Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society

Sunada Pravaham

A report by Balasubramanian Sankar

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[Editor's Note: The review appearing on this page is contributed by Sri. Balasubramanian Sankar of SIFAS. Any views and opinions expressed here are entirely his own]

Craving for novelty

There are moments in one’s professional life when the crave for turning a new leaf runs amok.  Not once, perhaps many times.  Creative geniuses are hit by this virus even more as they conquer one feat after another.  Maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman is no exception.  For over 40 years, he was the uncrowned king of the Carnatic Violin.  He then etched his name among the composers' club with imaginative trademark ‘Tillanas’ and ‘Varnams’ among others.  The creative mind wanted to go on and thus born was the ‘experiment’ with orchestra.

Lalgudi and his talented son G. J. R. Krishnan presented ‘Sunada Pravaham’ an ensemble of over 12 instruments at Singapore as part of the island’s Arts festival in June.  For a ‘neutral’ music lover with no clear taste bias, this offered some entertainment where the rhythmic forays dominated the melody stream.  The program was conventional with the sequence reading like – Varnam, an elaborate song, Ragamalika tukkadas and a Tillana but not the presentation.  The boon of orchestra is its bane.  Harmonic ‘notation’ based uniform presentation is the hall mark of an orchestra but is the antithesis of a Carnatic Music concert, where one looks for individual ‘manodharma’ and excellence. Viewed from this perspective, the evening did not live up to expectations, notwithstanding the flashes of brilliance from another Maestro, Dr. N. Ramani, in the Shanmukhapriya piece.  Two aspects however, stood out – the impressive, almost error free presentation of a long song in Shanmukhapriya with many tricky phrases (including tala embellishments the Lalgudi school is famous for) and keeping Carnatic architecture as the backbone of the show.

For the connoisseurs, the concert fell short.  The inclusion of instruments like the ‘Drums’, for diversity sake,  is more of an intrusion.  Creativity was present but appeared to be in a cage.  It is difficult to imagine a ‘Lalgudi’ fare other than one with pristine classicism.  Therefore, for the Lalgudi admirers, this remains an experiment.

Balasubramanian Sankar
June 9th 2004

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