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The Phenomenon Lalgudi (1/2) - Calamusēya

In my early days, I had a fascination for place names, which became sobriquet for many a great man. Then what came to my mind was ‘Malgudi’, the fictionalized town, a creation of the world-renowned early Indian writer in English, R.K. Narayan. But now that is permanently swapped in my mind by ‘Lalgudi’, the idealized real town in the Trichy district standing for one of the greatest violin maestros of the 20th century Lalgudi Shri G. Jayaraman. ‘Lalgudi’ is now immortalized among the rasikas and students of Karnatak music through his unique musical aesthetics and style of playing and his compositions. His 90th birth anniversary today is being celebrated throughout the world with great fanfare, through the great efforts of his children, Shri Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, along with his music family and disciples. I question myself, what more glory can I add to the glory, that is Lalgudi, grandeur, that is his style of music?

But I think, I have something personal to share with the rasikas on this memorable day. My mind association with him in my early days was an ideal of a complete musician. Later when Lalgudi entered the portals of Brhaddhvani in the nineties, he revealed a personality which, I was amazed to find, so simple and direct, loving and kind, curious and critical, unpretentious in his admiration for something new, subtle in observations and comments and awesome reverential intellectual interactions with other world musicians. Very rare traits indeed for topmost performing Karnatak musicians of yesteryears. I absorbed it in my heart with an indescribable manifolded reverence for him. The greatest of Karnatak music maestros had participated in Brhaddhvani’s work, such as Shri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Shri Sandyavandanam Srinivasa Rao, Shri K. V. Narayanaswami, Shri T. M. Thyagarajan, Shri S. Kalyanaraman, Shri T.K. Govinda Rao, Professor S. R. Janakiraman, Prof. T. R. Subramanian, Prof. Trichy Sankaran and many others, each contributing in their own unique ways.


But Dr. Pinakapani and Lalgudi were particularly most striking in their passion and compassion in sharing, as though their entire musical knowledge in a nutshell, with Brhaddhvani’s students, through subtle and precise analytical observations with the feeling of complete giving. It was the golden past for Brhaddhvani for all those who had a chance to interact with such maestros and particularly for me.

Yes, the truth ‘Lalgudi’ will touch everybody. Belongs to everybody. Will live in our hearts forever. But how should we imbibe that truth within and have him forever? One song is enough to make that happen. But one needs to be ready, qualified and fortified oneself with melodic and laya intricacies before attempting to go near Lalgudi’s altar. It has to happen through ‘tapas’, through ‘saadhana’, through meticulous understanding and enjoyment of every movement through time, tone and text, to sip the nectar of his music ticking your hearts beat, your body feel his feelings, and your mind soaked in the serenity, in the totality of the beauty of the music he creates. That is the whole truth of what he was, what he will, forever be, in our hearts!

Here is one of his very well-known early varnams, ‘Calamuseya’ in the raga Valaji in the tala Adi, which I made a sincere attempt to learn from one of his concert recordings, to etch ‘Lalgudi’ in my heart, with reverence, respect, love, admiration for his demanding music, for which I surrendered myself, every second. This is my way to worship him, his soul, full of music. But I know I am still wanting.


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