Date:17/06/2005 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2005/06/17/stories/2005061703440200.htm
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A master of grand ragas

M. SURYA PRASAD

T.N. Seshagopalan is not just technically proficient, but is also graceful in his presentation



BRILLIANT T.N. Seshagopalan's rendition is marked by a deep scholarship Photo: K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

It was an unforgettable feat indeed! In a vocal concert, a few years ago, held at Sri Ramaseva Mandali, Govt. Fort High School during the Sri Ramanavami concert series, Raga Kharaharapriya was elaborated in all its glory and subtlety. The kriti "Pakkala Nilabadi" with an abundance of sangathis followed the feat in question. Raga after raga flowed in the ragamalika swaraprastara. Out of curiosity, I started counting the number of ragas. The chain of ragas ended with twenty-four. It was unique and enjoyable.

Such a feat is possible only by a competent artiste endowed with an unfathomable manodharma, a deep scholarship and the ability to probe. The artiste who demonstrated all this and other qualities was none other than Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, the versatile Carnatic musician, who is at the helm of affairs in the present day Carnatic music scenario. He, like Madurai Pushpavanam Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer and Madurai Krishnan has done Madurai proud.

A musical genius, Seshagopalan has been endowed with an enchanting and vibrant voice and multi-sthayi reach and range. One of the specialties of his cutcheri craft is rendering of intricate ragas with grace and gaiety, subtlety and ease. Indigenous, innovative and artistic sangathis and brikhas spice up his performance. His uniqueness lies in his breathtaking sweeps in the various manodharmic aspects of Carnatic music such as alapanas, neraval, kalpana swaraprastharas, raga, tana, pallavis, keerthanas, Thirupugazhs, Thukkadas and ragamalika virutams. The most demanding aspect of music, the graha bedha is child's play for him.

His good hold over North Indian ragas has seen him in several jugalbandis with Ustad Rashid Khan.

The gifted Seshagopalan is inspired by his mother's music. His musical journey began in 1955. A firm foundation was laid by Ramanathapuram C.S. Sankarasivan (a great disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar the great musician and composer). As his gurus were great exponents of laya, it was easy for him to imbibe the same from them. Thus TNS' vistara krama, both in raga and laya has accounted for a new style and summary of traditional Carnatic music.

A multi-faceted artiste, TNS holds a degree in science from Madras University and a degree in music from Madurai University where he also served as the professor of music.

He began playing on the harmonium and in course of time has mastered the veena. He eventually settled down to vocal music. Just to prove that even the subtle gamakas, which are the soul of Carnatic music, could be produced on a keyboard, TNS had a successful stint with that too. Seshagoplan seems to have a penchant for presenting surprises not only in his routine music concerts but also in his dispositions. His avatar as a Harikatha Bhagavatar has also been rewarding. His oratory, vast knowledge of music, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu along with his skills of presentation is remarkable.

Several titles have been conferred on him. He has been the Asthana Vidwan of Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt by the Paramacharya along with the title Sangeetha Sudhakara. He has acted in a Tamil feature film, Thodi Ragam, in which he sang a number of songs.

TNS has also acted as Lord Vishnu in a tele-serial produced by R.S. Manoharan, titled Narakasuran. More than 50 music companies have released Seshagopalan's cassettes and CDs. HMS has produced Kaakkai Chiraginile, featuring his vocal performance.

The master of swaras — a series of three CDs — has been released by Sangeetha. Recordings of his live concerts in Music Academy have been released by AVM and HMV. He has given numerous performances in the US, Russia, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Bahrain and Sri Lanka.

The music-marvel T.N. Seshagopalan is presiding over the 37th music conference of the Bangalore Gayana Samaja.

He will be conferred the title Sangeetha Kalarathna at the valedictory here on June 19.

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