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An insight into a great mind

Guest : Lalgudi G. Jayaraman

Born in the illustrious Shishya Parampara of Saint Thyagaraja, this blessed child's interest and talent was nurtured by his father and guru Shri.V.R.Gopala Iyer.

Remendous hard work and complete dedication have paved way for his unparalleled success and has resulted in his musical genius sparkle in his territory for over six decades now.

Padmashree, Padmabhushan and the President's Award for excellence are a few of the several gems in his crown.

An accompanist much sought after, for his enormous support and cooperation, a soloist who has given several new dimensions to the handling the instrument, a brilliant composer, who, in his compositions has magical blends of intellect and aesthetics, a very diligent, devoted guru…This multifaceted living legend-Lalgudi.G.Jayaraman, and the violin-have indeed become one and the same!

Lalgudi G. Jayaraman shares his beliefs and the truth his rich experience has taught him with our advisor Dr. Radha Venkatachalam

Radha Venkatachalam : What is the difference between Carnatic Music of yester years and present day Carnatic music?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : In those days, there was plenty of time available for the artistes. They could practice and perform in leisure. Performers devoted great amount of time to the art form. Concerts were lengthy, taking 4 hours or more and the audience was also willing to give spend such time. But now, everything seems to be happening in a hurry. Artistes, as well as the rasikas are not in a position to devote that kind of time. Four hour concerts have shrunk into one and a half, two hour concerts. New compositions are becoming popular. Ragam Tanam Pallavis are taking lesser time and the range of ragas in which Pallavis are rendered, is expanding. Carnatic music is seeing several such changes. Like the media, or any other field for that matter, Carnatic music is also bound to go through changes according to the changing times and tastes of rasikas.

Radha Venkatachalam : Do you think a Shishya should exactly reproduce what the guru has taught him?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Firstly, I don't think it is possible to do so. Each student has a unique manner in which he understands, interprets and presents what he has learnt. It has to suit his convenience or ease, with which he/she is able to handle brigas, gamakas and kalapramanas. Even if a student tries to reproduce his guru's work, it will not sound the same. We see how the same Kriti sounds different in different voices. Therefore, each student's gnyanam, nature of voice/playing, rendition style, and convenience, are responsible for any kriti sounding a particular way.
Even among my students, there are a few who are very comfortable with brigas (fast sangathis), a few others who handles gamakas with ease. Accordingly, they are trained to play in a style that suits their strengths. No 'one way of playing/singing' should be thrust upon anyone.

Radha Venkatachalam : Being an instrumentalist, how is it that you take such great interest in the Sahithyams of compositions?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : The primary reason is that my father and guru Shri.V.R.Gopala Iyer always emphasized that violin playing should sound like someone singing. That was the kind of importance he gave to the Sahithyam.
Moreover, I have always believed that only an in-depth understanding of the Sahithyam can help one do justice to the bhava, a composer has intended to convey through his composition. Only when the bhava is understood well, and interpreted correctly can it be reflected in the rendition. The Sahithyam plays a very significant role in interpreting this bhava, and communicating it to the audience.

Radha Venkatachalam : What do you think about different bowing techniques being employed?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Different bowing techniques are applicable to different aspects of music. The bow is applied differently for swaram, sahithyam, thanam etc. Artistes use techniques that suit their style and convenience.

Radha Venkatachalam : There has been a great transformation in the teaching methodologies then and now. As a guru, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of present day teaching systems?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : In those days, shishyas learnt under the Gurukula system where in the student learnt directly from the Guru. There was no hurry. Infact, there was no necessity to write down compositions. Students would listen to their guru sing, repeat, get their mistakes corrected then and there, and memorise compositions through religious practice.
Later on, the concept of writing down compositions came into being. Now, we have pre-recorded cassettes and music lessons available on the internet. However, in these modern teaching systems, it is not possible to get one's mistakes corrected by the guru. The tape recorder or the computer cannot say "that sangathi is wrong, it is meant to be sung this way...".According to me the older teaching methodology is the best.
It certainly helps deeper understanding of the art form. Music lessons or performances were not so easily available then. If I wanted to listen to a concert being broadcasted in the radio, I had to run to the nearest shop or public park. People didn't own radios then. When it was a rarity, it seemed more precious. Now that it is so easily available, it is natural that the value drops. Direct guidance under a guru is any day better and special.

