Multi - Faceted And Still Going Strong
Guest : T.V.Gopalakrishnan
Much has been written about this multi-faceted musician. If we google the name "T.V.Gopalakrishnan" on the Internet, we are led to numerous sites that give details of his varied musical accomplishments, his lineage, his career, his role as a guru, his quests, his passions and details of the several honours and titles that have poured in.
In an informal chat with Naadhabrahmam, he shared some of his thoughts and reflections on music and gave us a glimpse into the overall persona that makes up the musician called T.V.Gopalakrishnan. He began with his guru - the one and only Chembai.
Chembai would never, as far as I know, sing the Navagraha kritis of Dikshitar. Similarly out of the Kamalamba Navavarnams, he always used to render only Kamalambam bhajare in Kalyani.
In one of your concerts, I was really attracted by your breezy and effortless rendition of Vina Kuppaiyyer's magnum opus in Kambhoji - Koniyaadinanaapai," I said. "This kriti seems to be currently in limbo as far as the concert platform is concerned.
TVG agreed. "It was Mani Iyer (mridangam maestro Palakkad Mani Iyer) who always used to tell me to sing such kritis. In fact, as far as he was concerned, the pillars of a successful concert would be the beginning with an Ata tala varnam, a majestic kriti like o rangasayi, sri subramanyaya namasthe, or koniyadina and finally the Ragam-tanam-Pallavi which *had* to be set in 4-kalai. This was the norm set.
He added, "I strongly feel that the overall pathantharam of a musician is of utmost importance. Coupled with appropriate saarera vasadhi (voice abilities), the combination of these two would remain unparalleled. These two are applicable to all the aspects of Carnatic music be it raga Alapana, kriti rendition and swarakalpana.
Infact, I feel that when singing a monumental kriti like Koniyaadina naapai, one should not concentrate *too* much on raga Alapana. I mean, if one sings Kambhoji Alapana for say, 15 or 20 minutes and then starts Koniyaadina, then somewhere the purpose of showcasing this kriti with its cascading sangathis get lost. In fact I remembering singing a very brief Alapana of Kambhoji once and then started this kriti. When I completed singing a few rounds of swaras, I experienced a sense of completeness, which I would have perhaps not experienced had I sung a very detailed and exhaustive Alapana of Kambhoji.
Actually those days, the combination of Varnam - Periya Kriti (a big, heavy kriti) - Ragam Tanam Pallavi used to be regarded as a vidwan's 'lakshanam' (something that becomes a performing artist).
I also strongly feel that vocalists should try to exploit one facility available in many kritis - invariably the anupallavi of a kriti is so structured as to enable the vocalist to reach and rest at the tara sthaayi shadja. The vocalist should take full advantage and repose himself or herself, exploiting this kaarvai to the fullest extent possible. The mridangist, for his/her part would play a round of 'sarvalaghu'. This will unfailingly ensure two things - one is that the kalapramanam (tempo) will get really set and secondly, the vocalist will be able to align reposefully with the 'sa' thus producing a serene atmosphere that will also enable to the audience participate in the reposefulness.
You have sung many rare kritis in your concert
"Yes," acknowledged TVG. "I owe that to my father, really, who knew many many rare kritis. I recall the year 1952 when I sang vinanaasakoni (Raga Pratapavarali - adi - Thyagaraja). M.S.Gopalakrishnan and Ramanathapuram C.S. Murugabhoopathy were the accompanists. Incidentally, I used to simply adore M.S.G's accompaniment. His understanding of the vocalist, his anticipation and his overall capabilities - all of these contributed outstandingly to the success of a concert."
I said to him, "Perhaps there have been very few instances where a vocalist has been accompanied by the violinist and then the vocalist then accompanies the violinist on the latter's solo concert as a mridangist! TVG smiled. "Yes, there have been numerous occasions where M.S.G has accompanied me and I have in turn accompanied him on the mridangam. I don't think this has happened too many times in the annals of Carnatic music.
"Speaking of M.S.G., it was in the year 1969 when I first rendered the Raga-Tala-Pallavi. For your information, there are many varieties of talas, one of which is the Margiya talam. This talam in turn has 5 different varieties, of which the 1st talam would be Chachatputa. I sang the Ragam Tanam, Pallavi in Karaharapriya set to this tala at the Music Academy main hall with Lalgudi Jayaraman and Thanjavur Upendran as the accompanists. I was praised by doyens like Palakkad Mani Iyer, Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer and Smt. D.K. Pattamal. Subsequently I rendered similar Raga-Tala-Pallavis in ragas like Kokilapriya, Lalitha, Sucharitra and Hamsanadam where I was accompanied by M.S.G. and Umayalapuram Sivaraman on occasions."
"Kokilapriya and Sucharitra?" I echoed.
"Yes," TVG replied with a grin in response to my astonishment, "singing RTPs in rare ragas has perhaps gained some level of popularity now, but those days it wasn't. And singing of the Raga-Tala-Pallavi is practically extinct now.
"Speaking of Kokilapriya, I have sung 'neekabhimaanamu' in Kokilapriya composed by Mysore Vasudevachar many times. Another kriti that is a personal favourite of mine is Vina Kuppaiyyer's "Kanikaramuleka poyana" in Ananda Bhairavi in Rupaka Tala. When I had sung this in a broadcast for All India Radio, Smt. D.K.Pattammal herself telephoned me commending my singing.
"Some of my other favourites (to name just a few that come immediately to mind) are Emani pogadutu enduku nirdaya by Karur Dakshinamurthi Sastri in the raga thodi, Kamalambana in Kanada and a ragamalika that begins with "Nitya kalyani".
"You are also known for your varnams and thillanas", I said, recalling the inimitable pada varnam in the raga Natakurinji "Varanamukhava" that has been popularized by the renowned Bharatnatyam exponent Dhananjayan and is now a fairly recurring item on the dance stage.
"Yes," said TVG. "I have composed a navaraga varnam on Goddess Mookambika that begins with Bhairavi. My offering to Lord Guruvayoorappa is a pada varnam in the raga Katana Kutuhalam with the charanams in Tamizh, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Sankrit. The last charanam in the Natakurinji pada varnam has a unique feature - each line begins with a vowel in succession. I have also composed about 12 thillanas in ragas like Katana Kutuhalam, Ratipatipriya, Behag, Bagesri, Tilang, etc."
As we bade goodbye, we came away with the feeling that we have but just touched the tip of the iceberg of the TVG persona, which in addition to his rich musical heritage, also includes his successful efforts to bring Carnatic and Hindustani Music together, his immensely popular collaborations with the who's who of the western music world, his unique ability to spot talent that has spawned several artists who are leading stars today, the evolving of his own style of playing the mridangam by integrating the styles of several stalwarts of yore, and his contribution by his extensive and untiring research in the areas of voice culture and frequency analysis in the realm of music therapy.
Naadhabrahmam prays that TVG be endowed with unending good health and spirit to continue his yeoman service to the world of music.
As told to Mohan Santhanam.