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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Rajam’s journey with the violin

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N. Rajam, who will likely be conferred the Pt. Bhimsen Joshi Lifetime Achievement Award, on how she created an area of her personal in theworld of music

For Dr. N. Rajam, who simply added the Pt. Bhimsen Joshi Lifetime Achievement Award to her lengthy listing of honours (together with the Padma Bhushan, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, and the Padma Shri), the numerous challenges she confronted on this planet of music are not any totally different from how one negotiates the difficulties of life. “For positive, it was not a mattress of roses — there was opposition. However you take care of it fairly than dwell on it,” the 82-year-old says, wanting again on a lifetime with the violin.

Till Rajam, the violin in Hindustani music was a non-entity with few solo exponents. Accompanying devices have been the sarangi, esraj, dilruba and the harmonium. Most instrumentalists then, Dr. Rajam says, adopted the gatkari or tantrakari model — particular to devices and distinct from the gayaki (vocal) model. “Proper from the start, I wished to observe the gayaki model on the violin for Hindustani music.” The magnitude of her pioneering efforts is compounded by the truth that she arrived as an anomalous South Indian (‘Madrasi’) girl within the Fifties in a North Indian male-dominated artwork kind.

For the reason that violin permits for continuity of notes, the gayaki model could possibly be aped completely. “My model is 150 per cent vocal,” she says. By no means having heard an instrument sound that method although, her enjoying was a revelation. Many new issues, nevertheless good they may be, are initially met with opposition and she or he did face skepticism. “At first, individuals have been greatly surprised. Some mentioned I used to be enjoying like Carnatic music. However I knew I used to be on the precise path and I persevered. Quickly, everyone accepted. A lot in order that many aspire to play the way in which I do.”

Dr. Rajam got here to Hindustani music after 15 years of coaching in Carnatic violin. Her father, A. Narayana Iyer had taught her (and her brother, the celebrated Carnatic violinist T.N. Krishnan) the instrument rigorously. She skilled underneath the titan Musiri Subramania Iyer as effectively and, at age 13, had accompanied M.S. Subbulakshmi. “I may play something anybody may sing.” Her foray into Hindustani, apparently, occurred as a result of she was underage (14) to seem for the native intermediate college leaving examinations (having acquired a double promotion early on). Studying that the Banaras Hindu College (BHU) had the choice of showing as a non-public candidate with out the age requirement, her father registered her for it. One of many required papers was Hindustani music. To arrange for it, she took classes from L.R. Kelkar, a Chennai-based Hindustani musician.

Concurrently, a fellow Musiri pupil shared some 78 RPM data of Pt. Omkarnath Thakur. Dr. Rajam discovered his music charming and determined that if she pursued Hindustani music, it will be underneath him. “After I went to BHU to jot down the intermediate examination, I took a letter to Omkarnath-ji, who was the Founder-Principal of the School of Performing Arts, from Parur Sundaram Iyer (father of violinist M.S. Gopalakrishnan) whom our household knew effectively. They have been guru bhais, each having discovered from Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Omkarnath-ji requested me to play — I reproduced what I had heard on these LP data. He was shocked to listen to his model replicated so faithfully and agreed to take me on as his pupil.”

On the difficulties in switching from Carnatic to Hindustani, the place the tala is just not overt, she is candid. “Guru Kelkar, having lived in Madras, would put taal by hand. I stored taal with my foot, so whereas I didn’t err, I questioned how Hindustani musicians did it. The tabla participant I practiced with would say, ‘kaali is coming’ (the beginning of the second half of the taal, usually performed distinctly), which I didn’t perceive. I simply wanted to be instructed that it was based mostly on the sound of the tabla — however because it was so apparent for them, they didn’t. I quickly figured this out myself.”

Kelkar was a pupil of Omkarnath Thakur’s disciple and thus, unknowingly Rajam had been soaking within the Gwalior gharana model. With all kinds only a click on away, the relevance of gharanas now could also be questionable, however Rajam factors out how between lecturers stopping college students from listening to others’ music and journey being cumbersome, kinds stayed inside slender confines. “Whereas it’s nonetheless potential to take care of the primary traits of 1’s gharana, I’ve at all times been open to taking good elements from different gharanas and don’t have any objection to my college students doing so both.”

Omkarnath Thakur was identified to be fairly tough. “His requirements have been excessive and if he heard dangerous music, he would unhesitatingly name it out even on stage. However behind that robust exterior was a particularly good-hearted guru.”

To facilitate her studying, the household moved to Bombay. She had her classes when Omkarnath visited town each couple of months for a number of days.

Related but distinct kinds

Although Krishnan and she or he discovered from their father and the similarities in enjoying abound, there are clear distinctions as effectively, notably within the left hand (non-bowing hand) method. “Hindustani has some elements not there in Carnatic — just like the vilambit (gradual) and the ati vilambit (additional gradual) tempos and the quick taans (sequence of notes sung in akaaram). My father helped me to work on these. These introduced some adjustments in my enjoying.” About studying from her brother, she says, “Anna was 10 years older than me and left to do gurukulavaasam at Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s when he was about 12. So, as a toddler, I noticed him solely sometimes. Later, in fact, we carried out collectively on many events. He was very pleased with me as I used to be of him.”

Dr. Rajam considers herself extra a pupil than an artiste. Up to now few years, she has been engaged on understanding what produces roughness (pisharu) in bowing. “We pay extra consideration to our left hand — finger placement and the sound — and lecturers are hypervigilant too. Equally, I’m specializing in how the whole bow comes into contact with the instrument and enjoying it very consciously. Codifying it comes subsequent. Bowing method is rather more superior in Western music the place it has been extensively explored however in India, due to the integral gamakams that are tough to breed, bowing method has taken a again seat.”

A characteristic of Narayana Iyer’s coaching was using the whole bow. “My father would insist on it. The bow had for use absolutely even when it sounded imperfect initially. Sophistication comes later. In fact, I additionally know to make use of very small components of the bow if wanted!”

She spent practically 40 years on the School of Performing Arts at BHU, voluntarily retiring as Dean. On how she started, her expertise, challenges and studying there, she says, “After I handed my BA in 1957 (by the way, she topped the college collectively with the award-winning astrophysicist Dr. Jayant Narlikar), Omkarnath-ji requested me to use as a lecturer there. For causes, together with concern {that a} younger girl would possibly ‘corrupt’ the younger males within the college, I acquired the place solely two years later, in 1959. Studying about institutional politics was the largest lesson. I adopted my father’s recommendation of talking minimally and solely when obligatory.” Nonetheless, she says, she by no means hesitated to take obligatory motion as anticipated from an individual of authority. Whereas at BHU, she additionally accomplished an MA in Sanskrit, guided by Pt. Subramania Shastri and a Ph.D in Comparative Examine of Hindustani and Carnatic Music underneath Dr. Premlatha Sharma.

Her daughter, Dr. Sangeeta Shankar and her granddaughters, Ragini and Nandini, proceed her legacy. “Our household custom is handy a violin to each little one, boy or lady, at age three. That’s what I did.”

The writer writes on classical music and musicians.



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