Radha Venkatachalam : What are the merits and demerits of the December festival?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Earlier there were just three sabhas organizing concerts during the month of December. With the increase in the number of foreigners and NRIs visiting Chennai during that part of the year, more sabhas started coming up. Now we have more than fifty such sabhas. Artistes are also eager to perform and be part of this festival. A few years ago we had only rasikas coming from other countries but now we have many artistes also coming down, so much so that separate NRI concert series have to be organized.
The inaugural functions, award ceremonies, felicitations...all these have grown in number. Artistes are compelled to compete according to the changing times. The supply seems to be exceeding the demand. Only when a proper balance is maintained, will the arts be given due respect and value.

Radha Venkatachalam : How will you determine the crowds attending these concerts?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : All the concerts do not draw equal crowds. The number of people attending a concert depends on several factors like, the caliber of the artiste, the accompanying artistes, and combination and so on.

Radha Venkatachalam : What are the qualification of an ideal sabha secretary should be in your opinion?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Sabha secretaries should have a genuine interest in the arts. They should have the knowledge and capacity to evaluate and differentiate performances, based on quality. They should not go just by crowds. Competent young artistes should be given opportunities and encouraged. Now a days, sponsors seem to be having a role to play. Secretaries should not go by the mere recommendations of the sponsors. Senior vidwans, who, due to age and health factors, are not able to give their best, may restrict themselves, there by making it easier for the secretaries to give opportunities to deserving youngsters.

Radha Venkatachalam : What according to you is the difference between Pallavis handled then and now?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Pallavis rendered then, gave more prominence to melodic aspects rather than rhythmic complexities. The number of words, syllables used was more. For example, 'Sharavanabhavaguruguha shanmuka...' a pallavi of Madurai Mani Iyer's, would occupy huge Tala cycles. Pallavis rendered now, are increasingly being seen in the laya light.

Radha Venkatachalam : What do you think are the ingredients for a successful career in music?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : For any artiste, melody is the most important factor. Sukha bhavam, shruti shudham, laya shudham, kalapramana shudham, and presentation are very important.The presentation should be both, intelligent and entertaining.
For any artiste, melody is the most important factor. Sukha bhavam, shruti shudham, laya shudham, kalapramana shudham, and presentation are very important.The presentation should be both, intelligent and entertaining.
We have all been listening to the Ramayana for several years. But with the creativity and style employed in the narrative, the story teller manages to capture the audience's attention, though it is a story that is familiar to all of us.
Similarly, presentation is very important in a concert. It should cater to the tastes of all the members of the audience. There must be a variety in compositions, kalapramanas, language etc, like a sumptuous meal!

Radha Venkatachalam : You have composed several pallavis, varnams, thillanas etc. How did you identify the composer in you?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : My family has had performing musicians for over four to five generations. Moreover, my great grand father was a direct disciple of Saint Thaygaraja. I am blessed to have this kind of a background.
I have also been fortunate to have had the opportunity of accompanying all the geniuses and stalwarts of those days. These experiences triggered off and nurtured the inner urge in me to experiment with musical phrases. It is the divine's blessings, that these have been acknowledged well.

Radha Venkatachalam : Many new composers are coming up. What do you have to say about it?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Yes, it is a welcoming trend. Only time will tell on these compositions.

Radha Venkatachalam : Despite your mother tongue being Tamil, you have composed in Telugu also. How was that possible?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : My mother tongue is Tamil, you are right. But learning and working on hundreds of compositions in Sanskrit and Tamil, especially Thayagaraja's compositions, has influenced me to make an attempt in Telugu. It's God's grace!

Radha Venkatachalam : What is your opinion on thematic productions?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Listening to concerts all the time might lead to monotony. New projects and innovative attempts should be welcomed. The experiments, if well within the grammar of the art form, will certainly be received well.

Radha Venkatachalam : What is your advice to youngsters?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Any art form demands one's complete dedication of time, energy and thought. If one surrenders oneself to the art, it will in turn give itself. It is a matter of give and take. Complete dedication will surely yield fruitful returns. I say this, based on what my own experience has taught me!

Radha Venkatachalam : The secret of your success is hardwork. Do you wish to attribute your success to any other factors?

Lalgudi Jayaraman : My father and guru has been my initial shruthi. My mother's dedication and my wife's cooperation and support have been vital. Above all, it is the Almighty's blessings!

Radha Venkatachalam : Well, it has been wonderful talking to you. On behalf of Naadhabrahmam, I wish to thank you very much for sharing your precious time.

Lalgudi Jayaraman : Your welcome, it is my pleasure!

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