Just got back from a concert at Bangalore yesterday. The venue was the Bangalore Gayana Samaja - Shouldn't it be Bengaluru Gayana Samaja :) Anyway, The occasion this time was a series to celebrate the birth centenary of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. After the blasts etc, Bangalore appeared calm and the Sunday traffic was decent I should say.
As I was going to the concert, I generally was thinking about what to sing etc. There was this pressure to sing a 'Semmangudi' list. Ideally I would have dug into my repertoire and come up with say
Entho prema - Surati varnam
Suryamurthe - Saurashtram
Gnanamosaga rada - Poorvikalyani
Appan avadaritta - Karaharapriya / Marubalka - Sriranjani
Chetashri - Dwijavanti / Shri ramam - Narayanagowla
Gajavadana - Todi / Amba Kamakshi - Bhairavi
Nee bhajan gana - Nayaki
RTP - Sankarabharanam / Kambhoji
Palayamamayibho - Khamas
aravinda padamalar - Kapi
Slokam - Ragamalika
Sapasya - Jonpuri
But then except for the Jonpuri piece I did not sing the above list. The reason I just came up with the above list is that concerts dedicated to muscians are generally song lists of the said musicians! This is just a more modern trend from the last 20 odd years. Now let us say for instance there was a Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer centenary concert about 30/40 years ago. Would musicians of that generation have thought about these things? For instance if Semmangudi had sung that concert he would have probably just sung the above 'Semmangudi' list rather than a 'Maha' list. Some years back I had gone to sing a Tyagaraja aradhana concert in Trichy. The organiser was Shri Alathur Tyagarajan who also happened to be the son of the late Alathur Subbayyar. So in tune with the trend I sang a typical Alathur list - Nenendu - Karnataka Behag, Rama nee vadu - Kalyani, etc etc with Evarimata in Kambhoji. I still remember violinist RK Shriramkumar remarking after the concert, "It is better to label this a Subbayyar aradhana than a Tyagaraja aradhana!"
The main reason for such lists appearing in such memorial concerts is the unbelievable influence that musicians like Semmangudi had on musicians and listeners. Also the availability of tape recordings in plenty keeps the rasikas minds fresh with the memory of their heroes. For instance yesterday I sang Parvati nayaka in Bhouli as the main piece. I got an email today from a friend/musician who heard a few old timers remarking in the auditorium "He is singing all this Hyder kaalatthu paattu!" The music of people like Semmangudi will linger for a long long time and was most evidenced yesterday, when Shri Kamalnath, the President of the Gayana Samaja, said "Sanjay sang Saravanabhava in Sanmukhapriya as a tribute to Semmangudi!" The power of Semmangudi and his music is so great that even after three hours of my singing, (Which also I personally consider as my own tribute to the great man!) the three and a half minute piece was the first to be recalled! This was only because Semmangudi's Saravanabhava was a huge hit in Bangalore. As an aside, Ramnad Krishnan was singing a concert at Bangalore the same day as Semmangudi also. A rasika in Ramnad Krishnan's concert got up and shouted "Saravanabhava please!" Ramnad Krishnan replied with a wry smile, "It is not too late. You can take a bus and reach the 'other' venue and hear 'him' sing it!!!"
Finally it was an amazing audience yesterday. I really felt one among everyone. Thanks so much and it was a pleasure to be there!