Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Swaraprasthara & Mridangists

I couldn't come up with a good title for this post but I'll let this be till I can think up of anything else.

Recently, I went back to listening to MMI (Madurai Mani Iyer) quite a bit and observed a few things. His rendition of swaras varies according to the style of the mridangist. The three mridangists whom I observed were Palghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subramania Pillai and Vellore Ramabhadran. With PMI, the kalapramanan seemed to be a little rushed. I had a strange feeling that both the vocalist and the mridangist were trying to adjust to each other. This could be due to the fact that PMI doesn't play sarvalaghu and tries to play the swaras. Sometimes he gets it right, sometimes he doesn't even try to guess and sometimes MMI has to adjust to PMI's anticipation. With Palani, MMI seems to be at total ease, especially because Palani doesn't hesitate to play sarvalaghu where required. His neravals too are comparatively better with Palani. Alongside VR, his gait is at its absolute best and he seems to go on a never ending spree of swaras. It helps that VR doesn't try anything other than sarvalaghu. For someone like MMI, it just suits him fine and he seems to sing as if uninterrupted.

I tried extending this observation to MDR and I noticed something similar. It seemed as if MDR was changing his style for VR. i.e. rendering sarvalaghu swaras and with him, it seemed to get a little boring. Someone like UKS, Raghu or even PMI is better suited for MDR especially since they have a lot of time to anticipate. I was under the impression that mridangists (I should be saying mridangam vidwan. UKS admonishes that a mridangist isn't like a dentist or a podiatrist) were the ones who had to change their style to suit the vocalist. Well, I could be imagining things too for all you care. I'll try to post a few clips to illustrate my observations.