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Lalgudiís compositions, 21st century masterpieces
CHENNAI, September 16: My guru, Padmabhushan Lalgudi Shri Jayaraman, is one of the most gifted and versatile musicians of this century. His genius has innumerable facets. With his warm and self-effacing personality and total commitment to his art, he shares his deep knowledge with readiness.

Lalgudi Sir is a globally acclaimed musician, composer and teacher. His 80th birthday celebration on September 18 and September 19, 2010 at The Music Academy, Madras is an event that all of us in the music fraternity are eagerly and excitedly looking forward to. Each composition of my guru is a masterpiece in its own right. In this article, I attempt to highlight a few of these gems.

Lalgudi Sir has composed in diverse compositional forms. His varnams and tillanas are legendary. He has also composed beautiful pieces in other musical forms such as kirtanams, swarajathis and jathiswarams. The fact that he does not use a mudra or signature term in his compositions bears testimony to his modesty. Although he has dedicated numerous compositions to his beloved Lord Muruga, he has composed with equal fervor on all major deities.

Varnams: Lalgudi Sir’s varnams highlight the devotional aspect of music. He has often mentioned that he prefers highlighting the bhakti rasa (devotional element) in his compositions. His varnams span major ragas like Shanmukhapriya (pada varnam) and Kalyani. He has composed in ragas such as Asaveri, Bowli, Saama, Valaj, Andolika, Garudadhwani and Varamu. His Navarasa navaraga varnam is a path-breaking piece that is a favorite of dancers. In this outstanding composition, he uses nine distinct ragas (Bilahari, Huseni, Valaj, Saaranga, Sucharitra, Atana, Rasikapriya, Sahana, Nadanamakriya) to bring out Devi’s navarasas (nine emotions). His Shanmukhapriya pada varnam on the Lord of Tirumala is a seamless blend of lyric and melody. In the charanam, the abundance of rhyme, rhythm and alliterations in the sahitya make this piece a true musical treat to the listener’s ear. The Neelambari pada varnam is an elaborate composition in praise of Lord Muruga. It is indeed a challenge to compose a varnam, a musical form that is associated with speed, in a raga that is typically association with lullabies! This varnam brings out the contours of raga Neelambari in full measure. Interestingly, the piece was originally composed by my Guru as a tana varnam on Devi in Telugu and the same tune was used as a pada varnam in Tamil in masterful fashion. His Charukesi pada varnam is very well known. In his Devagandhari varnam on Devi, he has successfully used the musical technique known as jaaru to link various swaras to create an awe-inspiring effect. In the popular Valaj varnam, he has varied the eduppu (starting point) of lines to create an element of surprise in the flow of the composition.

Tillanas: Lalgudi Sir’s tillanas are acknowledged by connoisseurs of music as truly path-breaking. Each tillana is indeed a timeless nugget. He has handled traditional ragas such as Khamas, Anandabhairavi, Vasanta and Senchutti as well as Hindusthani ragas such as Durga, Madhuvanti, Ragesri and Desh will equal ease. He has also composed in ragas in which not too many compositions exist such as Karnaranjani, Kalyanavasantam, Bindumalini and Nalinakanti. Lalgudi sir’s tillanas bear his unmistakable stamp of genius with cascading sangatis, subtly incorporated rhythmic patterns and unpredictable anupallavi / charanam endings that flow seamlessly into the pallavi. In tillanas such as Behag and Durga, he has incorporated the rhythmic equivalent of sangatis wherein a particular line is repeated with numerous alterations in the underlying rhythmic calculations each of which lands beautifully at the starting point or eduppu. The Khamas and Revati tillanas are examples of ones that maintain an exciting, fast tempo throughout. The Hamir Kalyani and Bagesri are illustrations of tillanas which start in a slower tempo and build up to an exciting crescendo. The Behag and Senchurutti tillanas are examples of tillanas in tisra gati. In the Misrasivaranjani tillana, my Guru has innovatively used the graha bedam (tonic shift) concept to bring out ragas Sunaadavinodhini and Revathi! In the Ragesri tillana, the usage of a single line with its swarams being sung in different octaves in each repetition brings the piece to a fantastic climax.

These compositions are timeless pieces which continue to inspire and enthrall musicians and audiences across the globe. We look forward to hearing these and more at the grand 80th birthday celebrations.

Read also:

Lalgudi Jayaraman always cares for the main artiste, says Balamuralikrishna

Lalgudi Jayaraman
Madhana Raghavan -
Really a good article! His compositions are always suited for bharatanatyam dances! I love his musical brilliance. Long live Shri Lalgudi!

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