Lalgudi Sri G Jayaraman is a legend on the violin. Attempting to write about this multifaceted personality who, apart from being a great performer, has composed music for operas, created compositions and also taught many his art, is a difficult if not impossible task for mere words cannot do justice to the personality and his music.
The Lalgudi tradition on the violin goes back to the times of Tyagaraja (1767-1847), when ancestor Lalgudi Ramayyar apprenticed himself under the bard and became an exponent of the instrument. He was later associated with the Mysore Court where he was greatly honoured. At his invitation, Tyagaraja visited Lalgudi village and composed five songs on the deities there. These are today called the Lalgudi Pancharatnam. The descendants of Ramayyar kept the violin tradition alive.
Lalgudi Sri G Jayaraman was born on 17th September 1930 into this illustrious line. He began training on the violin at an early age, his father Lalgudi VR Gopala Iyer being his Guru. He began life as an accompanist, doing so at the tender age of 12. Given his quickness and his ability to grasp the individual styles of several vocalists, he was soon in demand. He made his debut in Madras at the Music Academy in the 1940s, in the presence of several leading musical lights including Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, GN Balasubramaniam, the Alathoor Brothers and T Chowdiah. Beginning with 1947, he became a preferred accompanist for singers such as Madurai Mani Iyer and GNB. The mridangam maestro Palani Subramania Pillai had great affection for him and encouraged his career by introducing him to the Alathoor Brothers. This was important, for the Brothers were known for their rhythmically complicated pallavi performances. Sri Jayaraman was a match to their challenges and soon became their favourite as well.
In the late 1950s, Sri Jayaraman began giving solo performances, sometimes accompanied by his sister Srimathi Brahmanandam. Soon he became a solo artiste and established this as his forte as well. His style of playing the violin came to be called the Lalgudi Bani and is acknowledged to be very close to vocal music, something that all instrumentalists strive to attain. Sri Jayaraman?s rich repertoire of songs, in addition to his great intellect and deep insight into the art, made this possible. He introduced the concept of Violin-Veena-Venu (flute) concerts in 1966, the initial set being performed with Trivandrum Sri R Venkataraman on the veena and Sri N Ramani on the flute. This was appreciated by the Paramacharya of Kanchi, Chandrashekharendra Saraswathi.
Sri Jayaraman very soon became established on the international circuit, thereby taking the Carnatic style of playing the violin to a larger audience. He went to the then USSR as part of the Government of India?s Cultural Delegation. In 1965, he attended the Edinburgh Music Festival, where he was given a violin by Yehudi Menuhin in appreciation of his performance. Since then he has performed frequently abroad.
Widely feted and honoured, Sri Jayaraman received the Padma Sri from the Government of India in 1972 and the Padma Bhushan in 2001. He was awarded the Sangeeta Choodamani by the Federation of Music Sabhas in Madras in 1971. In 1979 he received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He was the first recipient of the Chowdiah Memorial Award, instituted by the Government of Karnataka.
Sri Jayaraman?s versatility includes composing. His first composition was in 1956. He has several varnams, pada varnams and tillanas to his credit. In 1994, he created the lyrics and music for the songs of the dance opera Jaya Jaya Devi which met with acclaim wherever it was staged. The choreography for this was done by Rhadha. Later, Pancheshwaram, another dance drama created by Sri Jayaraman was also staged. His creations are in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit. Many musicians today include his pieces in their concert performances.
Sri Jayaraman is also known to be an extremely diligent and munificent Guru. Many stars have emerged from his stable. These include his own children GJR Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi, both of whom specialise on the violin. In addition there are singers such as Bombay Jayshree Ramnath and SP Ramh who have been trained by Sri Jayaraman.
In 2003, in an interview with writer Lakshmi Devnath, Sri Jayaraman said, ?The limitations of age tell on me but I am not able to control my creativity. I am nothing without music. Even in all my future births, I want to be born only as a musician. Music has not only been my livelihood but also my path to spirituality. This is no exaggeration, for even today, he continues teaching music to aspiring youngsters. He continues innovating and experimenting. For him, the Lalgudi Bani is not only a unique style of playing the violin, it is a way of life.