G.S. Rajan bridges the divide between Carnatic and Hindustani styles.
Amongst the stars and stalwarts like Shiv Kumar Sharma, L. Subramaniam and Shubha Mudgal performing at the recently staged annual Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra memorial festival of dance and music in Bhubaneswar, flutist-composer G.S. Rajan left a lasting imprint on the connoisseurs in his first ever trip to Bhubaneswar. For them, he was the find of the festival this year.
What touched the hearts were his innovations within the tradition and his holistic approach towards music in an attempt to erase the border drawn by the puritans between the Carnatic and the Hindustani streams. His concert helped the listeners in discovering the striking similarities existing between the two traditions besides realising the unity in diversity inherent in Indian classical music.
Appreciation, however, did not come to this creative composer easily. Two decades ago, when he ventured out for his experimentations as a dreamy and daring young man, the orthodox were too critical of this Kalakshetra product whose parents were revered Carnatic musicians. And at the same time, a section of critics and connoisseurs hailed his innovations and compared his way with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar's adventure with Hindustani music. Finally, it was his talent and conviction that won Rajan over his fans and foes.
“I never learnt Hindustani music. I developed my knowledge and appreciation of it by listening. I do not believe in the artificial boarders drawn between two of our ancient music traditions though I do not deny their distinctions. I love both the traditions and I wish my listeners to fall in love with the symbiotic relationship that exists between them,” explains the musician who has dabbled in a wide variety of compositions — light, classical, music for films, documentaries, all sorts of dance, theatre, church choirs, sound and light shows and so on. And for him, there has not been any language barrier as a composer — he is equally at ease with Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi.
Son of Kerala's famed Carnatic musician and flautist S. Srikrishnan and Gayathri, the first playback singer for Malayalam movies, music flows in Rajan's veins. And a career in music was his natural choice. It was Kalakshetra founder late legendary Rukmini Devi who discovered the dynamism in him when he was a student at this famous centre of dance and music in Chennai. And she recommended him to the then Sangeet Natak Akademi chairman V.K. Narayan Menon to accept him as a programme officer in New Delhi where he later served as the deputy secretary.
Life in the cosmopolitan city of Delhi made a major change in Rajan's approach to music. The he got exposed to different genres of world music; his compositions became richer and popular. “My composition raaga-symphony for which French Government offered me a Fellowship to live in France and compose symphony that presented with French musicians at Cite de la Musique, Marseille has been the closest to my heart,” confides the composer who has performed around the globe. A Grade I composer for AIR and Doordarshan, he has also been the recipient of Akashwani Award in 1996 for his orchestral presentation Oasis.
Besides being an artiste and arts administrator, Rajan has been an arts critic too. He is the founder of www.artindia.net and editor-publisher of Rasamanjari, a journal devoted to the arts.