News & Notes

Lecdem by T.R. Govindarajan

This was followed by a lecdem titled The Majestic Tavil presented by tavil maestro T.R. Govindarajan who explained the basic techniques of tavil-playing with reference to the preliminary lessons and modes of accompanying the  nagaswaram. He said that customarily, lessons in tavil would normally begin with Pillaiyar sollu. He revealed that the instrument, that may not apparently give out a pitch, has an inherent quality to merge with the mainstream sruti. Probably this could be the reason why the tavil has been included as percussion support for sensitive stringed instruments of Carnatic music like the mandolin and the chitraveena (T.R. Govindarajan has successfully accompanied Chitraveena Ravikiran in recent times).

Any 'melam' performance would start with the tavil beats (which, of course is preceded by sruti) and there are dictums of playing during various segments like alapana, pallavi, the interludes between pallavi - anupallavi, and anupallavi - charanam, apart from the ethics of accompanying the kriti. The tavil vidwan may not be able to take a break during a nagaswaram recital and his duty would be even more tiresome during temple processions extending hours on end. This also necessitates a comprehensive knowledge of techniques of playing besides mastery of laya as the tavil vidwan has to offer varieties and patterns to avoid repetition and participate competently in tanis with the co-artist.

Govindarajan also reminisced about his gurukulavasam which was "not easy as now". He also reverentially remembered some great tavil vidwans of the past like Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai and their absolute mastery over the instrument, as well as celebrated nagaswara vidwans.

Govindarajan presented a short, brilliant laya vinyasam, ably assisted by one of his disciples to demonstrate the basics of tavil playing.