All for One, One for All!

!!! IMPORTANT – Read this first !!!

Last update: 20 May, 2020

Accompanying MDR was a challenge for any accompanying artist. His style was different and unique. So, to enhance the overall “impact”, the accompanying artists need to adapt to MDR’s style. Otherwise, a listener may get a feeling that there are two disjoint flows happening in the same concert. Whether this happened or not depended on the accompanying artists and the day’s “luck” 🙂 And when it happened, the effect was wonderful and serene. For example, take some specific cases:

  • See the start of this “nA jIvAdhAra” – UKS knows MDR’s style and see how he is building up his play as MDR is building up the pallavi sangatis – amazing!!!

In a typical rAga AlApana, looking at the amount of gap that MDR leaves between the phrases, it feels as if he expected the violinist to repeat the phrases fully. If the violinist did not use this time fully and rushed through it, MDR would still take his own time to start the next phrase creating some unusual, “empty” time periods 🙂

  • Hear this sahAna AlApana and see how the violin is enriching it. The shadowing of kruti rendition is also amazing.

During kruti rendition, the places where MDR splits the sAhitya and the number and amount of pauses/gaps he inserts is different from the regularly taught way (sometimes slightly and at other times, notably). If the accompanying artists can anticipate this and shadow/enhance appropriately, the generated impact is amazing.

  • For example, see how MSG is able to shadow MDR perfectly here. Violin does not intrude into the “silence” and thus let the listener to immerse fully in the music.

In an MDR concerts, the co-artists got compensated for these challenges as MDR concerts also had a lot of space and freedom for them to showcase their skills. The slow AlApanas and the pauses between phrases gave them a lot of opportunities to fill in with their creativity. During AlApanas or shLokA/viruttam, MDR was never in a hurry and would happily allow the violin to take their own time to return. During the kruti and swara renditions, he would purposefully stop the vocal and allow the instruments to fill in. And when the accompanying artists did something creative, he did not mind stopping in the middle of the rendition and appreciate the effort!

Some instances are recounted below.

  • In the below rendition of varNam neranammitinayyA (kAnaDa) below, in the chiTTaswara passages, he highlights the key swaras and leaves the rest for violin (and the listener) – this is so beautiful, as always! (For the full concert, refer here)

  • In this example of “viribONi”, he leaves the gaps for the accompanying artists to fill (around 4:20). Soon, he finds the mrudangam accompaniment interesting and lets that get highlighted (4:40).

  • Another example of leaving stuff for violin & mrudangam (check around 1:27:45, 1:28:20 and 1:37:15):

  • In this pUrvi tillAna, see how the accompaniments are able to lift the overall effect to the next level – enough space is there for the violin and mrudangam to fill in, sound from mrudangam is amazing and is aligned to MDR’s sound and the anticipation from both the accompanying artists is amazing. MDR himself is not able to contain the excitement and can be seen conversing about this in the middle. (If not for the few hiccups in the middle, this would have been an outstanding rendition!)

Space for violinists

It is almost a convention among the artists that in important items like sub-main, main and RTP, after a few rounds of exchanges of neraval or kalpanAswara, the main artist ends it without giving a corresponding return by violin. The idea behind this practice could be that the concert is lead by the main artist when these key sections complete, the attention remains on the main artist / or the main artist is able to have more control on the flow. But MDR did not seem to have such apprehensions (this is a “guess” from few available concerts!) . In many of his sub-main/main renditions, he leaves it to the violinist to end the key sections! One reason could also be due to the rapport and mutual respect that MDR and his co-artists had!

  • Here, “ninnu vinA” (kalyANi) is being sung as the main. Hear the vocal and violin parts at the end of kalpanAswara. MDR is not bothered to take the last round of kalpanAswara (as done typically), but just goes ahead to end it after the violinist’s turn.

  • In the below concert, check the ending of swaras in sub-main, filler and main – everything ends with the violinist’s turn! Nobody’s egos are hurt, just good music prevails!

  • From what is seen, it appears that MDR did not care much about the “air time” he gets. For example, violin accompaniment may take more time in AlApana, neraval or swaras than what is conventional and this never affected the overall impact of the concert. In the below neraval, MSG is taking more tala cycles than MDR during many iterations based on what he thinks is optimal, and, MDR continues with what he considers optimum cycles for each iteration – and musical impact is never compromised anywhere!

  • Here is an instance where MDR gives enough gap for violin to follow, creating a nice effect (check aruond 1:08:47 – he does it two times).

  • And when something nice happens, MDR may comment about it, even if that interrupts his own flow! See an instance here at around 2:03:30-45 – MDR says something like “violin has just started speaking now”!

Sometimes, in the middle of krutis, MDR just stops; now violinist has two options – he can either stop or continue with natural progression of the kruti. Either way, I think MDR actually did not care (and most of the time, the violinist will also be a veteran artist and would have good understanding of MDR’s style as well, so they knew how to take it further!).

  • See the below performance for an example where the violinist just continued. MDR loved the violin part and is seen appreciating it! After a few rounds, MDR took over the lead once again. Note around 01:53:45:

  • In this kharaharapriyA AlApana, during a pause, violinist plays to fill in the gap (around 2:36:30). MDR is appreciating the “filler” and waits, and once the violinist is done, MDR continues as usual 🙂

Space for percussionists

For a pakkavAdyam player, playing with MDR is both a challenge and a great opportunity. The challenges are shruti, slow tempo and unconventional treatment of krutis, which requires the pakkavAdyam players to adjust a lot from their typical setup/style. On the other hand, during most krutis, MDR provides extra spaces between pallavi/anupallavi/charaNams, which can be creatively utilised by pakkavAdyam players. MDR also tend to enjoy the performances of the co-artists, and many times, he also creates such situations where the pakkavAdyams can pitch in and create amazing musical effects. Some such instances have been already covered above. Few others are below:

  • For example, take the below recording of “ninne bhajana” – between the pallavi and anupallavi, there is a huge gap and the mrudangam is able to play some interesting patterns there. (For the full concert, refer here)

  • In the below “vAtApi“, between 3:30-3:45 we can see how he sings “gaNapatim” which gives the UKS to respond nicely. Similarly around 6:15, similar play can be seen. From 8:15, they coordinate similarly for “gaNapatim” once again.

  • In the “pAhi rAma dUta” (vasantavarALi) rendition below, after the pallavi, MDR enjoys the mrudangam sequence. (Full concert can be found here)

  • In the below instance, the pause during the line is giving a small space for mrudangam artist to fill in. If the accompanying artist is alert, this can work out very beautifully, as seen here!

  • In this “vAtApi“, PMI’s accompaniment is amazing, and at multiple places, we can see that MDR stops and appreciates the mrudangam!

  • This example shows how much one has to be careful when accompanying MDR. Note at 39:18 – here when ending the anupallavi, the mrugangam player and MDR is in synch and the ending is beautiful and MDR also indicates his appreciation. But at around 41:00, MDR had different plans to end after the charaNam and this creates a slight confusion for mrudangam artist. So, the mrudangam artist is very careful next time and synchs perfectly with MDR, to end the kruti beautifully (note around 44:20) 🙂