The Hero as a Musician

To talk about modern Carnatic music is to talk of Sri Ariyakudi, the architect and maker of our music today. He is 74 years young and very much in his strides as a top performer and musician. His record is unique in the annals of music history, in its consistently high level of performance and reputation. As a man and as a musician, he is many-sided, entertaining as well as instructive. Throughout, his career has been the cumulative result of professional dignity, business acumen and artistic ideals.

He has been an outstanding, long-established success. It is not due to luck or adventitious chance that it is so. There are solid grounds for it. Moreover, it is, it will be admitted, more difficult to maintain leadership in a public career than to gain it. His repertoire is as varied as it is big. He is as firm in his ideals as he is adaptable in his music and manners. He is as alert and aware of contemporary musical trends and movements as he is composed and convinced in his belief in tradition and sampradaya. His is probably the one instance of a unique wedlock of seeming incompatibles, sastra and sravya and tradition and modernity.

There are a good many amongst us now who have followed his musical career for the past four decades and more, who have noticed all the qualities which conduced to make him an undisputed leader in the profession, ever since he entered the music world. Many musicians have come into the music field after him and risen to prominence. He still retains his sovereignty. Why? If one such tries to make a mark by specialising in any aspect of performance, this aspect is immediately taken up by him and he has unfailingly demonstrated that he could do it and more, in a better way. This naturally presupposes that his stock and resilience should be sufficiently big and tough so that he could meet these moves and prove himself superior to them. Incompatibility in equipment and musical temperament of the accompanists has never stood in the way of his making a success of the performance. He is at home with both great senior accompanists as well as rising junior ones. He never allows himself to be nonplussed on the platform.

His adjustability, stock and diplomacy are in ample evidence when new and young accompanists perform along with him. He is a musician with a classical ideal, with a definite choiceful awareness: choiceful because, there is all round fullness from which to choose. He knows what he is about, leaving nothing to chance or the moment, preferring “how” a thing is done to “what” is done—a typically classical ideal, based on conscious, deliberate artistry, rather than haphazard musical adventure This is why he is so dependable and never below par on any occasion.

It cannot be denied that his is the greatest share amongst all the musicians for making Carnatic classical music as popular amongst the laity as it is now. He effectively exploded the myth and illusion prevalent for a long time that sampradaya and tradition were not pleasing to the ear. The music world is and should be indebted to him for the long and signal service he has rendered in stabilising and presenting our prasiddha and rakti ragas in their true basic and traditional form and with their characteristic and unmistakable sancharas, sangatis and prayogas.


By G.N. Balasubramaniam

Excerpted from Gandharva Ganam, edited by Lalitha Ram and V Ramnarayan.

To buy the Music of GNB set of CDs or the Ariyakudi e-book, go to


Posted by Sruti Magazine   February 08, 2012