I’ve long been obsessed with the recordings of TNS’s North American concert tour in 1992. It should be no surprise; TNS was the reigning Carnatic vocalist at that time, and the concerts in that tour reflect his absolute command over swara and laya. His voice was also in full form in all of those concerts, and the brigha-laden sangathis he was was able to create on the spot just leave one shaking his or her head in silent awe.
There’s another reason for my obsession, which is probably the biggest factor here. It is that this was my guru’s first concert tour of the US; he had the privilege of accompanying the top vocalist at that time for over 20 concerts when he was in his early 20’s! Narayanan sir’s playing style back then was also fundamentally different from his style today. All of the recordings of these concerts demonstrate his mastery over the use of the kappi mrudangam, and are an amazing demonstration of the traditions and legacy of Thanjavur Upendran sir.
I think these tracks speak for themselves in the quality of the vocal and mrudangam artistry, as well as the chemistry that TNS and Narayanan sir had in those concerts.