Music

Of GNB’s genius and timeless values

M.L. Vasanthakumari’s lec-dem, streamed on social media recently, brought to the fore her deep musical insights

A more than 30-minute lec-dem by the legendary M.L.Vasanthakumari, posted by a well-known vocalist on Facebook, is is being widely shared over the past few weeks.

For Friday Page : M.L. Vasanthakumari from SRUTI Archives
Photo Courtesy: The Sruti Foundation

For Friday Page : M.L. Vasanthakumari from SRUTI Archives Photo Courtesy: The Sruti Foundation   | Photo Credit: The Sruti Foundation

Though the talk holds a mirror to the Carnatic music scene then, pointing out what ails it, it sounds relevant even today.

MLV is brilliant with her command over the Tamil language and clarity of thought. She speaks about GNB’s music, Ariyakudi’s genius, the golden era (1940s to 1960s), child prodigies, Purandaradasa, the Trinity, critics and up-and-coming musicians.

As a young vocalist comments on FB, “MLV Amma is brilliant. It’s a must-watch.” (available on YouTube). The amazing part is, it appeals to both the old and the young. The musical principles she mentions being timeless.

Talking about the period between 1940s and 1960s, MLV says, “I am proud to belong to an era of vidwans such as Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar and Naina Pillai.”

She talks about how artistes, who underwent rigid gurukulavasam training, became stalwarts: Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Alathur brothers, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, GNB and Madurai Mani Iyer.

Emphasising on respecting elders and senior artistes, MLV points out how GNB had high regard for Ariyakudi.

While referring to M.S. Subbulakshmi, D.K. Pattammal and herself as prodigies, MLV makes special mention about Mandolin Shrinivas, (Chitravina) Ravikiran from the South and Rashid Khan from the North. “Both Shrinivas and Ravikiran have done amazing work.”

Different styles

“During my recent visit to North India, I happened to listen to a young boy called Rashid Khan (hardly 18). I was stunned by his music, but his father does not allow him to perform on stage. He says he has to hone his skill.” She expresses her anguish over how some parents, who get carried away by the fame and success of these prodigies, want their children also to perform on stage.

She requests critics not to compare young talents with senior artistes and similarly, Carnatic musicians with Hindustani vocalists.

“How can the critics compare Carnatic music to Hindustani? Our style is different,” she says.

Talking about ragam Sivashakthi, a Kharaharapriya Janyam, created by GNB, MLV says a few critics called it a modern raga when her student rendered it in a concert.

She recalls how once Rajarathnam Pillai told GNB, ‘Why don’t you introduce me to some of these small light compositions (sillarai). GNB replied, ‘Continue with your (wonderful) raga elaborations, leave the sillarai out to people like us’.

Varied influences

She follows it up with a special mention about GNB’s briga sangeetham, grahabedam and how his fascination for Viswanatha Iyer (Maharajapuram), Ariyakudi's kutcheri paddathi, the Bal Gandharva effect and Rajarathnam Pillai’s raga elaborations had great influence on him.

MLV points out how criticisms about his unique style had upset GNB so much that he wanted to leave the city in his last years.

G N Balasubramaniam

G N Balasubramaniam   | Photo Credit: Hand out E Mail

Elaborating on briga sangeetham, she says, “There is a new negativity about it. In the North, they have many gharanas — Kirana, Gwalior and so on.

“Art should be like that. If everyone imitates the other, where is the speciality? GNB’s briga sangeetham was unique while grahabedam was his speciality. Some universities in the U.S. have courses on Modal Shift of Tonic. His creativity was so vast.”

As a concluding remark, MLV says, “I entreat the rasikas, encourage the younger generation, otherwise, this art will vanish. I also appeal to young learners — be perfectionists. Strive, keep an open mind and appreciate good music.”

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 10:42:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/of-gnbs-genius-and-timeless-values/article31801806.ece

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