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A flood of Tamizh isai

Thiruthani N. Swaminathan

KUNNAKKUDI R. VAIDYANATHAN'S recital on December 23 was marked by his characteristic style of violin play. His immense success over the decades is the result of a unique blend of a strong base in classical training with an improvised method of delivery, aimed to generate popular appeal. Wider acceptance of Vaidyanathan's distinctive style has been closely associated with the renaissance of Tamil Isai, a point he underscored during the kutcheri. This artist's performance had a definite Carnatic touch (in the sense in which the term is commonly understood), even though he presented a selection of Tamil songs. The performance therefore raises a basic question.

How real is the divide between Tamil Isai and Carnatic music? The Nattai mallari, a customary invocation had a flavour of the folk moorings of the ragam. In sharp contrast was Hamsadhwani of more recent vintage. The Sudhananda Bharathi song ``Arul purivay karunaikkadale," popularised by Sirkazhi Govindarajan, was a lively rendition. The large audience revelled in Vaidyanathan's wizardry on the violin as he electrified the atmosphere with highly rhythmic kalpana swaram.

The highlights of the evening were two masterpieces in Poorvikalyani and Mishrabhimpalasi. After a lengthy alapana, Vaidhyanathan packed into his delivery many shades of the ragam as well as stock phrases to enhance the appeal of ``Karanam kettu vadi." The spontaneous applause to the kriti ``Vennilavum vanampol" was again evidence of an audience receptive to something different and out of the routine. Purists would of course scoff at these as mere gimmickry.But the fact is that only a few among classical musicians can boast of such reach and popularity that Vaidhyanathan enjoys.

Saivite heritage

The array of percussion support enlivened the evening performance. The vocal recital of the distinguished Thiruthani N. Swaminathan was a reminder of the relative neglect of the rich and vast repertoire in the predominantly Saivite musical heritage of Tamil Nadu. This tradition drew inspiration from the bhakti movement around the 10th century. Its revival in the 20th century is mainly due to the fact that the verses are written in the language of the ordinary people. The tunes are also set to familiar ragams in Carnatic music.

Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan — Pics. by S. Thanthoni

A leading contemporary exponent, Swaminathan presented a selection from the Thevaram, Thirukkurundhogai, Thiruthandagam and Muthuvidhanam by Thirunavukkarasar. He sang in ragas Saurashtram (``Vyazhakkurunji"), Gambheera Nattai, Sankarabharanam and Sama (Andhalikkurunji). The neraval on the line "Theendarkariya thiruvuruvai" in the Sankarabharanam song was truly impressive.

There were also renditions from Manikkavasagar's Thiruvachagam and Neyurindhuzhal and Sendhamizhthiram by Sundarar and the Periya puranam and Arunagiri nadhar's thiruppugazh among others.

Melakaveri K. Thyagarajan accompanied with impressive spells on the violin. Tiruvannamalai S. Sivakumar on the mridangam, Papanasam Sethuraman on the ganjira and M. Sundar on the morsing gave inspiring percussion support. The prospects of this ancient tradition will hopefully be enhanced once Tamil is declared a classical language.


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