November 29, 2009

A conversation to archive

Sampradaya, a non-commercial organisation that documents and archives the South Indian music traditions have been around for more than three decades now.

Now, it aims to bring the documentation process open to the public. The interactions with senior musicians are being held in public halls where the rasikas get to listen to the artistes and pose their questions to them about the rich musical traditions they have been practising for long. The entire session is videographed and archived simultaneously.

'Samvada'- an open discussion series began with conversations between Sri. R.K. Srikantan and Sri. N.Ravikiran in August 2009. Following this, another session with mridangam maestro Sri. T.K. Murthy and Sri Palghat T.R. Rajamani was held. The third in the series was between Vina Vidushi Smt. Kalpakam Swaminathan and vocalist Smt. Suguna Varadachari.

Early in the season, the recent session of 'Samvada' held on Nov. 27, 2009, featured violin maestro Sri. M.S. Gopalakrishnan in conversation with Sri. Sriram Parasuram.

The septuagenarian violinist who can play both Carnatic and Hindustani styles of music with equal accomplishment opened the session with two hallmark renderings of Parur style, of which the Nalinakanti kriti of Saint Thyagaraja stood out as it did decades ago.

B. Ganapathiraman on the mridangam was seen enjoying his accompaniment on that day. Then the maestro presented a piece in Hindustani style. He said, "You can say it is set in Misra Mand."  His daughter, disciple and violinist Dr. Narmada added "This is one of the pieces that is sung like our post tani tukkadas, but in Hindustani."  From slow pace to dhruth, it was a perfect Hindustani piece and the tabla player Dilip did add to the hues of the Hindustani style.

Sri Sriram Parasuram had his questions to ask about the Parur style and MSG's additional contributions to the style. He did notice the shift of fingers differently and MSG said that Sri Parur Sundaram Iyer made the shift of the fingers from one string to the other easy by adopting a different fingering method.

He also explained how his father adjusted the violin birudai bowing simultaneously with the other hand to reach the lower octaves, during one of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar's concerts.

The questions from the audience brought out the person in MSG.
To one of the questions, "What would you like to mention about your contemporary violinists like Lalgudi, T.N. Krishnan...?",  MSG responded spontaneously. "Nobody can beat Lalgudi in Layam. And T.N.Krishnan's music is 'sowkhyam'. Why should we leave out Kunnakudi - his was a different style. But all are good music!"

"How do you see yourself as a rasika?" was a question, he left to his daughter to reply. Dr. Narmada said, "If in a concert, I did not play up to the standards of the vocalist, he expresses it clearly to me when I am back home. He applauds the vocalist wherever he or she performs well. He even calls up the radio station to appreciate the musician if he finds the performance very good!"

Talking about the practice patterns of Parur Style, he asked Dr. Narmada to demonstrate a few jantai varisais - eight jantais to 16, and 32 in a single bow.

MSG recollected his accompanying the stalwarts Ariyakudi, Chembai, Semmangudi, G.N.B., Madurai Mani Iyer and so on. "I have also accompanied many women vocalists like M.S., M.L.V and D.K.P.,"  he proudly declared!

To top it all, a question from Sri. Sriram Parasuram, on what MSG would like to convey to the younger generation, emanated. Here goes MSG's prescription - "If one practises what he or she is taught for a minimum of four hours a day (this is in today's busy world; it used to be more in our days) for five years continuously, he or she can become an 'ordinary' violinist to begin with!" (சொல்லிக் கொடுத்ததை ஒரு அஞ்சு வருஷத்துக்கு தினமும் நாலு மணி நேரமாவது சாதகம் பண்ணினால் ஒரு சாதாரண violinist ஆக வரலாம்.)

To conclude MSG played a Ghana raga tanam, which bore the distinct stamp of the Parur style and reflected his seven decades of practising the art.


Vijay Shetty said...

Let musicians speak like this. They have a lot of stories to share with the next generation. Sampradaya is doing a good job. This article is also a good piece to archive!

Anonymous said...

MSG is a great violist and musician too, like Lalgudi. I am awe-struck of his speed on violin. These maestros have become one through sheer practice, hardwork and sacrifice of all their other personal likings. About what he said regarding practice required to keep up one's violin skills if one were to become quality violist. But in today's rat race, how are present generation youngsters going to find four hours each day? The academics (CBSE's mad activity/new system and IT and other rat-race to rich careers zap their energies,leaving very little of children's time and energy on a daily basis, for even attending these music classes.

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