I have had the honour of being a close friend of both the above and when Sanjay paid tribute to S Rajam by way of a concert organised by Dr Premeela Gurumurthy at Narada Gana Sabha it was a very emotional moment for me.
All of Sanjay’s concerts are absolute delights and this was no exception. What made it stand out even more was the way he planned it. And that is indicative of how much time he must have invested in the topic and come up with a song list. It was not a question of just preparing for a concert and turning up to sing. While that by itself would have been great enough, what made it exemplary was that it was in everyway a tribute to S Rajam, in song/raga/composer selection and the way of presentation.
I have had the privilege of attending/listening to a couple of other ‘tribute’ concerts by Sanjay and I have seen the same attention to detail there also. One was a performance at Gokhale Hall, with MS Anantharaman and Vellore Ramabhadran, two veterans who had performed at the same venue during its heyday. Sanjay’s song list that day had several pieces that brought to mind some of the great musicians who had performed there in the past. Similarly, when he performed at Kalakshetra a few years ago, while Leela Samson was the Director, the song list was fashioned as a tribute to several of the greats associated with the institution – Mysore Vasudevachar, Papanasam Sivan and Tiger Varadachariar.
The same detailing was evident in the concert on Feb 9, 2019 at NGS. Think S Rajam and the first things that come to mind are his paintings of the Trinity, his many Gurus all of whose influence he showed in his music, and of course his work in making Koteeswara Iyer kritis famous, thereby pooh-poohing the many negative beliefs that then existed about Vivadi ragas.
Sanjay’s concert began with a varnam in Jyotiswarupini by Koorainadu Natesa Pillai. Then came Durusuga (Saveri/Adi) by Syama Sastry. There followed a raga alapana in Devamanohari and then came the kriti Sami Dikshita (Rupaka Talam)– a tribute by Koteeswara Iyer to Muthuswami Dikshitar. This was followed by a detailed raga alapana in Jhankaradhwani (19th mela) and the kriti was Tyagaraja’s Phanipatisayi (Adi). The next was the main piece – Akshayalinga Vibho in Sankarabharanam/Misra Chapu. So we had had the Trinity, several melakartas and some vivadis also, with Koteeswara Iyer very much a presence.
Then came the sprightly Kalilo Hari Charanamokatiye (Kapi/Adi) of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar. He was one of S Rajam’s Gurus. The last piece was Akhila CharaaChara of Papanasam Sivan (Khamas). Rajam was Sivan’s first disciple.
Every moment of the concert, including the announcing of song, raga and composer, which was what Rajam would do, brought the great man alive. It was a glorious evening and there could not have been a greater tribute.