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This week at Music World...

Masterpiece, D.K. Pattammal and D.K. Jayaraman

Kosmic Music, Rs. 150

THIS COLLECTION of three tapes is a digitally processed version of recordings that are 28 years old. It is a live concert recording at the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, and is a real treat.

Pattammal and her brother Jayaraman were, perhaps, at the peak of their careers at the time of this concert. Pattammal, considered to be one among the female trinity of Carnatic classical music (M.S. Subbulakshmi and M.L. Vasanthakumari being the other two), broke away from the conservative, orthodox hold of a patriarchal order and took women musicians to a public platform.

Her Kharaharapriya rendition of "Nadachi Nadachi" is scholarly. The ease with which she handles the raga is remarkable. The violin support by T.S. Veeraraghavan for this piece stands out with its well-chiselled out phrases. "Vandanamu Raghunandana" in Sahana (janya of the 28th melakarta Harikambodi), a raga marked by vakra sancharas in both aroha and avaroha, is another brilliant piece in the album.

It is also a rare recording, for D.K. Jayaraman accompanies his sister in this concert. A musician of outstanding talent, at no point does he overshadow her. In fact, Pattammal's shruti comes as a disadvantage to him, but he renders the same in the corresponding higher octave. Apparently, Sri Jayendra Saraswati of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam had once remarked: "A sanyasi should be devoid of desires, but I have a desire for DKJ's music." In one of those warm moments, Pattammal is also supposed to have said: "Jayaraman could assimilate anything instantaneously... I have often said to him, `Jayarama, I want to live long enough to see you become a Sangeetha Kalanidhi'. No sooner was my wish gratified than fate took away my cherished brother from this world, right before me."

The brother and sister duo do a splendid job of Shyama Shastri's kriti "Nannu Brochutaku" in Todi. There is a tani avartanam of almost 20 minutes, which one never gets to hear in recordings these days.

The credit for popularising Papanasam Sivan and Bharathiyar's compositions goes to Pattammal. And this album does include a couple of them. Sadly, there is only one Dikshitar kriti, which was Pattammal's forte. In fact, Pattammal was the one who also ventured into pallavi singing, a male preserve till then. She is still referred to as Pallavi Pattammal, but much to one's disappointment, there is no pallavi in this collection either.

Madurai Mani Iyer

Saregama, CD, Rs. 125

EVEN FOR someone who is listening to Madurai Mani Iyer for the first time, it becomes clear that he is a master of swara prastara, as one listens to this tape. This album has three pieces and all of them have an elaborate swara prastara. The album is also the coming together of three stalwarts — Madurai Mani Iyer, accompanied by T.M. Krishnan on the violin, and Vellore Ramabhadran on the mridanga.

During his initial years, Madurai Mani Iyer (1912-1968) came under the influence of so many stalwarts that he could not help being groomed into a perfect musician. He attributes his perfection in shruti to Muthaiah Bhagavathar, whose singing was marked by a perfect shruti alignment. He apparently used three or four tanpuras for his concert and could effortlessly negotiate the three octaves. Muthaiah Bhagavatar was also a mridanga vidwan and he trained Madurai Mani Iyer in the nuances of laya. He was greatly influenced by Subbarama Bhagavatar's unique method of dealing the kalpana swaras and, eventually, is said to have mastered it. The listener is never left guessing the raga when Mani Iyer sings it. Within one or two phrases, he hits upon the nerve of the raga, the jeeva swara.

Swati Tirunal's composition, "Sarasaksha Pari Palaya", in Kamavardini, opens with a brief alapane. The kriti is rendered in madhayama kala, a pace that Mani Iyer seems to be comfortable with. His kalpana swaras are highly academic in nature and do not indulge in ornamental flourishes.

"Brovabarama" in Bahudari is delightful. One notices that Mani Iyer is a stickler for traditional sangatis. He does not venture into improvisations on that front. In the alapane of Bhairavi, Mani Iyer blends some unanticipated, unorthodox phrases, which makes for heightened effect. He works out some well-thought out pauses and flawless gamakas. Mani Iyer's grammar is perfect and his improvisations are but an extension of his creativity. An album to be treasured.


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