/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": April 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"A blend of Vocal, Veena and Nagaswaram" : Violin Maestro M. Chandrasekaran

[Photo: Courtesy http://www.carnatic.com/people/cs-violin.html ]

"... he will always be 'Chandru' to me, as I affectionately used to call him... he first performed in "Parvathi" all the way back in 1965... since then he has performed so many times with all the Veterans for many of the festivals in the house..."

"...as you know, from birth he has always been physically challenged and it was a great comfort for me to see that he was always accompanied on his travels by either a disciple or family member...those were the days you had to change trains twice, from Madras to Bangalore and then from Bangalore to Mysore...now, once, to my great astonishment and shock 'Chandru' arrives all alone for a concert! When I worriedly questioned him he said coming to "Parvathi" was nothing new to him... and he says all of that in that beautiful innocent demeanor of his...I advised him never to venture out like that again...and I saw to it that he was safely escorted back all the way home..."

-K. Srikantiah's Recollections

On Dec. 15, 2009, the inaugural concert of the season at the Music Academy in Madras (Chennai) featured three Sangeetha Kalanidhis. Vidwan T.N. Seshagopalan was accompanied by two other greats, Vidwan M. Chandrasekaran and Vidwan Vellore Ramabhadran. They were the recipients of the Sangeetha Kalanidhi title in the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 in the reverse order.

The Hindu, in a tribute on 1 Dec. 2005 to Sangeetha Kalanidhi designate M. Chandrasekaran, quoted Dr. Pinakapani, “Chandrasekaran's style of violin playing is a blend of vocal, veena and nagaswaram."

2009 also marked the sixtieth year of concert performances for the violin maestro M. Chandrasekaran. He had received his first award in the Music Academy in 1950, just a year after he started performing in public at the age of eleven. Vidwan Chandrasekaran has gone on record that he owes everything to his mother, who dealt with his visual impairment at the age of two and undaunted, taught him music, as well as Braille. He has founded a trust in her memory, the Charubala Mohan Trust, to encourage young artistes.

The art of violin accompaniment is like walking on the edge of a razor. Carnatic music, when amplified through the mike system, poses challenges to artistes and audiences alike. It is difficult to balance the instruments and yet preserve the fabric of the original music. In addition, the violinist has to keep up the accompaniment throughout the concert, getting a respite only during the tani avarathanam. After a marathon swara cycle, the main artiste often takes a break, but the violinist is impelled to respond. The main artiste has the advantage of planning the concert ahead, and playing in his zone of comfort. But the violinist has to deal with the unknown, preserve and embellish the manodharma of the main artiste, and improvise in his solo passages without excess or digress. The dialogue during alapana, neraval and swara passages has to be harmonious, eschewing one-upmanship. On many occasions, the main artiste may slacken a bit and lose his grip on the proceedings. Then the violinist has to raise the flagging tempo and rekindle the main artiste. All this is asking a lot. And without the important eye-contact, the challenge is all the greater.

We must remember these aspects when we listen to Vidwan Chandrasekaran. He has made hundreds of concerts unforgettable by his indefatigable artistry as an accompanist. Of course he is a great soloist, and noted as a composer and even vocalist. But he will always be remembered as the crown prince among accompanists.

The Parvathi concert series posted here bear ample testimony to Vidwan Chandrasekaran's talents. We have featured his recording in a double violin concert with T.N. Krishnan as well as in violin accompaniment for Balamuralikrishna, Madurai Somu, Doreswami Iyengar, Ramani, and M.D. Ramanathan already. In every concert, we can hear his frequent “Aahs” of spontaneous appreciation for the main artiste. When his turn comes, he has excelled in improvisation. In his solo passages, he has reminded us of the Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan. He has cooed the lovely sounds of rakti ragas with Ramani. He has embellished the majesty of the veena. In MDR's concert, when he plays to the words, “Veeram Dhanurbhanjane”, MDR is spurred by his forceful play to exclaim, “Oh, you're yourself armed with the bow!”

We feature a concert recording here from 1999, his fiftieth performing year. It is a violin duet with his daughter Smt. G. Bharathi, who we are informed has an active musical career in the USA.

'Parvathi' March 30, 1999

[Photo: Courtesy http://www.hindu.com/ms/2005/12/01/stories/2005120100120200.htm ]

M. Chandrasekharan & G.Bharathi (Violin Duet)
T.A.S.Mani ----(Mridangam)
M.A.Krishnamurthy ---(Ghatam)

[ 1. Naa Jeevaadhaara – Bilahari- Thyagaraja (partial) 2. Durmargachara- Ranjani – Thyagaraja 3. Nannu vidachi – Reetigowla – Thyagaraja (vocal) 4. Manavyalakinchara – Nalinakanti – Thyagaraja 5. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Simhendra madhyamam (& Ragamalika) 6. Baro Krishnayya – Ragamalika ( Maand, Misra Piloo, Jaunpuri) – Kanaka Dasa 7. Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma – Madhyamavati – Purandara Dasa ]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Samaja Varagamana" : Vidwan M.D. Ramanathan

April 13, 1971
Vidwans: M.D. Ramanathan, Trichy Sankaran, M. Chandrasekharan, M.S. Manjunath

Vidwan M.D. Ramanathan, known as MDR to all music lovers, is a rare star in the Carnatic firmament. His creativity and unique interpretations always earned Oohs and Aahs from the knowledgeable.

