Perspective Music

The word Ariyakudi brought to fashion

Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar  

Carnatic music went through a phase when the average public started to join the audience. It was hitherto a temple affair or in the private sanctuary of the fraternity. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar presided over this phase and for the next hundred years or so, his performance theorems have reigned. One of the concepts postulated by him is ‘Parimalippu.’ The Tamil word has no direct English equivalents but has a longish connotation such as this — promoting or inducing cheer; pleasant; bright; an act or instance of animating or enlivening; the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship. It is the perfect way to describe the parimalippu concept.

It is not about how much you know but what you produce. It is also not about self-enjoyment alone but attracting the listeners with your music. In a nutshell, it is not about ‘you’ but ‘them.’ Management guru Peter Drucker would have been mightily impressed that in the 1920s someone described the ‘customer first’ principle in a totally unrelated field so succinctly. It is worth bringing a fresh limelight to this idea (it is 100 years since Ariyakkudi performed first) as many musicians seem to have forgotten it.

Even though Ariyakkudi did not articulate the concept in words, from his concert practice, one can dissect the following four tenets:

Kalapramanam: In the pre-platform era, the tempo was markedly slow. The reasons could be attributed to the fact that musicians wanted to showcase their full knowledge in a leisurely manner and the primed audience did not mind it. Ariyakkudi realised the imprudence of this for the average listener. He set the tempo of his music a shade faster. That he managed to achieve this with even Dikshitar kritis (like ‘Akshayalinga vibho,’ ‘Sri Subramanyaya Namaste,’ ‘Ramanatham Bhajeham’) was his master stroke. His Kalapramanam is a prime reason for the parimalippu and became the standard for most successful musicians (Alathur Brothers, Semmangudi, GNB and Madurai Mani Iyer). The great master deployed this tactic even for rakti ragas like Yadukula Khambodi or Surutti.

Programme: Trinity was Ariyakudi’s guiding light. He packed a lot of Tyagaraja kritis that helped his tempo tactic besides easy-to-follow rhythm for new audiences. His choices of ragas in the early phase is another well-known trick — in terms of scoring arc, he was prolific with Pantuvarali, Begada, Mukhari, Atana, Arabhi — these effervesce naturally and light up the horizon quickly.

Time proportion: One is often surprised at the brevity of rendition of any segment by Ariyakkudi — ragam or kriti or swaras. Even his Ragam Tanam Pallavi were relatively short. He stopped when you yearned for more and fully understood the fatigue points. He presented fewer but choicest sangatis in kritis. Frugality was his method to optimise time. This enabled him to increase the number of songs in a concert (another programming trump card) and provided sufficient space for tukkadas and the high finish.

The Finish: If Ariyakkudi started concerts brightly, he ended them even more sprightly with a repertoire from Andal pasurams to Dasar namas to Thillanas and Javalis. The ecstasy potion continued to flow in these closing pieces.

Unlike most forms of music, Carnatic music concert rules are not prescribed. Ariyakkudi’s ‘Parimalippu’ theorem would be an integral part of the performance grammar if a book is written.

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Printable version | Jul 17, 2021 12:32:14 AM |

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