Carnatic Classical Violin Virtuoso

[Born in the lineage of a disciple of the sainted musician Thyagaraja, Lalgudi Gopala Iyer Jayaraman inherited the essence of Carnatic music from his versatile father, V. R. Gopala Iyer, who trained him. Iyer, a martinet, enforced traits of intense focus and discipline in the young Jayaraman through rigorous lessons. Though a harsh father and guru, Gopala Iyer would not allow the young Jayaraman to even sharpen pencils, believing that his tender fingers were too precious.]

At the age of 12, Lalgudi started his musical career as an accompanying violinist to Carnatic musicians              before rising in fame as a prominent soloist.                                                                                                                                                   Lalgudi Jayaraman
(b. 9/17/1930 d. 4/22/2013)

Lalgudi expanded his style of violin playing by inventing a whole new technique that is designed to best suit the needs of Indian Classical Music and establishing a unique style that came to be known as Lalgudi Bani. He composed several ‘kritis‘, ‘tillanas‘ and ‘varnams‘ and dance compositions, which are a blend of raga, bhava, rhythm and lyrical beauty.

  • Here is an example on YouTube of his Tillana performed by him with his chamber group – it’s a rhythmic piece in Carnatic music that is generally performed at the end of a concert and widely used in Classical Indian dance performances.
  • After inviting him to play the Edinburgh Festival in 1965, Yehudi Menuhin, the renowned violinist, impressed by Lalgudi’s technique and performance, presented him with his precious Italian violin. Lalgudi in return presented Menuhin with an ivory dancing Nataraja when Menuhin visited India.

The Government of India chose Lalgudi to represent India at the Festival of India in USA, London and he gave solo and ‘Jugalbandi’ concerts in London and also in Germany and Italy that received rave reviews.

He was awarded the presitigious Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2001. He is commonly grouped with M.S. Gopalakrishnan and T.N.Krishnan as part of the violin-trinity of Carnatic Music.

Afterword: Carnatic music, Karnāṭaka saṃgīta or Karnāṭaka saṅgītam is a system of music commonly associated with southern India, including the modern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, as well as Sri Lanka. It is one of two main sub-genres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions, the other sub-genre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form because of Persian and Islamic influences in northern India.

The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style.

Carnatic music is usually performed by a small ensemble of musicians, consisting of a principal performer (usually a vocalist), a melodic accompaniment (usually a violin), a rhythm accompaniment (usually a mridangam), and a tambura, which acts as a drone throughout the performance. Other typical instruments used in performances may include the ghatam, kanjira, morsing, venu flute, veena, and chitraveena. The most outstanding performances, and the greatest concentration of Carnatic musicians, are to be found in the city of Chennai. Various festivals are held throughout India and abroad which mainly consist of Carnatic music performances, such as the 6-week long Madras Music Season, which has been considered to be one of the world’s largest cultural events.

The Music Season was started in 1927, to mark the opening of the Madras Music Academy. It used to be a traditional month-long Carnatic music festival, but since then it has also diversified into dance and drama, as well as non-Carnatic art forms. Some concert organizers also feature their own Carnatic music festivals during the season. Thousands of performances are held by hundreds of musicians across various venues in the city.

His biography, An Incurable Romantic, by Lakshmi Devnath, was released posthumously in 2013. It contains a foreword by sitarist Ravi Shankar, and charts his 70 years in music.

Personal life: Lalgudi Jayaraman was married to Smt Rajalakshmi and had two children: his son G.J.R.Krishnan and his daughter Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. Both follow the footsteps of their father and are famous in their own right. He had three sisters Padmavathy, a vainika, Rajalakshmi and Srimathi, both violinists. Srimathi learned violin from him as well. The renowned veena player Jayanthi Kumaresh is Smt Rajalakshmi’s daughter.

Jayaraman died on 22 April 2013 after suffering a cardiac arrest in Chennai. He is survived by his son and daughter.

Most famous for his thillanas and varnams, Lalgudi is considered to be one of the most prolific composers of modern times. His compositions span four languages (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit), as well as a whole range of ragas not conventionally used for varnams or thillanas. Characteristic of his style, the melody of his compositions camouflages subtle rhythmic intricacies. His compositions are very popular with Bharathanatyam dancers, even as they have become a standard highlight of every leading Carnatic musician’s repertoire.

Reference: Wikipedia

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