On the passing of legendary Carnatic violinist Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, two great mridangam artistes assess his contribution
Umayalapuram K. Sivaraman
When I heard of the passing away of the legend of the violin Lalgudi Jayaraman, my sorrow knew no bounds, the reason being that we were associated in innumerable concerts as accompanists for several yesteryear giants of Carnatic music, for well over half a century. Each of these proved to be highly successful, remembered by rasikas and the music fraternity as something unique and fantastic. Moreover, both of us gave a lot of encouragement in those days to budding and talented musicians and gave our full support, and saw to it that they blossomed as fine musicians in the field of Carnatic music.
A new concept known as violin-veena-mridangam was invented by him in which I participated in nearly 25 concerts. One of the memorable concerts happened in the Music Academy, Chennai, when we accompanied the legendary musician Mudikondan Venkatarama Iyer who sang the most difficult pallavi in Simhanandanam tala, which was hailed as one of the greatest concerts in the annals of the Music Academy. This was about 40-45 years back.
I have accompanied Jayaraman and his sister Smt. Brahmanandam for a number of years and the rasikas used call us a “three-violin team” of great merit and scholarship. In other words, I was described as the third violin for this violin duo by the cognoscenti. Such was the great rapport that existed between me and Lalgudi Jayaraman when we accompanied all great musicians that we were preferred as the first choice (of accompanists).
The distilled scholarship, the dexterity, the anticipation and the instantaneous participation — sawaal-jawaab — and pauses given by him was something superb. He was a past master in this field. He knew the feelings, emotions and expectations of the audience and there was never a dull moment when he was on stage. His repartees with leading musicians were a spectacular show for the audience and artistes.
About his vidya-daanam much can be said. He gave his best to his shishyas and today many of them are shining as great vocalists and instrumentalists. His image of music transcended all boundaries and he wanted to be a beacon to present and future generations of musicians. His jugalbandi concerts with his North Indian counterparts were also great.
As a composer he stood apart as an original thinker and role model for other lyricists.
Lalgudi Jayaraman was a complete musician par excellence. The loss of Jayaraman to the world of music is irreparable. Lalgudi Jayaraman is gone. When comes such another?
I first met Lalgudi Jayaraman in 1949 in Trichur. I was then studying in B.Com. I played mridangam and he played the violin for a concert. I was astounded by his focused musicianship. I was always crazy about the violin, because it was a family tradition, and this attracted me a lot.
From the early 1950s I moved to Chennai. He too was in Chennai. I played concerts with him, although for the most part it turned out that MSG (late violinist M.S. Gopalakrishnan) and TVG were the usual team, while I Lalgudi and (Umayalapuram) Sivaraman became a combination.
He became a revered musician after he started composing and playing solo. The credit for taking traditional Carnatic music and evolving it as an all-rounder goes uniquely to Lalgudi. He was an intellectual giant. He knew language and literature (sahityam). He was a linguist and composed in many languages
He also had the ability to bring emotion into playing. He brought the nuances of sangatis into playing, whereas this was not a practice in those days. He widened the dimensions of the violin. That was his contribution.
He would play all difficult korvais (rhythmic combinations) and made it all look very elegant. To make complexity look beautiful is difficult, isn’t it? He mainly used rhythmic structures for sangatis, not musical structures. He used them beautifully, without disturbing the words or meaning.
He was a greater musician than a violinist. He was a phenomenon. He maintained the status, improved on the status and passed away leaving a huge legacy of chaste Carnatic music compositions. He was a great guru, a perfectionist.
His legacy is very well preserved. Everything is recorded, documented. His charisma though, cannot be replaced. A performer should be creative enough to thrill the listener and thrill himself. He had that creative ability, to inspire himself and his co-artistes
There has been no one with such intellect, such budhishaali tanam as him. Many may talk of raga, bhava, but his was a different quality. The way he brought sangatis into his playing — that dynamic effect comes from bowing. What is a baani after all? To make whatever is happing more aesthetic, more beautiful, more logical. He put his own aesthetics into music. He sang very well too. And he succeeded in incorporating all the intellectual prowess and virtuosity into his creations without transgressing the parameters of the music system. His style became popular without ever resorting to PR. And he had the conviction, this is what I can do, what I must do.