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Posts Tagged ‘lecdem’

Raja Govindarajan has tagged me in this FB chain game of choosing 10 albums. Here is the sixth one.

It is common to first hear an artist in a recording and then seek for live concert experience. But, there are rare occasions when you hear an artist live and when you are done you want to find every possible recording that exists of that artist. One such artist was Vid. Suguna Purushottaman.

I first heard her in Dec 2007 during the morning session of Music Academy. It was after 2003 I started developing some interest in theoretical aspects of Carnatic music. I’m no expert in theory. But, I’ve genuine interest in it. I hope to understand at least a little bit of it someday. When you read theory on talas, you come across the commonly practiced 35 tala system and then you also come across the ‘not so common’ 108 tala system.

When you read about great artists who lived before pre-twentieth century, you often come across their prowess in singing pallavis in complex talas and their victory over their rival through such renditions. Even hundred years back, every village used to boast of great nagaswaram artists. While some artists were sought after all over the country, many artists remained confined to their village. The artists in demand used to charge a hefty fee. The tradition was such that, the organisers could pay any amount to call to invite the artist from outside. However, the local artist is the one who will start the proceedings. Also, when it came to playing the pallavi, the local artist will lead it and the outsider, however big name be, will have to follow and repeat it. There are multiple instances where the ‘big name’ was made to eat humble pie.

Many a times, these pallavis – especially during contests, were based on the 108 talas. The names of Talas like Lakshmeesam, Simhanandanam are known because of the existence of compositions in them. The period between 1910 to 1960 is often looked upon as the golden period of Carnatic “Kutcheri Music”. In that time, it was Mudicondan Venkatrama Iyer who carved a niche for by performing demonstrations on pallavis in such rare talas. The old timers still speak about the demonstration of Simhanandana Pallavi he gave along with the then young Lalgudi Jayaraman and the legendary Pazhani Subramania Pillai.

While I have heard and read about pallavis in such talas, I have personally not heard anyone sing in them until 2007. When I knew Vid. Suguna was scheduled to deliver a lecture demonstration in Simhanandana I was sure I would be there. Little did I know that I was going to experience something that I would share it with grandchildren when I become an old timer.

By the time, I had reached Music Academy along with my brother, the lecdem had already started. In the recent years, unless you reach early, you may not get entry into the hall for lecdems that kindled interest among fans and students. Even until ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. I remember attending a lecdem in 2010 by Shri. Lalgudi Jayaraman on GNB. I felt that was the most crowded lecdem I have ever attended. Even on that occasion, no one was denied entry.

So Fortunately for us, despite a short delay we were able to enter the hall and even manage a seat. She was still singing a short raga alapana and followed it up with short tanam. I vividly remember Vid. Charulatha Ramanujam was in the violin and Vid. Thanjavur Kumar was on the mridangam.

suguna

Within a few minutes I was completely engrossed in the beauty of the thodi that she was serving. Only when she started talking about the structure of the talam, I realized I had actually come for a lecdem on Pallavi.

I had taken extensive notes on the Pallavi. I’m not going to explain all that in this post. I’ll share just the pallavi line from my notes:

“Narasihma Nandanapriya Ahobilavasa| Bhakta Poshaka| Prahlada Varada| Nin Charane Gati| *Arudhi Kaarvai* Parama Krupanidhi! Nee anro Shankaranai Kaatha Abathbandava| Kaa Vaa – Lakshmi” (Narasihma)

I was coming across tala elements such as Guru, Plutam and Kakapadam for the first time in a live rendition. I had great difficulty in concentrating on those elements though. I wanted just close my eyes and mentally keep a Chatusra Eka talam and bask on the sheer beauty of the thodi phrases that she was serving in a series of waves.

Often people term artists who venture into such exercises as Lakshana Vidwans (I met her for an interview and I started my question with this statement on the term “Lakshana Vidwan”, she interrupted me with a twinkle in her eyes “You can call a good looking Vidwan as Lakshana Vidwan as well”). It is often said, if you venture too much into Lakshana aspects, it will have a negative impact on the aesthetic quotient (Sowkhyam) in your renditions. one need not look beyond Vid. Suguna’s renditions to rubbish that theory.

The tala was so internalized that it looked as if she need not take any effort to keep a tab on it. She could just lose herself in the beauty of the raga and keep exploring the grandeur of thodi all day. She did Trikaalam and tisram on the 128 akshara tala and rendered swaras in multiple eduppus.

May be I was imagining things by then. But to me, it occurred for every eduppu there was a different thodi showcasing a totally different bhava. The emotion when calling out Ahobila vaasa was totally different from the one that showcased surrender to the Lord as “nin charane gati”.

After a thunderous applause that lasted for several minutes, Vid. B.Krishnamurthi gave a poignant speech on the pallavi and the artist.

While I was making my way out of the hall, I could hear someone say that the Pallavi was available as a commercial album for purchase. I immediately rushed to the Shankara Hall in TTK road and bought that CD.

I must have heard the CD many times and then had moved onto other things.

Many years later, when I watched Simone Biles perform – I was starting to get visions of that experience at the Music Academy mini hall. I could hear the Simhanandana Pallavi. It was Vid. Suguna who was leaping in air with a beautiful smile!

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நாகஸ்வர கோயில் மரபப் பற்றி நண்பர் வித்வான் பிரகாஷ் இளையராஜாவுடன் இணைந்து ஆற்றிய உரையின் பகுதியை இங்கு காணலாம். டிசம்பரில் ஆர்.ஆர்.சபாவில் இந்த நிகழ்வு இடம்பெற்றது.

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