Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Homage to Lalgudi in Boston

By Durgalakshmi Krishnan

MITHAS (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Heritage of the Arts of South Asia) and Chinmaya Mission, Boston, are two organizations enriching the cultural life of the Boston area for more than 20 years. Established in 1993 by Dr. George Ruckert, a disciple of Ali Akbar Khan, and a Senior Lecturer in the World Music Department at MIT and dedicated to present quality music and musicians from across the globe through concerts, work shops and lecture demonstrations, MITHAS has gained the respect of both artists and audiences. The Chinmaya Mission, Boston, has more than 500 children and adults attending several classes in music, dance and other art. These two organizations recently held events honouring the memory of violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman.

The first was the launch of the biography of the maestro titled An Incurable Romantic: The Incredible Journey of Lalgudi Jayaraman (Harper Collins, 2013) by Lakshmi Devnath organized by MITHAS at the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 29 September. The dance and music exponent and author Sujatha Vijayaraghavan was the guest speaker at this event. She elucidated several key points and interesting anecdotes of Lalgudi Jayaraman’s life from the book, along with her own experiences when she was collaborating with him at the time when he was composing his magnum opus Jaya Jaya Devi for dance. She also went on to explain how the title, An Incurable Romantic, aptly describes him and released the book that was received by Dr. George Ruckert.

The ceremony was followed by a violin duet by Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi that commenced with a recently composed varnam of Jayaraman in the raga Hamirkalyani and included a triple raga (Shanmukhapriya, Sama and Anandabhairavi) pallavi in Chatusra Ata talam that he had composed almost fifty years ago. They made the concert memorable by their brief introductions to the compositions stating the significance of the items to the legacy of their father, and took the audience on a very emotional and nostalgic journey.

The second event was a Bharata natyam program in the margam format titled Lalgudi Nartanam by Sunanda Narayanan and four of her senior students Amrita Mangalat, Ramya Ramadurai, Anjana Mangalalt and Jaya Iyer from her school, Thillai Fine Arts Academy. It was organized by the Chinmaya Mission, Boston, on 20 October in Andover, Massachusetts. The programme honoured Lalgudi Jayaraman’s memories by presenting in dance the songs he composed, set to music or popularized through his concerts.

The pushpanjali and the mangalam in praise of Devi in her many manifestations were from Jaya Jaya Devi. The jatiswaram in Rasikapriya created visual images of creepers swaying in a gentle breeze, peacocks roaming in a a beautiful garden, frisking deer, gliding swan and so on. The main piece of the evening was the varnam in Neelambari that Jayaraman had composed initially as a tana varnam on Saraswati and later converted into a pada varnam on Lord Muruga. Jayaraman’s music for the familiar Kilikanni Cholla vallayo of Subramanya Bharati traced a progression of emotion from the maiden’s joyful anticipation to painful separation, delineated by Sunanda in abhinaya. A high point of the evening was the song Teerada vilaiyattu pillai, which was performed to the recording of an old violin concert by him. This illustrated how he was able to bring to life incidents and shades of emotions through his virtuosity. The choreography just had to follow his music. Under Sunanda’s choreographic guidance, the dancers became a medium to meld perfectly the music of Jayaraman into a visual form and celebrate his contributions to Bharatanatyam.

Once again Sujatha Vijayaraghavan played a vital role as the compere and shared several insights into the compositions, their lyrical and rhythmic beauty, and how the nuances are most suited for dance.

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