S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The tavil in focus

T.R. Govindarajan presenting the Parlandu Award to tavil-maker Paramasivam 
as Lalitharam of Parivadini looks on 

The Parlandu Award for Music Craftsmen instituted by Parivadini was presented to tavil-maker Paramasivam by renowned tavil vidwan Tanjavur T.R. Govindarajan, at a function held in December 2017 in Chennai. V. Ramnarayan, Editor-in-chief, Sruti and Lalitharam of Parivadini participated.

'Parlandu' alias Fernandes was the trusted mridangam-maker for Palghat Mani Iyer for years. The annual award in the name of this master craftsman is given to those engaged in the making as well as maintenance of musical instruments. The previous awardees are Selvam, son of Parlandu (for mridangam in 2013), Varadan (for mridangam in 2014), Raju (for veena in 2015) and Ramesh (for ghatam in 2016).

The awardee for 2017 was Paramasivam whose contribution lies in simplifying some of the processes in  tavil-making without compromising on the aesthetics of the traditional instrument with respect to either appearance or output of the nadam. The innovative improvisations (like replacing the tough bamboo rims of the tavil with steel)  have been made in consultation with veteran tavil vidwans like Govindarajan who said that modifications are inevitable. He recalled   bygone times wherein maintenance of instruments posed grave problems to artists as well as instrument makers. The metal rim is quite a revolutionary innovation, he said.

V. Ramnarayan, Editor-in-Chief, Sruti who spoke on the occasion, appreciated the initiatives of  Parivadini  in recognising the contribution of craftsmen in the field of performing arts. He paid rich tributes to traditional arts and artists and the need for projecting them in the mainstream.  In his acceptance speech, the awardee Paramasivam thanked Parivadini, the tavil vidwans, as well as other artists and institutions who endorsed his innovations and continue to encourage him  in his pursuits.

Lecdem by T.R. Govindarajan
This was followed by a lecdem titled The Majestic Tavil presented by tavil maestro T.R. Govindarajan who explained the basic techniques of tavil-playing with reference to the preliminary lessons and modes of accompanying the  nagaswaram. He said that customarily, lessons in tavil would normally begin with Pillaiyar sollu. He revealed that the instrument, that may not apparently give out a pitch, has an inherent quality to merge with the mainstream sruti. Probably this could be the reason why the tavil has been included as percussion support for sensitive stringed instruments of  Carnatic music like the mandolin and the chitraveena (T.R.  Govindarajan has successfully accompanied Chitraveena Ravikiran in recent times).

Any 'melam' performance would start with the tavil beats (which, of course is preceded by sruti) and there are dictums of playing during various segments like alapana, pallavi, the interludes between pallavi - anupallavi, and anupallavi - charanam,  apart from the ethics of accompanying the kriti. The tavil vidwan may not be able to take a break during a nagaswaram recital and his duty would be even more tiresome during temple processions extending hours on end. This also necessitates a comprehensive knowledge of techniques of playing besides mastery of laya as the tavil vidwan has to offer varieties and patterns to avoid repetition and participate competently in tanis with the co-artist.

Govindarajan also reminisced about his gurukulavasam which was "not easy as now".  He also reverentially remembered  some great tavil vidwans of the past like Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai and their absolute mastery over  the instrument, as well as celebrated nagaswara vidwans.

Govindarajan presented a short, brilliant  laya vinyasam, ably assisted by one of his disciples to demonstrate the basics of tavil playing.

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