MUSICSCAN: A lively dialogue ensued between voice and mridangam at a concert by T.V. Gopalakrishnan.

It is well known in Carnatic music circles that the diverse dimensions of Dr. T.V. Gopalakrishnan's highly successful roles as vocalist, mridangam artist and multi-faceted guru have endowed him with a compulsive urge to create endless opportunities for the accompanists to excel whenever he sings. He never seems to mind even if this gets the attention of the audience focussed very sharply on the performance of a gifted colleague.

And that's precisely what happened last week in his vocal recital at the Dakshinamurthy auditorium in Mylapore.

The occasion was the first concert at the Tamizh Isai music festival organised by the Mylapore Arts Academy, which was delayed by a whole hour because the inaugural ceremony on that rainy day started very late in the evening . TVG apparently wished to liven up the atmosphere quickly.

Intricate exercises

And given the fact that the mridangam was being played by Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, he began to widen the scope for some intricate exercises in forceful percussion at an early stage of the performance.

So much so that for the main number (rendered in the raga Mohanam) he chose the lilting song ‘Arumarundoru Tirumarundu' by the 16th-century Tamil poet Muthu Thaandavar, which has enough staccato syllables in the lyric to set your feet tapping (such as ‘Thi-tthitthi-tthee Enraadum Marundu...'). A lively dialogue between voice and mridangam was set up so well that a stunningly powerful trade-off materialised in the concluding phase.

So intense and telepathic was the rapport between the maestros that it looked as if TVG himself was mentally playing the mridangam with a remote control!

Seamless blend of sounds

What followed seamlessly turned out to be the climax of the concert, in the form of an intricate percussion solo during which Bhaktavatsalam's mridangam blew like a hurricane and also rang like a bell at the same time.

Such a rare and rewarding exchange between these two masters wouldn't have been possible but for the fact that the other two seasoned musicians on the dais -- violinist Gopinath and ghatam-player Vasan -- wisely chose to exercise great restraint and not to intervene.

But throughout the concert they did enhance the quality of the music with their pleasing performances. Surely TVG owes it to them to create adequate opportunities for them to shine brighter on other occasions!