I think of him sitting on stage surrounded by many children at a concert organised by my friend and musician Shashikiran. It was a raga he composed. Using just four notes. And that was all it needed. The majesty of his voice held the rest.
I think of him again singing a magnificent ‘Swararaga Sudha’ and holding us all captive with the sheer power of that unmistakable voice. And smile, perhaps a trifle enigmatically…at living at once in several worlds. One with us, and the other perhaps in another realm.
I think of him singing Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiran in Reetigowla. And the orchestra keeping pace with the grandmaster and sighing every time he rendered a turn of melodic phrase slightly differently from the original. Or his ability to play instruments such as the viola, accompany other stalwarts or even play percussion. A complete musician in every sense. His ragas — Mahati, Sarvashri, Omkari, Lavangi and several others — will remain with us; as will his innumerable compositions.
Never again will there be an innovator as brilliant in our lifetime quite like him. I think we can safely say that. I think of him as I get ready to perform his Amma Anandadayini varnam with a hundred children.
They love it. They love him. I will wait till we finish until I break the news. Gently.
That an era is over, and the world will never be the same again.
(Anil Srinivasan is a classical pianist born in Chennai and educated at the University of Southern California and at Columbia University, New York. He is best known for his collaborative work with Carnatic vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan and his pioneering work in music education in South India)