Remembering Padma Bhushan Vidwan Lalgudi G Jayaraman
A path breaking musician, creator of his own style or "bani", prolific composer, great teacher - Lalgudi G Jayaraman was the stuff legends are made of. It is appropriate, despite the physical constraints of the lockdown, his 90th birthday celebrations are equally grand, all encompassing and prolific.
Though his actual birthday is 17th September, marked by a lec-dem by Dr Sriram Parsuram, the culmination of the celebrations will be on 20th September, 5 pm on the youtube channel in his name - Lalgudi Jayaraman, God of Violin.
One of the most spectacular, indeed the highlight of the tributes is simply entitled "The Thillana" - as acknowledgement of his most visible contribution to Carnatic music - his over 50 "thillanas",amazingly mostly composed by the maestro when he was in his 30s! Several stalwarts from the world of North Indian and Carnatic music have spontaneously come forward to participate in this musical compilation.
The Carnatic musicians include his children, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan and daughter Vijaylakshmi, disciple Bombay Jayashri, niece Jayanthi Kumaresh, and grand nephew Abhishek Raghuram, nadaswaram maestro Injikudi Subramaniam, senior vocalists Aruna Sairam and Sudha Raghunathan, Mandolin U Rajesh, pianist Anil Srinivasan, and mridangam maestro Patri Sathish. North Indian classical musicians include Ustad Zakir Hussain, (he accompanied the maestro in concert several times), Kaushiki Chakravorty, Debashish Bhattacharya on slide guitar, Rakesh Chaurasia, Purbayan Chatterji, Murad Ali Khan, Ranajit Sengupta, and Shankar Mahadevan. The music has been arranged by noted music director Girish Gopalkrishnan, incidentally also a disciple of Shri Lalgudi ji.
Kaushiki Chakravorty said "I have always been a great fan; hardly heard anyone so perfect! Its a big honour for me, as I'm not even a Carnatic singer and its a very complex composition. But I tried to do justice to the composition, with utmost sincerity and respect for him."
Aruna Sairam shared "I am so happy I could be a part of this project; there was a time when no musician would end their concert without rendering a Lalgudi ji "thillana"; it didn't matter whether you were his disciple or not. What an occeanic musician, what a well read, informed mind! One could talk to him about Bertrand Russel, or indeed virtually anything."
Another tribute is a dance piece from his award winning 2007 film Sringaram.(unbelievably it was the only film he composed for) Rama Vaidyanathan, Sheejith Krishna and Mythili Prakash have come together to re-interpret the dance"Mallari", each recording in their own spaces as is now the new norm.
The tribute includes rare footage of Vidwan Lalgudi Jayaraman, a discussion of his life by disciple Vishakha Hari, messages from eminent musicians; (a particularly heart felt message is from Ustad Amjad Ali Khan who played his first Carnatic jugalbandi, while still in his late 30s with the much senior Lalgudi ji), a rare concert in which the maestro has played 15 compositions in only 1 Ragam - Thodi. He was accompanied by the legends,Vidwans Umayalpuram Sivaraman and Vikku Vinayakram.
One of the iconic dance dramas the maestro composed the music for was "Jaya Jaya Devi", which toured the US for months, in several cities, in the 1990s. Daughter Vijaylakshmi remembers "it was so popular, people would travel to the next city to see it again!"Music from this is sung in the tribute.
Truly, as they say, if a musician passes his music on, he is immortal. Lalgudi G Jayaraman lives on!
(Shailaja Khanna writes on music, musicians and matters of music)