Dedicated to the Memory of Three Celebrated Musicians Who Held and Proved that ........... "The Magic of Music Lies not Just on Concord of Notes but More Like Ambrosia and Mannadew not Only on Those who Make the Music but on Those who Hear and Lifts Them to Seventh Heaven of Aesthetic Delight".
Hi ! my name is Ganesan Nagasubramanian. I recently visited Tamil Nadu, my native place, in India. While I was in Madras I called on Mr. S. Krishnamoorthy ( a nonagenarian living at 17 Kamdar Nagar, Madras 600034, India) and discussed the possibility of his writing an article about the three celebrated musicians of carnatic music for the InterNet. I know him personally since he happens to be my brother in-law's( wife's brother) wife's maternal grand father. He was also a celebrated music critic in his own right. He readily agreed to write an article on
Here is his own profile.
" The review is from a music lover of over eighty years. A close associate with most of the celebrated musicians of the past sixty years and his personal close contact with them has inspired him to write of the three of the greatest musicians and the p articulars furnished by him are from close personal knowledge and hence the seal of authenticity. The writer does not use I and My prompted by Egoism. If there are use of "I" and "My" they are in token of his personal knowledge and experience and not h earsay.
If you have any suggestions or comments please call at 505/844-1684 (w) or fax-505/844-6972 or email- firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to Ganesan Nagasubramanian, 12028 Caribou, NE; Albuquerque, NM 87111.
"Nadaswara Chakravarthi" Thiruvaduthurai Rajarathinam Pillai (1898 - 1956).
A musical meteor on the Indian firmament in the earlier part of this century.
Music in India as in many other countries with a cultural ethos is the main means of approach to God as Geetha says " Math Bhakthas Yetra Gayanthi Tatra Tishtami Narada". Unlike many other forms of worship, music does not call for great austerities, fas ts, or midnight vigils or barefooted pilgrimages. It gives pleasure and satisfaction to the one who makes it and the one that hears it. Of the many musical instruments nadaswaram has been one of the very ancient ones, specifically suited for the daily w orships (thrice a day) service in the temples and specially on holy days especially in South India.. Besides worship inside temples during service, special processions of the deities are taken out on the roads or streets of the place and that is alway s attended by music on the nadaswaram. This instrument - nadaswaram is specially suited for being heard from afar and is generally played in the open air so that worshippers living even some miles away could hear the music and are drawn to the processio n of deities.
Indian music especially Carnatic music is essentially Raga based an unique feature of the Indian music. The instrument nadaswaram is so designed as to be suitable for raga elaboration. Eminent nadaswaram vidwans had been pathfinders, epoch makers famo us for raga elaboration- an art calling for a strict grasp of the grammar of that raga and a rich imagination (kalpana). To this distinguished band of musicians was born Nadaswara Chakravarthi, T. N. Rajarathinam Pillai. Coming of a long line of famous nadaswara vidwans ( a group of people called "Isai Vellalars" - meaning people of music) T. N. Rajarathinam Pillai grew up in the cradle of music, fed on music. No wonder he showed signs of his budding interest and sang songs in his fresh young voice. When he grew old enough to have rigorous tuition, his uncle Thirumarugal Natesa Pillai ( a very famous nadaswara vidwan unrivaled in his raga elaboration) took him in hand and gave him regular lessons. **(insert by G. Nagasubramanian) Shri T. N. Rjarathinam Pillai was also taught by the incomperable Thirukodikaval Krishna Iyer, who fine tuned and elevated his music to a level that propelled TNR to lofty heights in Carnatic music** Luckily for young Rajarathinam the lessons were so m odeled as to give him intimate knowledge and grasp of the ragas and the compositions in them. As in the case of human voice each one having a special timbre in the voice, in nadaswaram also Rajarathinam had a particularly attractive timbre in the tone o f his instrument. His name and fame spread far wide very quickly and at a time when there were very eminent nadeswara vidwans, he shot up to such eminence that he was universally voted Nadaswara Chakravarthi. Among many memorable performances two are re called. Shri Rajarathinam's music was the chief attraction in a procession of Sai Baba in a decorated car through the four mada streets of Mylapore, Madras. During the three hours it took the procession to complete the course, Rajarathinam elaborated fi rst "Keeravani" in great detail, "Mohanam" and ended with "Behag" and Jijoti". When the procession ended the musically enthusiastic audience were only sorry that the feast of music was over. Another occasion happened to be the final day of the music fe stival in Thiruvaiyaru. That night the portrait of Saint Thiyagaraja would be carried in a decorated palaugu (palanquin) through the four main roads of Thiruvaiyaru to the accompaniment of nadaswaram music of nearly half a dozen group consisting of two t o play on the nadaswaram and two to accompany them on the tavil (drum). That night after an hour's time from the start Shri Rajarathinam played the raga "Charukesi" and the krithi "Aada-modi". At the swara elaboration stage he wove on the nadaswaram an intricate pattern of swaras. This was just what the crowd was waiting for. Shri Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai ( of immortal fame) took up the rhythm portion for his display on the tavil. The patterns he wove on the tavil that night were so ing enious and intricate in texture. Shri Palghat T. S. Mani Iyer (the all time great mridhangam exponent) so enjoyed the great tala that he started keeping them with both his feet and both hands and seem to be dancing with joy. No wonder at the end of that display Mani Iyer went and pressed both the hands of Meenakshisundaram Pillai and paid his respects and admiration to him. Then turning to Shri Rajarathanam Pillai, Mani Iyer said " who but you can invoke this grand display of tala by your challenging d isplay on the nadaswaram".
