Rooted in guru bhakti

AT THE shraddanjali function for Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer at the R. R. Sabha, the concert by his disciple V. Subramaniam was an expression of fidelity to his guru, both in vigour and choice of songs. It was a distant echo of Semmangudi's bani. The initiative instinct has to be accepted as a deep-rooted guru bhakti, which was well proclaimed by him through the song, "Guru Leka" (Gowrimanohari).

The Pantuvarali raga vinyasa was to emphasise Semmangudi's vibrant alapana technique. The song was "Saara Saaksha Paripaalaya". The Bhairavi swarajati, "Amba Kamakshi" was next in the list with the neraval and kalpanaswara for the line, "Syama Krishna". As one who revelled in nourishing Dikshitar kirtanas, the sishya rendered the Nilambari song, "Amba Nilaayadaakshi".

In the raga sancharas of Pantuvarali and Bhairavi, brevity had a salutary effect. R. K. Sriramkumar, violinist, scanned the ragas in his solo version with an eye on their beauteous light and shade. Arun Prakash, the mridangist, was quite happy with the pace of the vocalist's rendering of kirtanas.

The responsibility of today's young musicians is onerous because by their exposition they have to assure rasikas that they need have no apprehension that Carnatic music's glory will not be the same as at the hands of great musicians of an earlier era. This thought for both the artistes and the usual listeners was uppermost as the passing away of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer sank into their hearts. This development also provides an occasion to some promising youngsters wavering towards innovativeness to gain instant popularity to ponder over how for seven decades and more the sacredness of Carnatic music had been well preserved. They may also turn introspective to strengthen their resolve that an inheritance so sedulously and ascetically gathered and protected should not become an endangered heritage as the old veterans have all gone.

As it is, to-day music stands between traditional conservatism and overwhelming performing liberalism and the shift in values and singing style are unmistakable. Till now, few were aware of the belittling of quality these forces have caused with the result that the ideologies that spurred musicians like Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and his predecessors remained unfocussed. Musical modernism, if the present trend can be so termed, has replaced sangita idealism. A great art cannot be on the downslide forever. An event like Semmangudi's departure may well shake complacent smugness.

An indication towards this reassurance could be noticed in the cutcheri of T. M. Krishna under the auspices of Sunadham. Have we come across in recent times a recital where from the beginning Kalyani, Bhairavi and Madhyamavati are sung in succession, a matter of faith with older vidwans that major ragas and weighty kirtanas alone stand a practitioner in good stead? And what kirtanas at that? "Rama Nee Vaadu Konduvo" (Kalyani) "Koluvaiyyunnade" (Bhairavi) and "Palinchu Kamakshi" (Madhyamavati). In between "Amba Nilayadakshi" (Nilambari). By such programming Krishna introduced a breath of freshness in the performance. "Nenendu Vetukudura" (Karnataka Behag) served as a palatable snack.

With intensity and scouting for beauteous facets, he painted the raga framework of Bhairavi and Madhyamavati. As he sang that day the creativity and implementation of manodharma were in the light of maturity to reach higher levels of accomplishment. His style of presentation apart, a rasika could not have overlooked the felicity of the flow of his voice. While rendering the songs, "Amba Nilayadakshi" and "Koluvaiyyunnade" he got absorbed into the spirit of the sahityas. The contents and presentation were such as to cater to the finer senses of a discerning listener. M. A. Sundareswaran was the violinist whose contribution was in contrast to the serenity of the vocalist's approach. With fingering profusion the raga pictures were ornate. Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam was the mridangist who missed no opportunity to proclaim his percussive flamboyance.

E. M. Subramaniam (ghatam) lent Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam enough promptings.