My guruji is a compassionate and genial artist, says Ghatam Suresh

By K.T. Jagannathan
Chennai: 09-06-2021 4:04PM
Last Updated: 09-06-2021 4:06PM

Ghatam Suresh

Suresh Vaidyanathan is a disciple of Shri T.V. Gopalakrishnan since 1979. An exemplary performer, he is a trend-setter on Ghatam and multi-percussion instruments. Suresh is also well known in the world of music for his creative and adaptive skills.  In this interview, the Ghatam exponent talks about his revered guru. Shri Gopalakrishnan steps into the ’90s on June 11. Excerpts:  

 How will you describe T.V. Gopalakrishnan the person? 

All through my four decades of bonding, I am seeing his persistence on individuality and innovation from every student of his. Be it Ghatam, Saxophone, Veena or Keyboard, he has this inimitable ability to technically guide students to perform to their optimum with ease and grace.  He believes that `layam` cannot be cramped within some highbrow arithmetic calculations, which can, at the most, aid a performance. Guruji insists that the Nada from each stroke on the percussion instrument has an emotional connectivity with the listener, the perpetuation of which makes someone a true musician. As a dependable lieutenant, I have been witness to his amazing indulgence and up-to-date knowledge about world music. Musicians from non-Indian genres are in awe of TVG, who is a genius in Jazz compositions that are perceptively Indian but expressively global.

 Where do you place him as a musician?

I have been observing him for over four decades, and I am always amazed at his connectivity with the audience. In his words, “a true musician performs both for himself and the audience. In the first level, he craves to surpass his own creativity and tries to connect with the form less absolute. At the second level, he is responsible to be balanced in his content and bond with the audience”. He is a man of spontaneity and never appreciated rehearsals!

 How is he different from the rest of his peers?

As a musician, his communication with his accompanying musicians is a great sight to watch. Every bit of their good will be noticed and appreciated spontaneously. His reactions to their flashes also brought out the best in them. He has imbibed this from his Guru Shri Chembai. His care for fellow musicians’ wellbeing and career, his student’s success, health and even emotional issues are very unique. None can match him in giving knowledge.

 Which facet of him is the best in your view?

Each role has always been performed unassumingly and yet with utmost honesty by him. His research times ... rarely any one can watch or be part of. Well, the world is watching his unending list of exceptional ruling the top in their respective fields. As a person, he is strict and uncompromising when it comes to workout, instrument care and dignity of profession. He is compassionate towards anyone who needs help. The most astonishing thing happens, however, when he is seen as an artiste. Uninhibited artistry of a high order would flow since he cares to give the best to his audience. He is my best inspiration!

 Is a purist or an inclusive musician?

Guruji is, undoubtedly, a purist having been born and brought up in a deep-rooted traditional atmosphere. But he was the earliest one to exhibit his inclusiveness by singing both Carnatic and Hindustani music, performing in Jazz circles and innovating on his favourite mridangam.

 What do these three letters (TVG) represent?

Truth, virtuosity and grace.

 What is uniquely different in his approach to the cause of music?

True talent is like forest floods. They need only proper passage to flow which is the guidance of a guru. Every talent has a purpose and space is what he believes in.

 How does he fit in the modern music world, in general, and Carnatic field, in particular?

No other musician updates himself or herself with information from all around like Guruji. He reads a lot and connects with international musicians regularly, particularly with the younger generation. His knowledge of Cricket, cinema, automobiles and cookery would amaze any age band. It is needless to say about his update on music of today. A grandsire with eight decades of knowhow, he performs a three-hour plus concert with the energy of a teenager.

 What should one learn from him?


 What makes him the tall personality in the world of music?

His undiscriminating generosity towards good, bad and ugly!