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Growing up in a ‘rasika’ household – 2 (More on Thyagu)

Am just in the mood to reminisce a little more on my grandfather Thyagu and his musical influence on me. I started my musical training on the violin under Shri V Lakshminarayana. My grandfather was completely against this as he felt I should be in vocal music only. Fortunately for me my violin teacher used to insist on me singing every song that I had learnt on the violin and so it was easier when I later switched to vocal. My grandfather was most happy when I started singing. Everytime I sat down to practice he would just wander in and listen. He hated me singing krits and always wanted me to sing alapanas. I had just started singing alapanas and hardly had any idea of developing a raga. He would make me sing the heavy ragams like Todi, Bhairavi and Kambhoji all the time and keep telling me the choice phrases that he liked.

He would ask me to sing Kedaragowla and the moment I went up the ocatave, (Kedaragowla was mostly an upper octave raga with slokams and viruttams being started there, and easy for me to just follow) he will stop me and say (Keezha paadu! – Sing in the lower octave) Of course he could not do that as well you see so he wanted me to get acquainted with the ragam in the lower octave also! He would then ask me to sing Yadukulakambhoji and then do the opposite – “Mela paadu! – Sing in the upper octave” Again a not so frequently emplyed technique! These things gave me an early insight into several ragams much before I had even started singing concerts.

Later when began learning from my grand aunt Smt Rumini Rajagopalan, she was emphasising on the exact same phrases and landing points as my grandfather used to do. She was his elder sister and he had grown up listening to her sing so much!!! Thyagu also hated some ragams. Like he never could get Harikambhoji – said he got confused with Khamas and Kambhoji! Similarly he never liked Pantuvarali/Poorvikalyani because they were too confusing for him. BUt he could sing Andolika and Devamanohari! He was a great GNB fan you see.

Many years after I had started singing concerts he would come and listen. after the concert he would just go to one of my accompanists and say “He sang horribly today! Tell your friend to not rush so much with phrases!” Of course when I got home he would say the same thing to me also and all the applause and the kind words of the rasikas at concert would vanish in a second. But at the same time if he was happy he never hesitated to complimet. Later in concerts I had learnt to predict the kind of things he liked and the ones he didn’t! That’s when one can get cocky and the old man would surprise you with a comment you never expected! Like on the instance I sang a long Sama alapana as well as a Reetigowla. The latter is his favorite and I normally sing some of his own patented phrases and thought he would have liked it. But that was not to be. He cam up and said “I really liked your Sama today.” I later realised that he never sang Sama and found that he could do it now easily. He asked me for the tape and started singing some of the sangathis to get a hang of it. That too at the age of 81!!!!


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