamil phrase : "konjum yAzhin isaiyai kEttu maNNil nAm padum thuyarai marappOm",
in a song by an unknown composer.  For those of you who do not know tamil - "Listening to the playful melody of a yAzh, puts one into a state of spiritual ecstasy that makes one forget the worldly pains that
one goes through".  One can definitely apply this phrase to Lalgudi's violin.  Quoting Prof. Ramanathan on Lalgudi's music, "Its ingredients are a fascinating tonal allure, a scintillating and polished delivery, a
flawless fluency, a preternatural grasp of the ins-and-outs of Laya, an unflagging zeal, splendid resourcefulness, an unruffled self possession, an effortless virtuosity, a fine sense of proportion, a tautness of texture, an impeccable musical idiom and total creative brilliance.  In short, it is a sweet ensemble of the choicest artistic virtues".

Coming to prominence at a young age, Lalgudi has attained prominence through sheer hard work, and a divine taste for music.  He has been in great demand for accompanying vocalists, and has accompanied such great vocal virtuosos as Ariyakkudi Sri Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi Sri Srinivasa Iyer, Sri G. N. Balasubramaniam, Alathur Brothers, Karaikkudi Sambasiva Iyer, and the list reads like a Who's Who in the world of Carnatic Vocal Music.  He was more than a match for even to the seniormost vocalists of his time.  The team work of Lalgudi and each of these artists, and his originality, altogether lifted the concert platform to a higher plane.  In particular, he has blossomed to a very great extent from his relation with each of these artistes, in developing a style of his own, that is in no way less expressive, less in bhava and rakti, than any of the vocalists' styles. 

I have always enjoyed listening to every one of his concerts with these legends of Carnatic Music, particularly those in which he accompanies Semmangudi Sri Srinivasa Iyer.  In accompanying them he has showed an immense sense of perception and anticipation, and his guess work and intuition is so perfect, that at times you even forget who the lead artiste is.  Just the other day I was listening to a 1958 concert of Semmangudi at the Swati Tirunal Academy of Music in Trivandrum, where he sings a Ragam and Thanam in Natakurinji followed by the Muthuwswami Dikshitar's Navagraha Kriti "buDham AsrayAmi".  Lalgudi's accompaniment is simply divine, and his alapanai simply superb.  I apologise for not commenting on Semmangudi's performance, for I am not one to do that, and moreover it would be out of place in this context.  The trimness and precision that have gone into his playing is breath-taking.  The Kiravani kriti - "tatvabrahmasi" which followed, was so glorious.  You can sit and listen to the same concert over and over again, and you could not get bored, for there are so many aspects that you can note that's good about Lalgudi.  In fact you could just concentrate on the Violin throughout the concert, and voila! you have a violin solo.  It is really incredible how well the vocal cords get so perfectly translated into instrumental beauty.

As a soloist, his rendition of ragas is a sheer joy, and refuses to be outdone by any other artist with regard to comprehensiveness, propriety, and proportionate beauty.  There was this Krishna Gana Sabha concert where he was accompanied by his son Shri G. J. R. Krishnan.  The main piece is the
Tyagaraja's Kriti in Charukesi "AdamOdigAladA", where the alapanai is soul stirring.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of Lalgudi to Carnatic Music is his Tillanas and Varnams.  The Classical Varnams of yester years are meant more than just to remove the phlegm of the vocal chords or serve as a spicy dish.  The rendition of these varnams have degenerated into a ritual without any intensity.  It is here that Lalgudi deserves praise for giving us a whole storehouse of varnams to experiment with. Without offending our old composers, we can definitely compare them with any of the legendary Varnams and Tillanas, both in terms of melody and content.  In fact this has led to a whole generation of musicians who have some part of Lalgudi's genius in their bloodstream.  This in itself is a sheer distinction.  Such is the ubiquitous presense of his style, that it has forced a degree of
attention unseen in the history of Carnatic Music. 

One really wished a slip so that it may be underlined as human, but then Lalgudi's Music is endowed with Divine Grace.  "avar kaiyila kalaivAni jolikkarAl" - meaning, the Goddess of Learning Shines on his hands.  It is indeed a great injustice that he was not awarded the title of Sangitha Kalanidhi when it was due.

Newsgroups: soc.culture.indian,,soc.culture.tamil
Date: 10 Jul 1993 17:52:15 GMT
Organization: University of Florida, Gainesville
Sender: (Raja Krishnasamy)

Raja Krishnasamy

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