T.V. Gopalakrishnan, a traditionalist with contemporary outlook

By K.T. Jagannathan
Chennai: 11-06-2021 12:53AM
Last Updated: 11-06-2021 12:53AM

T.V. Gopalakrishnan, a multi-skilled musician

Come June 11, Dr. Tripunithura Viswanathan Gopalakrishnan will walk into the `90s.  Born at Trippunithura in Kerala into a family of more than 200 years of musical heritage, Shri Gopalakrishnan is unique in myriad ways. A Mrdangist par excellence, he is also an acclaimed vocalist. Popularly known as Guru TVG, he is a rare breed in the world of music. A performer, teacher, researcher and what not, he is – to borrow modern IT (information technology) jargon, is a multi-skilled and completely-rounded personality. Humble, simple and eloquent, the nonagenarian-musician is a marvel. 

An inclusive personality

Fans, students, peers and others alike across the canvass revere him for qualities that transcend his musical genius. At a time when inclusiveness as a concept is used to score debating points in political platforms, Vidwan Gopalakrishnan is a rarity. For, inclusiveness is innate to him. “Guruji is, undoubtedly, a purist having been born and brought up in a deep-rooted traditional atmosphere. Yet, he was the earliest to exhibit his inclusiveness by singing both Carnatic and Hindustani music. He performs in Jazz circles as well,’’ says Ghatam V. Suresh, who is a long-time disciple of Shri Gopalakrishnan. “His openness and inclusiveness of anything that is musical without any bias or predilection, his ever-flowing desire to share his knowledge to all and his ability to see any and all his disciples as his own gifts him a pedestal much higher than his peers,” elaborates Devie Neithiyar, a senior disciple and foster-daughter of the maestro. His ability to embrace different styles and merge with artistes of varied genres across the canvass within and outside the country has indeed earned him a huge follower base, comprising disciples and fans alike. The felicity with which he is able to do this has indeed endeared him to a wide spectrum of population, cutting across age, gender and nationality.

Complete musician

 Hailed as the original innovator of Indian Jazz, this iconic musician has travelled across continents and shared stage with stars such as George Harrison, Dave Brubeck, Billy Preston, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylon, among others. A dedicated scholar, he has done extensive result-oriented works in voice culture and music therapy. Not surprisingly, Shri Gopalakrishnan stands out as a complete musician in the high profile world of Indian music today. It is difficult to encounter such a heady mixture of versatility, creativity and vision, all encapsulated in one man!

Stands tall

 A premier disciple of Chembai Vadiyanatha Bhagavathar, he has tremendous passion for the art form. “That is what makes him stand tall,” says vocalist Rajkumar Bharathi, the great grandson of Mahakavi Bharathiya. Legendary critic late Subbudu had put things in perspective when he said, “T.V. Gopalakrishnan is simply a cut above the other musicians and his creativity is of a superlative degree. What he does not know about music can be adequately written down on a match box, and there is scarcely any instrument he cannot play. Thavil, Mridangam, Violin, Saxophone...you name it, and he plays it! The more I see and hear him, the more he holds me into silence!”

 An inspiration

When it comes to music, he is irresistible. And, he has a fairly open outlook and hasn’t felt shy of embracing any new ideas, fresh innovations and unique platforms. “He is an inclusively purist who has made music to a broader sense of performing and teaching,” vocalist C.K. Pavandeep puts it succinctly. According to mridangist Vijay Natesan, “guruji is a musical banyan tree. His absolute romance with life in itself is something which one and all can take inspiration from.” Not for nothing, a man with a 90-summer experience is loved, admired and adored.  What is the secret of it? It lies in his “undiscriminating generosity towards, good, bad and ugly”, according to Ghatam Suresh.

 We, at Carnaticdarbar.com, offer our pranams to this simple, humble and extraordinary musician of contemporary times.