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Friday Review » Music

Updated: June 30, 2011 16:43 IST

Both original and traditional

M.V. RAMAKRISHNAN
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R. Suryaprakash Photo: V. Sudershan
R. Suryaprakash Photo: V. Sudershan

Figuring prominently in this category is R. Suryaprakash.

The Carnatic music tradition resembles a great river with a large number of tributaries, some of which had constituted the original sources of water while others have joined (or will join) the river somewhere midway in its long course. Some of these seminal streams are the different techniques and styles of performance introduced by highly accomplished musicians belonging to successive times and generations.

As long as the ‘Guru-Sishya Parampara’ prevailed, in a rigid or even progressively more liberal and relaxed form, it was only natural that the techniques and styles of past masters were used to be totally assimilated and faithfully carried forward by their prime disciples, who emerged as their worthy successors in due course.

Styles old and new

Towards the end of the 20th century and during the first decade of the 21st, there have been some significant changes in the methods of preserving, teaching and learning Carnatic music, as a result of the fundamental transformation of the entire techno-social environment, cultural settings and lifestyles of people everywhere.

Of course, even today some of our young musicians have indirectly inherited the precise styles of certain leading mid-20{+t}{+h} century vidwans and vidushis, through their gurus who had been the main disciples of those great musicians. But some of the musicians belonging to the younger generation have acquired old-fashioned styles by diligently studying reliable recordings of the music of earlier times -- while others tend to introduce new performing styles altogether, especially if they happen to be solo instrumentalists.

And there are also certain performers, who let us have intriguing glimpses of a past master’s distinct style, and at the same time captivate us with a display of some original and fascinating techniques of their own. Figuring prominently in this category of highly imaginative vocalists is R. Suryaprakash, whose music has an extremely soulful quality.

Beautiful vistas

There are two vital factors which account for the excellence of Suryaprakash’s style of singing. One of them is the profuse and extremely fluent flow of improvised swara sequences, which forcefully reminds you of the legendary maestro Madurai Mani Iyer. It isn’t surprising, because Suryaprakash had received some intensive tuition from senior vidwan T.V. Sankaranarayanan, who is the chief custodian of his uncle and guru Madurai Mani’s vocal style.

The other unique feature of Suryaprakash’s music is the relentless way he keeps cruising on and on when repeatedly chanting a lovely phrase from the lyrics in the niraval stage, preceding the swara sequences. In both these phases, his singing attains an exalted tone, which takes the listeners on a thrilling excursion along beautiful vistas of music.

For example, in a recent concert at the Narada Gana Sabha, Suryaprakash gave majestic shape to the Dikshitar kriti 'Sri Satyanarayanam' in the raga Subhapantuvarali. The repeated recitation of the imposing phrase, ‘Satya Gnaana Ananda Mayam, Sarvam Vishnu Mayam' was like applying colourful brush strokes on a very large canvas. Enhancing the aesthetic excellence of the music was the sensitive accompaniment provided by M.R. Gopinath (violin), Srimushnam Raja Rao (mridangam), and E.M. Subramaniam (ghatam).

In this context, it would be relevant to recall a particularly memorable past occasion. All the spellbound rasikas who had heard Suryaprakash rendering Tyagaraja's song 'Inta Sowkyamani' in the raga Kapi at the Parthasarathy Swami Sabha in July 2007 -- with the beautiful phrase 'Swara Raga Laya Sudha...' taken up for elaboration -- are never likely to forget that heart-melting experience. Tthe violin and mridangam maestros M.A. Sundareswaran and Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, and morsing master Srirangam Kannan, who accompanied Suryaprakash on that occasion, helped him to lift the spirit of the audience sky-high!

Keywords: R. Suryaprakash


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