M.V. Ramakrishnan

Inheriting a legacy

Narmadha is a fine example of legacy being passed on. The daughter of M.S. Gopalakrishnan, well-accomplished in Hindustani music as well as being essentially a Carnatic musician, there are several different settings in which she performs, frequently or occasionally – as an accompanist in Carnatic music; as MSG's partner in violin recitals; as a soloist in Carnatic and Hindustani music; and as a participant in jugalbandis.

The characteristic features of MSG's distinct style in Carnatic music are the following: (a) a smooth texture which can be as light as silk and as weighty as velvet; (b) certain dashing strokes and gliding flourishes of sound which are like swishing darts in short flight; and (c) a strong flair for importing attractive Northern colours from Hindustani music (inherited from his father and guru, Parur Sundaram Iyer).

Of these, Narmadha has assimilated the first two elements remarkably well, though she doesn't use the flashing technique obsessively. But although she's perfectly capable of making her Carnatic music glow with Hindustani overtones, she usually prefers not to do so. In her role as an accompanist in Carnatic music, Narmadha adopts a restrained approach, faithfully reflecting and enhancing the main artist's style. And even in her solo violin recitals in Carnatic music, she adopts strikingly different postures, depending on the nature of the given venue and audience. These basic facts were clearly evident in different concerts in the ongoing music season, as when she accompanied the highly popular vocalist S. Sowmya at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club, and gave solo recitals in the Meenakshi College in Kodambakkam and the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore (for Kartik Fine Arts).

Sparkling and serene

Although it was rainy day, the atmosphere in the Meenakshi College campus was quite bustling, with a large number of young students and elderly rasikas were present. That was a great incentive for the violinist to adopt a vibrant and vivacious approach. Accompanied by a vigorous set of percussionists (B.S. Narayanan, S. Narasimhan and R.V.B. Balachandran, on the mridangam, ghatam and morsing respectively), Narmadha embarked on a dazzling display of virtuosity and set the sparks flying.

The recital, however, had some delicate spells also. The song ‘Enai Nee Maravaade, Angayarkanninaai!' in the raga Amritavarshini had a subtle fragrance which stayed with you for several days.

On the other occasion, the setting in the mini-hall of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was intimate, with a small number of seasoned and serious rasikas. And that induced Narmadha to adopt a far less animated approach, well assisted by Sherthalai Ananthakrishnan on the mridangam and M. Guruprasad on the ghatam. Quite significantly, it was in this serene setting that Narmadha's violin often tended to sound almost like her father's, with all those lovely dart-like flashes! But given Narmada's natural vivacity, the concert did have some sparkling spells too.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 2:48:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/m_v_ramakrishnan/Inheriting-a-legacy/article16836566.ece

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