D.K. Jayaraman and his distinct style

Dr. Sunder’s lec-dem and Vijay Siva’s concert brought out the nuances of the late maestro’s music

Dr. S. Sunder during his lec-dem on D.K. Jayaraman at R.R. Sabha, 2021. | Photo Credit: Photo: R.R. Sabha

D.K. Jayaraman (DKJ) was a singer whose simple, chaste and all-encompassing music enthralled rasikas. His concert format was traditional, yet his rich repertoire and bhakti-laden presentation brought in an element of emotion that audiences connected with.

In a series of lec-dems and concerts on musical doyens, organised by Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Dr. S. Sunder, vocalist and disciple of D.K. Jayaraman, took the listeners on a guided tour into DKJ’s music. Sunder spoke about the definitive sangatis that DKJ conceived for each line in the kritis, the virtuosity of the laya aspects that merged seamlessly with the sahitya, and his endearing qualities as a musician.

Minute aspects highlighted

Dr. Sunder, accompanied by his disciples J.B. Keerthana on vocals and J.B. Shruthisagar on the flute, illustrated even minute aspects, such as the subtle modulations in voice that DKJ used to suit the mood of the compositions and his unchanging patanthara. K. Arunprakash on the mridangam joined in to demonstrate DKJ’s grip on laya and the 1/4 and 3/4 edams that he blended perfectly with the conventional swara phrases. Dr. Sunder sang Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Guni janadinuta guruguhodaye’ in Gurjari raga, using the line ‘Rajakumaram’ of the Abheri kriti ‘Bhajare re manasa’ to bring out the variation in DKJ’s voice output, followed by a recording of DKJ’s kalpanaswaras in ‘Birana varalichi’ (Kalyani) to exhibit the precise rhythm shift from the samam (on the beat). He recalled seeing Lalgudi Jayaraman wipe tears off his face during a concert in Coimbatore with DKJ, when the latter rendered Thanjavur Sankara Iyer’s ‘Manadirkugandhathu’ in Sindhubhairavi. When the lec-dem ended with Dr. Sunder singing DKJ’s timeless ‘Nambi kettavar evarayya’ in Hindolam, the maestro’s music seem to reverberate in the hall.

Vijay Siva. | Photo Credit: Photo: R.R. Sabha

Later that evening, N. Vijay Siva, DKJ’s star disciple, presented a concert in memory of his guru. The singer provided an elevating experience, showcasing his own abundant creativity while upholding the patanthara.

The first song was ‘Guruleka etuvanti’ in Gowrimanohari, a homage to the guru. The concert was structured in a way that the first part consisted of classic kritis, then came one hallmark composition as the main piece, then short compositions immortalised by DKJ in the finale. If the rendition of Tyagaraja’s ‘Sripathe neepada’ in Nagaswarali with niraval and swarams at the charanam ‘Rajadi raja’ kicked off the line-up, Vijay Siva’s Asaveri alapana made listeners speculate on the kriti that would follow. Although Tyagaraja’s ‘Maapala velasi’, Annasami Sastri’s ‘Sri kanchi nayike’and ‘Kadaikkannal irangi’ from Arunachala Kavi’s Rama Nataka keertana are all DKJ insignia, Vijay surprised the gathering with ‘Sharanam sharanam raghurama’, another keerthana from Rama Natakam. A full-scale elaboration of Harikamboji followed. Vijay traversed the raga with a firm hold on its grammar and without a trace of repetition.

Annamacharya’s ‘Itha dokkade’ with the beautiful niraval at ‘Kaliki yashodaku’ could easily be identified with his guru’s original version. Similarly, the grand Kalyani alapana filled with abundant creativity got huge applause. It was an easy guess here — Syama Sastri’s ‘Birana varalichi’ with the DKJ stamp.

The swarams at ‘Shyama krishna sodari’ were deceptively simple, but astute, in the charming tisra gati in which the kriti is originally rendered. It showed the hold on laya handed over by the guru to his disciples.

A sedate ‘Ramachandra raghunandana’ in Nilambari, composed by Mysore Sadasiva Rao, served as a prelude to a splendid Bhairavi and the signature composition ‘Raksha pettare’ from the DKP-DKJ treasure trove. Launching straight into kalpanaswaras without a niraval, Vijay unleashed his manodharma through absorbing segments in Adi tala with changes in nadais. L. Ramakrishnan on the violin keenly observed the singer’s style and responded with equal poise, especially in the Kalyani and Bhairavi alapanas, earning well-deserved appreciation.

D.K. Jayaraman. | Photo Credit: Photo: The Hindu Archives

A breeze of phrases from Syama Sastri’s Swarajati in the kalpanaswara section of Bhairavi was refreshing. Vijay’s younger sibling Manoj Siva, who also learnt from DKJ for a brief period, was on the mridangam, providing evidence of his training during the Asaveri keerthana, and when he highlighted the ideas of the vocalist and the violinist in the Bhairavi kriti. B.S. Purushotham on the kanjira joined him in enhancing the experience, and played with excitement in the tani avartanam.

Focus on tukkadas

Like DKJ, Vijay Siva also gives importance to tukkadas, and he sang Periyazhwar’s Thirumozhi ‘Vaanilavarasu vaikuntha kuttan’ in ragamalika with Shanmukhapriya and Mohanam; and when he anchored in Jhonpuri, it had to be Bharati’s ‘Asai mukham marandhu poche’ in the typical fast-paced DKJ style. The other uruppadis that Vijay Siva presented that evening included Dikshitar’s ‘Ehi annapurne’ in Punnagavarali in a contrasting slow speed, the Paras raga javali ‘Chelinenetlu sahintune’ by Pattabhiramaiah, and the Thiruppugazh verses ‘Nirai mathi mukhamenum’ in Hamsanandi.

The Chennai-based writer reviews Carnatic music.

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