Violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman turns 80 today. A look at his life as a composer of rare sensitivity.
Lalgudi G. Jayaraman is a musical genius, fulfilling the vision of Muthuswami Dikshitar in making the violin, a Western instrument, part of the Carnatic genre. That Lalgudi has established a ‘bani' of his own is indisputable, even as he draws admiration from one and all for his pure classicism.
This very same adherence to classical purity led him to compose many gems suitable for both vocal and instrumental. Varnams and dance compositions apart, including a brilliant jatiswaram in Rasikapriya specially composed for Kamala, Lalgudi has become synonymous with thillanas. No dance performance seems complete today without a Lalgudi thillana. MLV used to delight in his thillanas, especially the one in Revati, which she learnt from him directly.
Love for rhythm
The violin virtuoso explains the urge to compose thillanas as “an energy within him,” they are immensely appealing for the scope of intricate rhythm they offer. The Lalgudi lineage is strong in talam, he explains, and this strength allows him to joyfully play with beats. Dancers dance, he says, but his thillanas dance by themselves, resounding happily.
Lalgudi's first thillana was in raga Vasanta, set in the late 1950s/ early 1960s. Having composed it, he kept it to himself, in youthful doubt. One day, he told the then reigning numero uno GNB about his composition, during a concert in Alleppey. GNB at once asked Lalgudi to sing it and further asked him to play it on his violin. GNB was impressed by it, and encouraged the young Lalgudi with his generous praise. The maestro recalls this incident, and acknowledges GNB's role in his own advancement, and in learning certain subtle aspects of music.
Vasanta led to 32 thillanas in total till date, the last one being in Hindola Vasantam, composed a year ago. Both North and South Indian ragas have been dealt with in this joyful journey, and lyric are in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit, Lalgudi being at home in all the three languages.
‘Dance of Sound' was the name he gave to his set of eight thillanas, played along with an orchestra. This captivated even the non-Carnatic music lover, with foot-tapping sequences, be it Mohanakalyani or Desh.
Today (September 17), this exemplary maestro turns eighty. Eighty long years filled with music, and he is as energetic as ever, ready with three new varnams in Amir Kalyani, Mohanam and Sankarabharanam, all on Devi. He felt the existing Mohanam varnam had become too predictable, and so the need to compose something a little different, bringing a newness to the old.
This inseparable bond with music, and the violin, makes him wish he's born again as a violinist only, an instrument which he feels has gained its venerable place on its own merit, by its own melody and adaptability, unsupported by any of our gods, who have opted for the veena, flute and mridangam.
Lalgudi's is a life of Song and Dance, combining grace and virtuosity with stage presence and success. Today, at 80, he concentrates on composing and teaching youngsters from far and near. Here's a vidwan who seems to have been specially blessed by Saraswati, the goddess of learning.
Keywords: Lalgudi Jayaraman