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TNS: Creativity his forte

THE ONSTAGE charisma is exhilarating, if not the same as the voice. The red sandal paste on the forehead, the silk attire, `angavastram,' the image is impressionable as his music. Madurai T. N. Seshagopalan, one of the most creative Carnatic musicians, has sought a place for himself in classical music.

His style remains undefined and unparalleled, for in every `alapana' you find him discovering newer dimensions of expression, at which he himself marvels during the course of a concert. This unpredictable quality of his music is what charms the layman, prompting him to stay on after the first piece. And as the voice falls to a whisper and soars into a thunder, there are moments of heightened passion and drama, which keeps the audience spellbound. And for imparting the emotion or feel, he does not eliminate the vocal acrobatics for which he is so well known. So a light ashtapadi or a Bharatiyar song comes across almost as heavily as a delineation of the Sankarabharanam.

What is it like performing to a mixed crowd in Kochi different from a discerning audience at a `sabha' in Chennai?

To get at least 10 knowledgeable people as audience is encouraging, says TNS. "Not that I'm blind towards a 35 who have a ear for good music and a fair knowledge in classicism, and another 50 who are casual listeners. But it really gives you a high when you have those knowledgeable few," TNS warms up. "Even in villages you come across such a crowd."

He started his music lessons under his mother, and was a singer in Bhajana sampradaya (in concerts termed Bhaktiranjani), before he became a disciple of Ramanathapuram Sankarasivam, when he was just 16 years old. TNS is 55 now, and this musician has proved that he could be successful even while staying in Madurai, where he spent the best part of his life. Since 1992, he has shifted base to Chennai.

There are many who feel that they have seen this face somewhere and even curse their failing memory for not having been able to place him. In that case it must be that you are an avid television viewer, for TNS is now popular through his role as Vishnu and the other characters he plays in other Tamil serials. All of which have been pleasant digressions.

His bio-data runs to pages and there is mention of at least 40 major awards, which include the Central Sangeeta Nataka Academy Award, Sangeeta Kala Sikhamani from the Indian Fine Arts Society, Swarakala Padma Mitra from the Hyderabad Academy of Music and Dance, Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamil Nadu and the title of `Asthana Vidwan' of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

Pandit Ravi Shankar came all the way from New Jersey to California to a listen to a veena concert. The sitar maestro wanted to make sure if the vainika Seshagopalan was the same as the vocalist. Yes, TNS is a reputed vainika, who mastered the instrument, aspiring for the job of a lecturer at the Madurai University. The passion for the instrument stayed on. "The veena occupies an important place in Carnatic music. A musician, who is well versed in the effective execution of `gamakas,' is held in high esteem. And this quality can be imbibed from regular vocal practice with the veena," opines TNS.

Little is also known of his stature as a composer of `thillanas' and dance presentations like `Seasonscape' for Tanjaon and Kalabharati. He has set music for the poems of Kamba Ramayanam in krithi format. `Geethamala' is his book, which has notations to the compositions of Ambujam Krishna.

And to uphold this rich legacy is his son T. N. S. Krishna. The young master performed at various venues during the recently concluded December music season. "He has set his goals. After becoming a software engineer, he wants to pursue his MBA or do his MS abroad. Hopefully this will not hinder a career in music," says TNS on the ambitions of his son.

A graduate in Botany and a Masters Degree holder in music, TNS, hopes to be recognised for his for his creative endeavours and as a vocalist. He maintains that the standards are intact with the audiences as well as the performers, who are now getting more opportunities to present their talent today, thanks to the media boom.


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