Lalgudi Samarpanam: Houston’s Musical Homage to the Violin Maestro

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By Dr. Lakshmi Srivaths

HOUSTON: The lives of great men remind us that each one of us can make our lives sublime” goes a famous adage. A monumental example to this popular quote is none other than the violin virtuoso, Padmabushan Lalgudi Shri G. Jayaraman. Born in the sishya parampara of the great saint Shri Thyagaraja, the multi-faceted Carnatic musician Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman enhanced and enriched the ocean of Carnatic music through various roles as an outstanding violinist, an innovative and exemplary composer, a creative musicologist, an affectionate and dedicated Guru and a kind philanthropist. “Lalgudi Sir has truly revolutionized the violin playing techniques in Carnatic music; it is an honor and privilege for his students to imbibe this immaculate technique perfected by the great legend as it is the straight path to success in Carnatic violin performance”, states his direct disciple violin vidhwan Shri Vittal Ramamurthy.

“Lalgudi Samarpanam”, a musical homage to this great legend and guru, was planned, choreographed and executed on May 4, at Anjali Center in Houston, with dedication and musical excellence by his disciples, renowned violinist Shri Vittal Ramamurthy and Houston’s proficient Carnatic vocalist and devoted teacher vidhushi Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat. They were ably assisted in this role by the members of Houston Youth Music Association (HYMA) and supported by Krishna Gana Sudha Music Academy (KGSMA) and Samskriti.  The program, a beautiful garland of Lalgudi compositions, was led adeptly by vidhwan Shri Vittal Ramamurthy on the violin, Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat on the vocal music, and Shri Poovalur Sriji on the mridangam. Adding to this musical delight was the visual treat of Bharatanatyam dances for some of the compositions, choreographed and executed by our Houston’s own renowned South Indian classical dancer and loving guru Dr. Rathna Kumar. The event was eloquently emceed by Smt. Uma Ranganathan. The support of innumerable volunteers and parents of KGSMA who worked energetically contributed to the success of the event.

The opening varnam on Lord Ganesha “Vallabhai Nayaka” rendered enthusiastically with a brisk tempo by the students of KGSMA, both young and old, set the ambience for the event. Followed by this was the krithi about Goddess Durga in ragam Durga, a melodious rendition presented alongside their Gurus by the youth vocalists of Texas, Chinmayee, Thanmayee, Keerthana and Kruthi and complemented skillfully by the young violinists from various cities in the United States, Sujatha, Subha, Vikram, Neha, Sharada and Pavani. The pada varnam in Charukesi, an outstanding composition that never fails to evoke tender emotions in one’s heart, was rendered with passion and perfection by Sri Vittal Ramamurthy and the young violinists, supported by the vocalists.  This song and others were made wholesome with Shri Poovalur Sriji’s mridangam that thundered and caressed, echoed and reverberated in accordance with the music. The krithi “Then Madhurai Vaazh Meena Lochani” was an apt choice for the venue as it is in praise of the reigning deity of Houston, Goddess Meenakshi. It is set in the unique ragam Hamsarupini, another valuable contribution to Carnatic music by Lalgudi. This was followed by the invigorating varnam in ragam Garudadhwani. Lalgudi’s devotion for his family deity Lord Muruga was completely manifest in the krithi “Kandhan Seyalanro” in ragam Natakurinji, an earnest rendition by the artists. The thillanas in ragas Behag and Karnaranjani, are two of Lalgudi’s masterpieces that glowed like precious gems.  Perhaps the navaraga malikai varnam on Goddess Meenakshi “Angayarkanni”, was written by Lalgudi with our Houston Goddess Meenakshi in mind! This unique composition is a great example of the musical brilliance of the illustrious composer. Every phrase is adorned by the precise choice of ragam, impeccable alignment of swara korvai and enriched with lyrical beauty to suit the mood of the message conveyed. The adept and captivating rendition of this song by Kruthi Bhat was brought alive by the spirited and skillful execution of Bharatanatyam studded with navarasa bavas and abhinayams by Dr. Rathna Kumar and her student Samyuktha Iyer.  Goddess Meenakshi was unquestionably brought in our midst by of the greatness of the composer, the melodious musicality of the singers and instrumentalists and the superlative portrayal by the dancers. Maand Thillana sung in praise of Goddess Kamakshi showcased a stunning mix of Carnatic and Hindustani flavors, another audio-visual delight that immersed the audience in absolute bliss. Yet another illustration of the musical genius was the Grahabedam Jatiswaram, encompassing the ragams Sindhubhairavi, Janjooti, Behag, Mohana Kalyani and Thilang. The concluding song was the melodious thillana in Desh, rendered ardently by all the artists and joined fervently by the students of KGSMA. The event concluded with Shri Vittal Ramamoorthy sharing the memorable moments he had experienced with the legend and felicitation of all the senior artists by HYMA. An added blessing was the attendance by Smt. Gowri Ramnarayan, a feature writer for the English daily The Hindu, a veteran writer, journalist, author, playwright-director, music critique and Carnatic vocalist, who expressed her passionate thoughts about the violin maestro and conferred compliments on the organizers and the participants for a homage well offered.

After witnessing such a heart-stirring homage, one could not fail to feel the poignant emotions intricately woven into Lalgudi’s music and remain in wonderment of what a stupendous musician and eminent composer we have had the privilege to share this century with! At the end, the gathering was left with the bliss of a divine musical evening and a passing pang of reminiscing the loss of this legend, wishing selfishly that the Almighty had blessed the great composer with an everlasting life! These thoughts were immediately replaced by the fact that even though the musician is no longer amidst us, the outstanding music he has left behind is with us and will resonate in our heart, mind and soul forever!