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Up the success ladder


If Subhasri’s presentation had rationed brighas, Ramani’s was packed with lengthy sancharas.

Photos: S. Kannan

Enjoyable: Subhasri.

Thanks to the excellent traffic arrangement, one was able to reach Bala Mandir German Hall, T. Nagar in time for the function in honour of GNB that included a speech sandwiched between two concerts. It was held under the auspices of the GNB Centena ry Celebrations Committee and The Indian Fine Arts Society on Sunday last.

Subhasri, daughter of noted musician couple Charumathi Ramachandran and Trichur V. Ramachandran, presented an enjoyable concert. Subhasri’s cool and bright recital was a contrast to the humid and cloudy weather outside. Her delineation of Mohanam (‘Raa Raa’-Adi-Mysore Vasudevachar) with rationed brigas was very satisfying.

The brief Khamas that preceded it was a clear indication of her growing self confidence. ‘Karpooram Naarumo’ (Nachiyar Tirumozhi) was neatly rendered. She maintained the tempo in Kiravani (‘Nee Charanmabhujamunu’-Adi-GNB), painting it vividly with akhara phrases that landed perfectly. That she did not dwell too much on the arithmetics of swara was another aspect that lifted the concert to an enjoyable level. Meera Sivaramakrishnan (violin), however, was off colour with her slippery playing. Seasoned campaigner Kallidaikurichi Sivakumar (mridangam) and H.Sivaramakrishnan (ghatam) gave the necessary support to uplift the concert while V.V.S Manian (ganjira) joined them effectively. Overall, this lady is bound to climb up the success ladder, if this approach is sustained.

A revelation

Veteran N. Ramani took the stage after the speech. It was a revelation when he announced that though trained by his guru T.R. Mahalingam, he had shaped his style following that of GNB.

‘Vara Vallabha’ (Hamsadhwani-Adi-GNB) was an enjoyable start followed by a Saraswathi (‘Saraswathi Namosthute’-Rupakam-GNB) that Ramani packed with haunting, lengthy sancharas.

N. Ramani.

Shades of GNB’s briga-oriented sangathis came in now and then. M.A. Sundareswaran (violin) whose musical maturity has grown by leaps and bounds, gave a brilliant reply.

Sahana was yet another demonstration of class by the Ramani-MAS combination. ‘Eevasudha’ (Adi-Tyagaraja) was a shade faster than usual. Classicism came to the fore, when the ‘nadha yogi’ in Ramani presented Thodi (‘Thamasam Yaen Swami’-Adi-Sivan) with an array of well measured mellifluous phrases. MAS was a close second.

Vellore Ramabhadran’s mridangam was off sruti for most part of the concert.

E.M. Subramaniam was on the ghatam. Sekar of M.S. Kumar Audios deserves special mention for the judicious sound balancing that made listening, a pleasurable experience.

A cult figure called GNB

ADDRESS Advocate and musicologist S. Vijayaraghavan’s exposition on GNB was a rewarding experience.

Photo: S. Kannan

Interesting: S. Vijayaraghavan giving a speech on GNB.

At the GNB Day event advocate and musicologist S.Vijayaraghavan gave a speech on G.N. Balasubramaniam on why he was considered the musician of the century, delving into various aspects of his music. Excerpts:

GNB came as meteor but stayed on till the end like a star. He did not undergo formal training — he was a Swayambhu, blessed by the Lord to spread music in this world. It was a humble beginning for him as a young lad from Tripilicane when stalwarts such as Ariyakkudi, TNR and Maharajapuram were ruling the roost. GNB held all his seniors in great esteem and yet created a style for himself.

Path of success

After the 1928 concert where he substituted for Musiri, at Mylapore, there was no turning back, and GNB virtually became a cult. He was an authentic genius with erudition garnered over several births. Such was the rapidity with which GNB strode the path of success that he was pitched along with the seniors in the Music Academy season in 1937 — a record of sorts. GNB’s concerts were mostly extempore. His ideals were high and for him excellence was always a moving target.

GNB struck a rapport with Palghat Mani Iyer and the concerts that involved the duo were a sell out. The interesting thing is that both would sit together and set up kritis and playing styles. Palghat Mani Iyer, coming out of Academy after playing for GNB in 1946, was heard saying “For others I play but in the case of GNB, he sings for me.”

GNB never compromised in singing raga alapanas extensively, thus reviving the good old days of Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan, Madurai Pushpavanam, Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer and Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar notwithstanding his great respect for Ariayakkudi’s music. He described Iyengar’s music as the Gita of Sangitham.

GNB paid equal attention to laskhiya and lakshana thereby making his music enjoyable for both the learned and the uninitiated. He broke the myth that commencing a concert with Sahana would end up a failure, by singing Tyagaraja’s ‘Eeevasudha’ as the first piece and making the concert a success.

GNB was equally at home in rare ragas such as Pratapa Varali, Gavathi, Dakka, Malavi (then rare), as he was with, say, Thodi, Kalyani or Bhairavi. His brighas were never plain flat notes but had gamakas in right doses.

GNB never considered his music to be extraordinary. Such was his humility! The truth is that his music was outstanding. Taking into account all these aspects should we not dare to split the history of Carnatic music of this century as ‘Before GNB’ and ‘After GNB’?

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