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An old-worldly dignity


Namagiripettai Krishnan's mastery of the best traditions of the nadaswaram is evident in a tape that displays middle-of-the-20th-century taste in its selections

He made Namagiripettai, a small town in Tamil Nadu, famous. His lung power could shame Olympics runners. His music is synonymous with auspiciousness. Namagiripettai Krishnan plays the difficult and fine instrument of nadaswaram. Difficult because of the enormous amount of breath you need to get it to sing. Fine because if you don't breathe into it the correct potency it will sing off key.

This tape features some excellent pieces. Mallari, the traditional tune played as deities are taken out on processions, is in raga Nattai and sets the mood of auspiciousness. Then comes raga Todi, dwelling in your mind, and settling into its depths. Tamademamen swami by Papanasam Sivan shines in Krishnan's rendition. Todi is capable of stately dignity as in Kaddanivaarevaru by Thyagaraja. In Sivan's piece you find a great emotive tone. On Krishnan's nadaswaram it seems to gain an additional poignancy.

Dakshina moorthe by Dayananda Saraswati in raga Ranjani proves a good contrast to Todi. Ranjani speaks a more flashy lingo where Todi had a classical subtlety. A brief alapana with some fast phrases on the tara sthayi, revolving around the phrase sa-ri-ga-ri-ga-sa, and the kriti begins. Marivere in raga Anandabhairavi by Syama Sastri is a slowly unfolding piece, hardly heard in concerts these days. The shuddha dhaivatham is used very sparingly, as it should be.

Chakkani raja margamulu by Thyagaraja in Karaharapriya seems to be made for the nadaswaram with its cascades of descending notes pa-da ma-pa ga-ma ri-ga sa-ri. A short alapana captures the mood of Hindola, followed by Samagana lole, a G N Balasubramaniam composition. The madhyamakala has some phrases typical of GNB ga-ma-ga ma-pa pa-da-pa ma-pa da-ma-da... The rendering is full of the sort of simple sangatis popular with the earlier generation of artistes. Simple and full of raga bhava these were used by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, GNB and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. These days the sangatis are more complex and full of mathematics.

The kritis on this tape are reminiscent of the '60s and early '70s concert agenda. A sawal jawab kalpana swara session with the other nadaswaram player follows. The second player gets no credit on the inlay card. Some fast, simple phrases are exchanged and a muktaya phrase brings them back to the kriti.

This comes with a tani on the thavil by Haridwaramangalam A K Palanivel and Thiruvalaputhur T A Kaliyamurthy, notable for strokes matching the sangatis of the nadaswaram. The thavil's resonance is deep on the left hand and high on the right, providing a contrast in frequencies. Valli kanavan perai, a traditional Tamil song in praise of Muruga, ends the tape.

S Suchitra Lata

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