Jon Higgins, who shone briefly and impactfully in Carnatic music, was once asked why he, as a westerner, had not chosen western music for a career. His answer was insightful and, paraphrased, stated that in Carnatic music, your musical idea is more important than your voice. In western classical music, if you don't have the right kind of voice, you will not succeed as a vocalist. This is not true in Carnatic music.

But what if one were endowed with a baritone voice that would be the envy of a Pavarotti or a Bocelli? And were also blessed with a delightful musical sensibility and the creative instincts of a composer? And inherited the lineage of Thyagaraja-Patnam-Poocchi-Tiger? That was MDR. The first and foremost alumnus of the Kalakshetra Shiromani course, he was anointed by Tiger Varadachar as his successor and was a favourite of Rukmini Devi. He taught for many years in Kalakshetra, and came across to his students and others as a high soul who dwelt in the far orbits of musical creativity and shunned pettiness. He was a scholar and composer of delightful, nuanced kritis like “Thyagarajagurum Ashraye” in Kedaram.

This chronicler ( R. Sachi and click to see companion post on MDR ) first heard MDR in Mysore's famed venue Bidaram Krishnappa Ramamandiram in the mid-sixties. A childlike personality, MDR bowed down before the Pattabhi Rama picture, touching his ears with crossed hands (as one does traditionally in front of Ganesha), tucked the “Sevanthige” flower into his tuft, and got ready to serve a great feast of music in the company of Lalgudi and TVG. MDR fans always found ample humour in his concerts, what with his mannerisms, his surprisingly deep voice, and his tendency to toy with musical ideas creatively.

MDR invariably attracted “class” accompaniment. His low sruti was a challenge much like inclement weather to the violin and mridangam, but accompanists delighted in his truly rich sruti-aligned idiom and the measured gait of his music. The apt words to describe his magnificent laya would be “Samaja Varagamana”- words Thyagaraja uses to describe how Krishna (Thyagaraja has composed VERY few songs on deities other than Rama) walked with the dignity of a caparisoned elephant.


"..Sri M.D.Ramanathan was of course a fond disciple of Tiger Varadachar,and he followed the tradition set by his guru... always keeping his sruti low... his style of singing always had a great fan following..."

"... during MDR's visits to 'Parvathi', I would drive him
on a few occasions to the Chamundi Hills, for Goddess Chamundeshwari's darshana in the mornings...One morning... in Parvathi... MDR decided to just sing informally, with no accompaniment... 'Mukhari' Raga and 'Ksheenamai' kriti... this informal rendering was simply an unforgettable experience for me...his rendering of Kharaharapriya ( which is featured in the posted concert ) is indeed excellent..."

"...It appears Sri Maharajapuram Santhanam and others contacted Sri Yesudas for his benefit concert for MDR when MDR was unwell... but before it could happen, MDR passed away..."

" now, I am thinking about Trichy Sankaran, too, who has accompanied MDR, here...
he has made his great mark in mridangam playing... carrying on the excellent and soft mridangam playing style of his guru Sri Palani Subrahmanya Pillai. He had started to accompany quite a few senior artistes at Parvathi during the Ramanavami music festivals in the 70's ... but he decided to depart for Canada and settle down there as a distinguished Professor of Indian music... in this context, I must also tell you of a very touching thing about Sankaran's guru Sri Palani Subrahmanya Pillai...during one of his informal visits to Parvathi, he expressed his desire to take rest in Mysore for a month, and wanted to stay in the adjoining guest house of Parvathi... but it was not meant to be...as we were trying to make arrangements ... he just passed away...very very sadly..."


In many a picture of "Parvathi" posted on our blog (including the one above), one may have likely seen a familiar figure, ever wearing a white turban and found generally seated in the front row of a concert. To the uninitiated and at a cursory glance the person would appear as a self-effacing individual, at best a hard core Rasika. But not to those who knew of him. As the popular news paper The Hindu remembered him in an obituary "He was one of the greatest minds in Indian Philosophy and Sanskrit Literary traditions". He is none other than Mysore's famous Sanskrit scholar Prof.G.N.Chakravarthi, a recipient of the Sediyapu Award, Veda Rathna Award, a national award instituted by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and Kannada Rajyotsava Award. Ever a fixture in "Parvathi", including being friend and teacher to many of its members, he was always affectionately referred to in his lifetime as 'Meshtre' (the quintessential teacher!).


[ 01. Vanajakshi – Atatala varnam – Pallavi Gopala Iyer 02. Rama nipai – Kedara – Thyagaraja 03. Angarakam ashrayamyaham – Suruti – Muthuswami Dikshitar 04. Samaja Varagamana – Hindola – Thyagaraja 05. Lekana ninnu – Asaveri – Thyagaraja 06. Tatwameruga tarama- Garudadhwani – Thyagaraja 07. Pakkala nilabadi – Kharaharapriya – Thyagaraja 08. Sringaram Kshitinandini – Navarasa Sloka Ragamalika/Kadaikan-Begada 09. Paripalaya paripalaya – Reetigowla – Thyagaraja 10. Rama Rama – Nilambari – Thyagaraja 11. Jojo Sri Rama (utsava sampradaya) – Reetigowla – Thyagaraja 12. Mamava Pattabhi Rama – Manirangu – Muthuswami Dikshitar 13. Nati mata – Devakriya – Thyagaraja 14. Tillana – Hindustani Kapi – M.D. Ramanathan 15. Mangalam – Sowrashtra- Thyagaraja ]