An Hour with the Legend V S Narasimhan-Part 2
Posted on: October 5, 2012.

Author: ‘Bale’ Sampat, a Chartered Accountant and a Carnatic Musician.

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Let us first listen to the Madras String Quartet (MSQ) Krishna Nee Begane, arranged by the legend V S Narasimhan himself.  I have heard this very famous song from many great vidwans.  But to me,  VSN’s version is quiet touching. It really casts a spell on you.  It literally brings out the emotion of the lyrics. Whenever I listen to this, tears rolls down my cheeks.

From the album Portrait of Raga

(Readers, just see how the fear of Yasodha is expressed… VSN Sir, what can I say! My pranams )

Over to the interview:

Bale: Playing violin in western posture…
VSN: I used to practice in western posture during the power cut in the studios.
Bale: When did you start arranging music?
VSN: I was working for the music director M B Srinivasan.  My experimental attitude of Western Harmony started here and I began to arrange music for MBS.
Bale: When did you meet Illayaraja?
VSN: I have known Raja as a guitarist in the troupe of  G K Venkatesh.  Raja was assisting GKV. When Raja became the composer, I started working with him.
Bale: Your Journey of integrating Carnatic songs with Western background…
VSN: When I bought a Yamaha Sequencer, with my background of western harmony, I experimented with Raravenu gopabala. It sounded nice.  This gave raise to the idea of integrating the traditional carnatic melodies against the western background. Turtle Island String Quartet, the first String Quartet, to integrate jazz music also inspired me a great deal.
Bale: Now to the birth of Madras String Quartet..
VSN: I founded the Madras String Quartet in the year 1993 with Murali (Second Violin) Chandran (Viola) and Sekhar (Cello).  Murali resigned after the completion of the Project Resonance in 2000.  Later Mohan Rao replaced Murali and finally Hemathraj Muliyil took over Mohan Rao.

VSN demonstrates his new style

–  Lalgudi’s Desh Thillana

–  VSN’s father’s composition

Bale: Do you arrange harmony keeping in mind only the melodical structure of the composition or you try to bring out emotional value of the lyrics?
VSN: To me, the lyrics are of paramount importance. Our great composers outpoured their compositions out of bhakthi and as far as I am concerned every musician is duty bound to bring out the bhava of the lyrics or else where is the need for them.  Western Music is greatly instrumental oriented and most of the works of the great composers are deliberately composed.  I am sorry to say that I am greatly disturbed when our musicians perform with scant respect to the lyrics.

My arrangement is bhava oriented.  Let me demonstrate.  In the Aparama bhakthi, for Kapi varithi datuna (Can a monkey leap across the mightly ocean?) I brought the emotion of monkies building the Rama Setu using pizzicato.

Whenever we play Sri Subramanyaya Namasthe, I become emotional on the overall integration of the song.

Bale: Your Albums
VSN: R.Parthasarthy, a music director, in 1999 , wanted to do a unique project and I suggested my new concept. Thus Resonance, MSQ’s first album, was born in 2000.

Resonance was highly appreciated by Ustad Zakir Hussain, Yo Yoma (world famous Cellist), Maxim Vengerov and Zubin Mehta.

Raga Saga, Portrait of Raga followed the suite.

Bale: One last Question Sir.  Where is the need for this kind of experiments?
VSN: Our music treasure can be brought to the world platform and the world would realise the greatness of our great composers.
Bale: Thank you very much Sir. We,from, wish you to continue your choosen musical journey.
VSN: Thank you Sampat.

Listen to Mokshamo Galadha

Answer for Last Week’s Quiz: Kalyana Samaiyil is inspired by Laughing Policeman by Charles Penrose.

Quiz for this week: What is special about Chandran, one of the members of Madras String Quartet?

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‘Bale’ Sampat, a Chartered Accountant and a Carnatic Musician, lives in Chennai and teaches Piano.


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