A magician with a violin

Lalgudi Jayaraman's playing had a silken finish

The phone rang at 6.35 pm on Monday evening, and I heard a voice at the other end say, "Jayanthi, it is all over. Lalgudi ji is no more". A shiver of shock and sorrow stuck in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes as I walked up to the music system and switched on "Raga Sahana", played by him a couple of decades ago. Every note stood in line, literally begging him to caress it and give it life. Was he a musician or a magician? I wondered each time he touched the core of the heart with a single note or phrase.

So much has been written and said about this great legend. Yet, every time one writes about him, we only end up feeling that not enough has been said. Every musician today is his disciple or follower in some way or other. I have been extremely fortunate to have been born in his family as his sister's daughter, and to watch him play the fiddle since childhood. Learning from him was an experience. He was a true romantic at heart and lived in his own sensitive and subtle world. His spirituality came out in the silence between the two notes he played. His tapasya would shine out in the siddhi he achieved in every single note. Yes, he was a nada yogi. The entire universe had converted itself into a nada lok for him and he was the master creator, creating music in different forms to suit each occasion. He was an ace performer, composer, guru, creator and much more.

He was a musician who changed the entire approach to music during his lifetime. Aesthetics was his forte. Be it an alap or a krithi or swaraprasthara or a varnam or thillana, the inimitable Lalgudi stamp was there, which means that it was grammatically impeccable, melodically unsurpassable, mathematically supreme and tonally pristine. There is so much to take in from his music. His padantharam (tradition) of krithis is unique. He gave a new dimension to the krithis of Saint Thyagaraja, so much so that every time, I used to imagine Saint Thyagaraja was nodding from up there in great appreciation to what Lalgudi ji had done with his compositions.

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