The genius of Lalgudi Jayaraman

August 14, 2013

Lalgudi Jayaraman was truly a musical genius, one of the top-class violinists I’ve known… and a very creative musician. He was a close family friend was a long time, and I was privileged to hear him practising when he came and stayed with us, and often saw the process of his creating some of his thillanas.

I’m choosing one very tiny fraction of his creativity here, where he makes the “sAhityam” of Subramanya Bharati’s poem about Krishna’s mischievious deeds come alive with his mastery over his instrument.

I’ve included the translation, to help you appreciate how he elicits the meaning of the words…

The lyrics are transliterated


But I want to take it a little at a time. The song, “ThIrAtdha viLayAttu piLLai”, starts at 13’43”.

theeraadha vilaiyaattup pillai - kannan theruvilae pengalukkoayaadha thollai

Kannan (Krishna) is an unceasingly playful boy. He is an unremitting nuisance to the girls on the street.


thinnap pazham kondu varuvaan - paadhi thinginra poadhilae thattip parippaan

He’ll give (me) fruit to eat…and as it is half-eaten, he’ll snatch it.

(Listen to Lalgudi playing this can hear the fruit being snatched, lightly, the first time, and sharply, the second.

15’23”, 15’33”)

ennappan ennaiyaan enraal - adhanai echchir paduththik kadiththuk koduppaan

When I beg him, he bites it with his mouth, making it “ecchal”,and then give it back. Here, Bharatiyar’s words themselves give the effect of biting off, and Lalgudi follows the words (“sAhitya bANi”


azhagulla malar kondu vandhae - ennai azha ahach cheydhapin kannai moodik kol kuzhalilae soottuvaen enbaan - ennaik kurudaakki malarinai thoazhikku vaippaan

He’ll get me a beautiful flower, and after teasing me to tears, he’ll say, close your eyes, I’ll set it in your hair…he’ll make me blind, and set the flower in my friend’s hair instead


pinnalaip pinninrizhuppaan - thalai

He’ll pull my plait from behind.

(Listen to this part. You can hear the in-and-out “plaiting” of the hair!

17’32”, 17’38”, 17’48”)

pinnae thirumbumun naer senru maraivaan vannap puduch chaelai thanilae - puzhudi vaarich chorindhae varuththik kulaippaan

Before I can turn my head back, he’ll vanish He’ll cover my new, colourful saree With dust and trouble me to death


pullaanguzhal kondu varuvaan - amudhu

He’ll bring his flute… (now…hear Lalgudi’s violin become a flute! 18’32”, 18’46”, 18’56”)

pongith thadhumbu nal geedham padaippaan

He’ll create music that overflows with nectar

kallaal mayanguvadhu poalae - adhainaik

(As if we are drunk on liquor…listen to the slightly tipsy effect:

19’26”, 19’30”)

kanmoodi vaaythirandhae kaettiruppoam

We’ll listen to it with closed eyes and open mouths


This is from one of the LP records produced by HMV; there was also “nAjIvAdhAra” in Bilahari on that record, and the Thilang thillana.

Accompanying him on the violin in this rendition is his sister Srimathi Brahmanandam, who is, in my opinion, an even more talented violinist than he was, but whose talent was overshadowed in those days of male chauvinism…Gopala Iyer’s son was favoured over his daughter. (I saw it happen, I am not reporting hearsay.)