Doyens of Music – Instrumental

Straddling two genres - Violinist M S Gopalakrishnan

My romance with the violin started when I was six years old, declares a beaming M S Gopalakrishnan who epitomises the Parur style of playing the violin. His father Parur Sundaram Iyer, himself a leading violinist, was a hard taskmaster who would wake up his children as early as 4 a.m. for violin classes. His brother M S Anantharaman is an octogenarian violinist who has carved a niche for himself in the elite field.

Sundaram Iyer was proficient in Carnatic and Hindustani music. Gopalakrishnan’s house was suffused with the melodic strains of violin from dawn to dusk and his practice would go on for hours.

His father emphasised on playing three speeds in one string without changing over to the other strings. MSG, as he is affectionately called, worships music and venerates his father who was responsible for inculcating the spirit of music in him. It is indeed a tres difficile to learn both streams of music but MSG did it with panache.

Blessed with prodigious talent, he gave his maiden concert at a Bengali music conference in Calcutta now Kolkata. He accompanied Pt Omkarnath, a doyen of Hindustani music in Kolkata. Pt Omkarnath was awestruck by his exemplary style and showered encomiums on him.

He had an eclectic exposure under Krishnanand of Kirana gharana. I never mixed both the genres. In fact, I am at ease with both streams, states MSG, who is a trailblazer in both styles.

He echoed the views of the elders, saying that kelvi gnanam is essential for garnering a little from the ocean of music. His career has been a saga of grit and determination and he attained consummate artistry in Carnatic and Hindustani music.

Sundaram Iyer taught him different methods of bowing - staccato bowing and bowing in one string.

A violinist should be a vocalist as it enhances the style and bhava will be mirrored while playing, declares MSG.

He has a kaleidoscope of experiences as he has accompanied almost all the titans of the music world, except D K Pattammal.

He has performed jugalbandhi with the crème de la crème of Hindustani musicians. To blend tradition and modernity, one should be innovative, opines the veteran. He has been alternating between the genres which is a musical mélange for connoisseurs.

A true nadopasaka, he says singing a kriti is like performing archana to the Almighty.

His musical erudition has taken him to places throughout the globe as an apostle of music.

He has won a slew of awards from the government and sabhas. He has a legion of disciples who try to emulate him.

His daughter Dr Narmada is a renowned violinist and his son Suresh is following his father’s footsteps.

MSG is credited to have lifted the art to greater heights of purity and classicism.

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