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Music has to be approached with modesty, feel violinists Vijayalakshmi & Krishnan
They are born into an illustrious family. They have imbibed a great tradition. They live by the shadow of this violin maestro. Not surprisingly, this sister-brother duo has a twin- responsibility of protecting the name and reputation of their guru-cum-father Lalgudi Shri G. Jayaraman and also carrying forward the high standards set by him. In a no-holds-barred conversation with the readers of Deccan Chronicle on a chilly Wednesday morning at the Rasam Restaurant here, violin siblings G.J.R. Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi fielded a volley of questions with deftness in a way they would handle some difficult phrases with their bows.

What is the advantage or disadvantage of having a male and female combination as a duet? In the case of vocal singing, according to Krishnan, a male-female combination could face some strains on the voice. In the case of violin, however, it was tuned to the same 2 ½ pitch. Hence, the male-female combination in a violin duet was not a big issue at all, he said. "Our style is the same. But it will come out in two versions because of the gender-related differentiation. This way, we complement each other, " he said.

"Under a banyan tree, nothing grows. Next to the Sun, stars go obscure,’’ Krishnan said, pointing to their huge responsibility, being the children of Jayaraman. Left-handed compliments did come by their way. "With the music, we also transfer the time-tested values of our guru,’’ he said. With an eminent guru in the family, their acceptability was never an issue. Many a time, however, their very background had proved a restraining factor. "Things are changing these days. PR (public relations) has undergone a huge change. We can’t project ourselves. Coming from a lineage, we can’t even think of doing that,’’ Vijayalakshmi said. Hence, their music had to be good.

Why do they play duet? In a vocal concert, according to Krishnan, there could not be two focal points. Even the presiding artiste won’t like that. This was not the case in former times. Stalwarts those days used to accompany top artistes. In this context, he cited instances when his father accompanied great artistes. Krishnan said he had accompanied stalwarts such as R.K. Srikantan and Nookala Chinna Satyanarayanana.

What are the difficulties in playing as a duo? For, Krishnan there isn’t much. Post-marriage, Vijayalakshmi has to make some adjustments. She said her family had been very supportive. "At times, the kid in you wants to play cricket,’’ Krishnan said to a query on whether he was forced into learning violin. "At that age, you don’t realize what you are getting into,’’ he added. Their father Jayaraman used to start practice at 4 0’clock in the morning in their home town Lalgudi. He would go on till the day broke.

Violin solo concerts were conspicuous by their absence in those days, especially in Music Academy. In 1965, Lalgudi Jayaraman and Srimathi Brahmanandam played a violin concert. Krishnan said his father wanted violin to be accorded a special status like other instruments on the concert stage. In fact, Lalgudi Jayaraman was instrumental for the introduction of violin solos in the Academy concerts, Krishnan said.

Is planning or rehearsing for a concert right? There was no harm in planning, felt Vijayalakshmi. But she did not appreciate the idea of rehearsing for a concert. While making a garland, best of flowers had to be picked, she said. "We owe it to public to present a good concert,’’ Krishnan added. The mind had to be focused on singing. "When we get request slips, we do entertain sometimes. But on occasions, we don’t. For, it may affect our ideas. We have played six concerts this season. Out of which, we have planned only for one,’’ he added. "Minute gamakas need percentage perfection. Even a slight variation will bulldoze the other,’’ he pointed out. Vijayalakshmi said her father had introduced sangatis in charanams. Many artistes had even adopted them, though these were born out of his creativity! "Our style is a blend of paramapara krits, swara raga bhavam, appropriate sangatis and proportionate ragas. It contains many aspects rolled into one bani,’’ they said.

To a question, Vijayalakshmi said she wanted to innovate and create something new. That was, however, easier said than done given the kind of music she had imbibed from her guru-cum-father. "I can’t do something for no reason. If we make a mere carbon copy of our father, the soul will be missing,’’ she pointed out. There lies the challenge for the siblings when they set out to do new things. For Vijayalakshmi, father Jayaraman was an ideal guru. Krishnan could see in his father only a guru. Krishnan said that he couldn’t treat his daughter the way his father had treated him. "Times have changed these days,’’ he added. Jayaraman had insisted on educating his children as things were vastly different those days. "If there is a life boat, we can get into the deep water,’’ said Krishnan.

Being the children of Jayaraman, are they not hindered in terms of accepting good things from other styles? "This style (Lalgudi’s) has evolved over the years,’’ Krishnan said. They never felt any need to adopt anything from other styles, he added. "Personalities are also reflected in styles,’’ he said. His father used to write notations for each and every student, pointed out Vijayalakshmi. That showed Lalgudi’s commitment to the job. Though a kriti was taught many years ago, his father would assess the way it was played on that day and insert new ideas. "He does a quality test on our playing every day,’’ Krishnan said.

According to them, their father was sincere to core. "He does everything in an intense way,’’ Krishnan said. In this context, Vijayalakshmi pointed out how her father would himself draw the face of Ambal during Varalakshmi `nonbu’. He would also insist on writing addresses legibly on letters. The letter would travel multiple hands before reaching the addressee. "You must approach music similarly so as to reach multiple audience,’’ Lalgudi Jayaraman would often tell Vijayalakshmi.

Krishnan felt that the guru-shisya bhavam had changed these days. Gurus, too, had sort of left things entirely to the students once they taught them. "They don’t monitor the students and critically evaluate their performance,’’ he pointed out.

Music, according to Krishnan, was abstract. "Music is not notes. It is something else. Music calms down and elevates the people,’’ he said. "Music reflects the state of the mind and the personality. Container does not know what it contains. It is osmosis,’’ he pointed out. "If we internalize and present the music, it makes a lot of difference,’’ said Vijayalakshmi. While music had to be preserved, it could not remain stagnant at the same time. "Innovations are required,’’ he pointed out. Vijayalakshmi felt that music should not be approached merely from a performing point of view. "I want to contribute something to music. It’s beyond the audience. It is like meditation,’’ she said. She felt she had to do more than just giving the best performance. "Attitude, approach and values never change. But music has to be approached with modesty. It’s not a game like Tennis,’’ Krishnan pointed out.

Ghatam Suresh Vaidyanathan -
I was reading this interview rather a little late. Yet, it is fresh as their music. These artistes are good examples of how a combination of superior music and humility can still win.

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