S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Three-day music fest in Melbourne

Tribute to Lalgudi

Despite a wet and cold winter’s day in Melbourne, several music enthusiasts gathered at the Kel Watson theatre in Burwood on 31 May to be part of a tribute to Lalgudi G. Jayaraman who passed away in April this year. Two musicians from the Lalgudi tradition in Melbourne, Narmatha Ravichandhira of Sruthi Laya Kendra and Uthra Vijayaraghavan of Keerthana Music School, organised the tribute with the help of friends. It was a rich collage of music, dance, video, audio presentations and talks, which brought to life the genius that was Lalgudi. Two visiting artists, from India and the U.K., vainika P. Vasanth Kumar and violinist A.G.A. Gnanasundaram who had come to attend the two-day Mummoortigal Festival were also present at the event.

The evening began with a prayer, a composition of Lalgudi, sung by Chaitanyaraman Gnanasundaram. Uthra Vijayaraghavan, (disciple of S.P. Ramh) and her students presented a couple of Lalgudi’s varnams, followed by a violin rendition by Narmatha’s students. Later in the evening, both Uthra and Narmatha along with their students, presented vocal and violin concerts of Lalgudi’s tillanas, including a dance choreographed by Narmatha Ravichandhira for the Madhuvanti tillana. It was a fitting tribute to Lalgudi the composer famous for his rhythmically challenging yet melodious varnams and tillanas. The accompanists of the evening were Chaitanyaraman and Gnanasundaram (violin), and Ravichandhira and Sai Nivaeithan Ravichandhira (mridangam).

A.G.A. Gnansundaram, a senior disciple of Lalgudi Jayaraman, paid a rich and emotional tribute to his memory. He spoke about his long association and shared several anecdotes. Vasanth Kumar too recounted several memorable encounters with the violin legend. He also gave a scholarly analysis of kritis not only popularised by Lalgudi Jayaraman, but which have acquired a distinct dimension through Lalgudi’s correct usage of music grammar. The Iyer Brothers of Melbourne fondly remembered the close relationship they had forged with the violin maestro in Chennai, and with G.J.R. Krishnan & Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi during their visits to Australia over the last two decades.

The homage also included a 20-minute video on Lalgudi Jayaraman and a power point presentation put together by Jothin Vallathol and Nagasundaram, which had some wonderful snippets from the life and music of this genius. A video of a concert tour of Australia by Karaikudi Mani and Lalgudi Jayaraman in 1995 was also presented, which had the mridangam vidwan extolling Lalgudi’s adherence to tradition and his innovative spirit in developing new ideas. Tributes from disciples G.J.R. Krishnan and S.P. Ramh (audio message) provided a fitting finale to the homage paid to the colossus who strode the Carnatic music scene for more than six decades.

Tribute to the music trinity

The same venue also witnessed the annual Mummoortigal Jayanti and the Swati Tirunal bicentennial celebrations on 1 and 2 June, presented by the Academy of Indian Music, Australia (Inc) and Sruthi Laya Kendra (Australia & India), from 1 pm to 10 pm. The Mummoortigal Jayanti commemorates the contributions of the Carnatic music trinity, and included Swati Tirunal as well this year. This year marks the 28th annual festival in Melbourne under the artistic directorship of Ravi M. Ravichandhira.

The festival began with the traditional singing of Tyagaraja’s Pancharatna kritis and a few compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastry, followed by performances by well known music teachers and artists in Melbourne. This two-day festival is organised on a grand scale and is a much anticipated event in the cultural calendar. Besides recitals by accomplished musicians of Melbourne, there were concerts by visiting artists P. Vasanth Kumar (veena) and A.G.A. Gnanasundaram (violin). Gnanasundaram and his son Chaitanyaram performed a violin duet. They were supported by Hariharan Balasri and Sainivaeithan Ravichandhira on the mridangam. Vasanth Kumar, senior disciple of Pichumani Iyer, presented a solid, traditional veena recital (exploring the ragas Bilahari and Gaulipantu), with Ravichandhira accompanying him on the mridangam. It was sponsored by the Iyer Brothers, Melbourne-based vainikas.

The second day featured a TYME concert – an orchestra comprising some of the best young musicians of Melbourne. The concert (arranged this year by the Iyer Brothers) was a crisp and polished presentation. Sridhar Chari conducted the percussion ensemble which had talented youth drawn from various mridangam schools. This was followed by solo concerts of 45 minutes each by well known Melbourne artists including Sundari Saripalle, Rama Rao, Jayashree Ramachandran, Ahilan Sivanandan, Sridhar Chari, Murali Kumar, Narmatha Ravichandhira and M. Ravichandhira, Vijaya Peters and the Iyer Brothers.

The three-day music fest was a treat for rasikas.

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