Friday, May 18, 1999

His music was distinct

SPONSORED BY the rasikas of M. D. Ramanathan, the D.K.J. Foundation in association with Narada Gana Sabha observed the veteran's 75th birthday. The style of M. D. Ramanathan has relevance today when speed, scales and swaras are the ruling motivation of musical aesthetics.

MDR's marga in music was entirely different from even those of his contemporaries. The superiority of sampradaya, tracing inspiration to Patnam Subramania Iyer through Tiger Varadachariar stood out as the polestar of MDR's objective.

His music moved in massive chords when he lingered lovingly on both the sahitya and sangita of great vaggeyakaras.

In his deep-toned exposition there was an irresistible combination of tenderness and melody. In the purity of tone, admirable vilamba kala pacing and spacing.

In his interpretation of songs like ``Giripai'' (Sahana), ``Akshaya Linga Vibho'' (Sankarabharanam), ``Ninnu Vina Gamari'' (Poorvikalyani) or ``Janani Ninnu Vina'' (Ritigowla) there was musical nobility very rare to come across these days. His recognition of the bhakti in music marked his contemplative sangita.

To present an image of sublimity, transcendental in experience and preserved as heritage, was the summit of MDR's aspiration. In his slow pace of exposition his mind steadfastly adhered to the ideal that the true dimensions of music include not only sastra and manodharma, but also rooted in spirituality.

Never given to alapanas measured by the duration, as is the case today, MDR touched one or two sancharas of a raga and all the delicate cherished details were revealed and in such short spells he raised a magnificent edifice of a raga.

The mosaic of sound was enthralling in resonance and amplitude and the rasikas felt inspired and elevated to witness the translation of the aesthetic depths into music amazingly mooladara- based.

A true nadopasaka that he was, MDR never mistook grammar for the poetry of music. His main contribution to Carnatic music was to make rasikas realise that sangita has to be experienced only through the heart.

His concerts were a journey to the realms of the devotional contents of the compositions. He demonstrated how a single word ``Rama'' has been used by Sri Tyagaraja to convey vatsalya, sakhya bhava or poignancy.

The long contemplative korvai in mandharasthayi by MDR sounded like a devotee lost in ecstasy on having a glimpse of his Ishta devata. For MDR accuracy of rendering a song was not the main task.

He saw to it that he revealed the specific beauties of the composition. The most charming feature of MDR's technique was his unerring understanding of the place of silence in music.

For him it was not absence of sound, but the language of the soul enjoying the peace of sangita. In short, his music sought to soothe not seduce the rasika.

Singing at the end of the short function, K.V. Narayanaswamy introduced a rare breath of freshness in the performance.

Understandably he lavished his attention to emphasise the beauteous part of the rich and perceptive shades tagged on with an enticing chittaswara in the Kedara composition of M. D. Ramanathan ``Sri Thyagaraja Gurumasraye''.

The Anandabhairavi kriti ``O Jagadamba'' and the Saramathi song ``Mokshamugalada'' were interpreted with the characteristic nuances of the pieces.

The emotional anguish of the soul of Gopalakrishna Bharati expressed in the Manji song ``Varugalamo Ayyah'' was well brought out by Narayanaswamy. Pantuvarali ``Ramanatham Bhajeham'' and Kalyani (Ambarame - a Tiruppavai hymn) were meant to remind the listeners of his Ariyakudi lineage.

The ragam, tanam and pallavi (chatusra triputa tala) was in Sahana.

Though he handled the time-tested sancharas, the violinist Mullaivasal Chandramouli stole the show with a glow of finesse.

Similarly in the Sindhubhairavi later, the violinist gave cherubic charm to the alapana. He captured the pensive sweetness of both the ragas which haunted even after the concert was over. J. Vaidyanathan (mridangam) and B.S. Purushottaman (kanjira) were assets to the vocalist.

In the tani, Vaidyanathan mesmerised the audience with the ease with which he introduced different nadais to present a pulsating pattern of percussive brilliance.