Friday Review

TKG as a tunesmith

Bombay Sisters. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Bombay Sisters. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

Presenting a lec-dem titled ‘Insights into the music composed by T.K. Govinda Rao’, the Bombay Sisters - C. Saroja and C. Lalitha threw light on their late guru’s approach and expertise as a vaggeyakara and tunesmith.

Tripunithura Krishnan Embrandiri Govinda Rao’s childhood interest in music was fanned by listening to doyens at kutcheris organised by his relative. Elders advised him to undergo formal training, as ‘kelvi gnanam’ alone would not suffice. Thus began his formal training under guru Mayavaram Rajam.

Waving aside opportunities to sing in Malayalam films, he focused solely on classical music. In 1947, he came to Madras, where he met Tiger Varadachari, who was impressed and sent him with a letter of recommendation to Musiri Subramania Iyer, the then principal of the Central College of Carnatic Music. When TKG sang an RTP before Musiri Subramania Iyer, he was instantly granted special admission to the Sangita Vidwan course, as the academic year had already commenced. Learning from Musiri in gurukula vasam as well, he trained intensively and attained the stature of a performing artist.

In 1978, TKG began his life’s mission – publishing the compositions of great vaggeyakaras. The first book was Varna Manjari from Ganamandir publications, employing diacritical Roman and Devanagari scripts. The book included tana and pada varnams. To notate varnams by contemporary composers such as Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna and Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, TKG went to great lengths, by personally visiting their homes to source the original compositions, evidencing his respect for fellow vidwans.

TKG‘s own varnams were many, showcasing his scholarship in Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. Of these, the sisters had had the good fortune, they said, to learn the Dhanyasi varnam ‘Nikhila Loka Nayaki’ which they rendered with great bhava, illustrating the beauty of the final chittaiswara in charanam. His tillanas encompassed ragas such as Nalinakanthi, Gambhiravani, Hamsanandhi, Sindhu Bhairavi and Vasantha.

Among TKG’s greatest achievements was the compilation and publication of Trinity compositions, impeccably notated, complemented by meanings of the lyrics, in English. Collecting over 600 compositions of all Haridasas including Purandaradasa, he tuned them in catchy, evergreen melodies that were tailor-made for the sahitya.

Popular examples include the unforgettable ‘Baro Krishnayya’ (ragamalika), ‘Innu Daya Barade’ (Kalyanavasantham) and ‘Hari Chitha Sathya’ (Jhonpuri). ‘Satata

Gananatha’ (Rasikapriya), with vibrant chittaiswaram and an atheetha eduppu charanam in which the melodic choreography emphasises the joyousness in the line ‘chittadali ananda’ was rendered. Again, ‘Aalokaye’ (Narayana Tirtha) set in chaste Khambodi, offers infinite scope for niraval at ‘Dwarakapura’. Tuning ideas and inspiration would haunt his waking and sleeping hours. Sadly, he passed away before he could complete publication of the vast Dasa repertoire. His tunes added beauty to the works of Subramania Bharathi, Periyasami Thooran, Ambujam Krishna and others. Interestingly, TKG tuned Thooran’s lyrics for the Queen Mary’s College song ‘Vazhiya Rani Mary Kalluri.’ The tukkada section gained many fine additions, inspired by diverse sources such as the semi-classical film songs that TKG loved listening to – ‘Nanda Nandana’ (Valaj, madhyama sruti), ‘Yethanai Koti Inbam’ (Ahir Bhairav), the tiruppugazh ‘Thamaraiyin’ (Bhagesri), the kavadi chindu ‘Azhagu Deivamaga’ and many other unique melodies he composed for the sisters’ thematic recordings.

The two vidushis enlivened the informative talk with interesting anecdotes and snatches of humour. Loyal disciples, they made the touching observation that TKG, a complete ‘all-in-one’ vidwan, had been their sole guru, from whom they would have continued learning all their lives, had he been alive. “Always embellish compositions with apt sangatis. Never rest on your achievements, as music is an endless ocean” were among the nuggets of advice he imparted.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 8:53:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/tkg-as-a-tunesmith/article8025726.ece

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