Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Sruti editorial, May 2013

From the Editor

Yet another Titan of the world of Carnatic music has passed away. Though Lalgudi G Jayaraman had not been in the best of health for a couple of years now, news of his death has been received with shock and disbelief by his legion of followers.

So many senior musicians, many of them octogenarians, paid condolence visits to the Lalgudi home—as they did, not long ago, when fellow violin maestro M.S. Gopalakrishnan passed away. It was a moving experience to witness the genuine emotion and profound sense of loss exhibited by these veterans, but it also gave us much food for thought—about how close to the end of their own innings some of them are.

Despite age and infirmity, there is much music and wisdom in the best of these grand old elder statesmen (and ladies). It is up to us to ensure the documenting and dissemination of their ripe knowledge. Fortunately, Chennai has in recent years seen a surge in the number of private and public initiatives in this regard. In the case of Lalgudi Jayaraman, the Sruti Foundation conducted a seminar  in the 1990s on his music, spearheaded by Dr N Ramanathan, musician and musicologist, and now a member of Sruti’s advisory board. Its recording constitutes a valuable resource for musicians and music scholars.

Much valuable work was done in the area of documenting and recording for posterity some of the riches of the vanishing heritage in classical and folk music by Sampradaya, the pioneering Chennai-based archival institution, which has in recent years languished for want of funding. With some of our greatest artists already in the late evening of their lives, we need to strengthen the hands of such institutions, lest we are forced to rely on our memories to retain the authenticity of our musical traditions.

With the passing away of Lalgudi Jayaraman, one of the most iconic and charismatic of the Carnatic musicians of the last century, we have lost a traditionalist not averse to innovation, especially as a composer, and whose interests included collaborative endeavour, both with other musicians and in dance compositions. He was one of those responsible for the spread of Carnatic music beyond the cognoscenti and for drawing young listeners into its fold. He leaves behind devoted disciples and many admirers among young musicians devastated by the loss. While Sruti’s coverage of the Lalgudi legacy has been extensive and in depth, we hope to revisit it in a fitting manner in our June issue. 

Kittappa Pillai 

It continues to be the season of centenarians. While we at Sruti are still catching up with acknowledging artists who completed a hundred last year, we are happy to feature in this issue a tribute to Bharatanatyam guru Kittappa Pillai, a descendant of the Tanjore Quartet, by our senior associate Nandini Ramani. We are also happy to reproduce in Pages from the Past a comprehensive article on Kittappa Pillai written by the late S Ramaswamy, an assistant editor of Sruti then. The first Indian branch manager of Burmah Shell, Ramaswamy was an ardent devotee of Tyagaraja’s music, and offered much wise counsel to the Sruti editorial team in its earliest days. As the grandfather of Bharatanatyam dancer Srividya Natarajan, he came to know her guru Kittappa Pillai quite closely. This happens to be Ramaswami’s centenary year, too.

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