• Fri. Dec 9th, 2022


Music is life

The Lalgudi charisma | Deccan Herald


Nov 25, 2022

I am not an expert in Carnatic music, but I have been addicted to live concerts since 1964, when I was just over 12 years. The summer holidays were welcomed by Sri Ramanavami Sangeetha Utsava at a specially erected pandal in Seshadripuram High School. The organising committee was led by Sri Gopala Iyengar, who unhesitatingly knocked on all doors, often getting snubbed, to garner funds for the 30-day long event. 

Over the course of 30 days, the festival featured many luminaries of Carnatic music: M S Subbulakshmi, Balamuralikrishna, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M D Ramanathan, and the list goes on. I was fascinated by the vocal-violin combination, and the biggest attraction was Lalgudi Jayaraman who accompanied several legends, including Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, and Ariakudi Ramanuja Iyengar.

Especially known for his acumen to spot talent, Lalgudi Jayaraman often accompanied the likes of T N Seshagoplan, T V Shankaranarayanan, and Netiyankara Vasudevan in the Chennai December season and elsewhere during late ‘70s until mid ‘80s. I would attend all the concerts featuring Lalgudi.

Lalgudi Jayaraman, born on September 17, 1930, was groomed by his father V R Gopala Iyer in vocal and violin music. Gopala Iyer himself was a maestro — in vocal and several  instruments such as violin, veena, and flute. Lalgudi’s spiritual approach to Carnatic music, inculcated early on by his father, was reflected in every concert, be it solo or accompaniment.

It was indeed a spiritual experience to listen to Lalgudi as he brought out the essence of the raga alapana, ready responses to Neraval, and the swara prastana of each Krithi sung by the main vocalist. Lalgudi on violin, and Palghat Raghu on mridangam accompanying the ever-great G N Balasubramanyam was a divine experience. GNB fondly referred to Lalgudi and Raghu as his right and left eye.

I was privileged to be in the audience on numerous occasions that the legendary violinist accompanied the great MD Ramanathan. He could play for slow-tempo musician MD Ramanathan as well as faster-tempo vocalist Maharajapuram Santanam, who was said to have commented that the vocalist should sing like Lalgudi played the violin.

The Lalgudi Bani, as it is known, brings out the sangati’s vocals clearly. In the 1960s, Alathur Brothers and Lalgudi Jayaraman were well-known for their vocal concerts. The brothers were famous for complex Pallavis after Ragam, and Tanam

To keep up with the changing tastes of audience, Lalgudi teamed up with N Ramani on flute and Venkataraman on Veena and took the Carnatic music to many corners of the world. His Jugalbandhi concerts with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan were a treat beyond words. 

It is a matter of great pride that our own Bangalore Gayana Samaja honoured Lalgudi Jayaraman with the title Sangeetharathnakara while the Chennai Music Academy failed to confer the coveted Sangeethakalanidhi title on the maestro. We sorely miss this towering personality, and this is my humble tribute to the great Vidwan.

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