The word bani literally means style in the local vernacular – as such, the term Lalgudi Bani refers to the unique and distinctive style of music founded by the great musician Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman. It has flourished for over six decades, inspiring many generations of musicians, and is an important part of the maestro’s legacy. Today, this bani is being nurtured, preserved and propagated by Shri Lalgudi GJR Krishnan and his sister Smt. Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, themselves musicians of the highest caliber and the world’s foremost practitioners of the Lalgudi Bani.
The bani embodies few key tenets. First, the underlying philosophy behind the Lalgudi Bani is that the violin must be made to “sing”, and mimic music produced by the human voice as closely as possible. (This is referred to as the gayaki ang among Hindusthani musicians). This leads to an unrelenting focus on the microstructure of every gamakam, rendering the “anuswarams” that a human singer would actually produce in place of the notes that might be written down in notation. Even the fingering technique has been designed to maximize the adherence to this principle. A similar focus on bowing technique seeks to match the continuity as well as interruptions in vocal music – every breath a singer would take and every sealing of the lips is mirrored in the Lalgudi bani by an almost imperceptible pause in bowing that creates the desired effect.
Second, the Lalgudi bani focuses heavily on the lyrical content of each song and on the emotional experience it should evoke in the mind of the listener. The choice of tempo, style and intensity of bowing, choice of sangathis, and even the octave in which sangathis are played, are all tools to be used in the pursuit of creating the emotional experience intended by the composer. A good illustrative example of all the above – and the musical richness that it adds – can be found in the Lalgudi bani version of the krithi Orajupu juchedi nyayama in the raga Kannadagowla.
Third, the Lalgudi bani is renowned for its using both musical patterns and rhythmic patterns to enhance the musical experience. But, in this bani, laya always remains in the service of melody. Thus, korvais used at the end of kalpana swaras must not just be rhythmically intricate and complex, but also musically beautiful. And the seamless melding of korvais into the eduppu is a well known hallmark of the Lalgudi bani.
But beyond these aspects lies something more fundamental that is hard to describe in words, but easy to love in the music. Above all, the Lalgudi bani is a musical philosophy that strives for beauty and divinity in music.
The Lalgudi bani owes its origins to Lalgudi Jayaraman, whose relentless pursuit of perfection led him to focus on every minute detail and led to the development of the bani. Today, Lalgudi Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi are the leading torchbearers of this bani, and have continued to advance and evolve it further. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have remarked with humility that if he has seen further than most, it is because he had stood on the shoulders of giants. Shri Lalgudi Krishnan and Smt. Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi have been blessed to stand on the shoulders of a giant, and they continue to “see farther” and advance the legacy of the Lalgudi bani.