His elaboration of ragas revealed his acquaintance with the best compositions of the great "Vaggeyakarakas" - the "Prayogas" they used and embellished the ragas. His rendition of krithis were flawless and the Swaraprasathara invigorating and fresh. His perfect grasp and control over tala (time measures) drew to his side the celebrated tala exponent Shri Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai lovingly called "Nava Nandikeswara"- the deity that played mridanga to the cosmic dance of Nataraja. Rajarathin am Pillai's elaboration of Prathimadhyama (sharp "Ma" ) ragas were marked by intimate knowledge, intense feeling majesty and grandeur. His "Simhendramadhyamam", "Shanmugapriya", "Ramapriya", Vachaspathi", "Panthuvarali" and "Kalyani" are still remembere d with nostalgic pleasure by thousands of his rasikas.
Fortunately, Rajarathinam Pillai has left behind some record disc and his record of "Thodi" raga alapana meets the admiration of all discerning lovers of carnatic music. On his death one heard an old man remarking "the sun has set on the gaiety of Sout h India on Nadaswaram Music".
Kalanidhi", "Sangeetha Bhoopathy" Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer - the
Exponent of "Kalpana Sangeetham - Manotharma Sangeetham"
( 1896 - 1970).
In the earlier part of this century, there was a luminary in the firmament of Carnatic Music that became a legend in his own life of about seventy years. Born of a family with many musical associations and affinities Shri. Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, stepped into the place left vacant about that time by the celebrated Madurai Pushpavanam Iyer. Early in his life he came under the influence of most of the giants in music of that age. Apart from the brief period of his association with Rangappa Iyer - a noted exponent on the Ghatam, he joined the celebrated Umayalpuram Swaminatha Iyer - one of the gifted shisyas of the one and only Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer. This guru of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer brought him up in the Umayalpuram patantharam - one of the few authentic traditions of the Thiyaga Brahmam's immortal compositions. Early in his teens, he was present at the Ramanavami Utsavam (festival) run by the famous Thirupayanam Panchapakesa Bhagavatar - a celebrated kathakalakshepar. Musical exponen ts, experts, artists and rasikas formed a very close and intimate circle so much so that every one knew where every one of them was exponent trained, who was the shishya of whom etc. It was therefore not surprising that Sri Bhagavatar took the earliest opportunity of giving a place to young Viswanathan as there was a delay in the schedule for that hour. Young Viswanathan must have been overcome with a feeling of joyful surprise although accompanied by the seriousness of the occasion and anxiety to earn the appreciation of the musical elite of Kumbakonam. Probably with a lot of self confidence or unaware of the consequences of failure on the occasion, he sang four ragas with a krithi in each raga and managed to please the erudite audience with his very good voice - raga - bhava and correct rendering of krithis. Giving his raga alapana more times than that one of his age dare attempt, the performance was a total success. Sri Bhagavathar congratulated him in liberal terms and blessed him. This perform ance served as his first step to the professional kutcheri (concert) platform. The details of this event - he related to me some four decades later, laughing at his own foolhardiness in venturing on the platform before such learned audience of senior pro fessional musicians, patrons and rasikas when he could sing with confidence only 8 or 9 ragas and about 15 kritis. But then he had arrived and for two or three years had a series of engagements in temple festivals, musical evenings in the Sankara Mata (t hen functioning in Kumbakonam, being moved to Kanchipuram). The supreme pontiff of the Sankara Mata then was Jagat Guru Paramacharya Chandrasekara Saraswathi (who attained samathi couple of years ago). Swamiji was Viswanathan's first patron. Young Visw anathan availed of every possible occasion to sing before the Acharya and won His blessings. An unique feature about his music was his great success in raga elaboration in great detail. This he could do as he studiously learnt to sing as many as far as he could in the raga he wanted for alapana. So in his own raga alapana all the phrases swara groups twists and turns found a place and enriched the total pattern of the alapana. His has been hailed as the success of kalpana sangeetha, music rich with im agination in raga elaboration and swara singing - a specialty of his.
Like other artists he had his own preferences in raga selection and kritis. Among his special favorites, pride of the place goes to Mohanam, closely followed by Aarabhi, Darbar, Panthuvarali, Kalyani, Hari Kamboji, Khamas, Kamboji and Thodi. In each of these ragas he learnt and mastered almost all compositions of Thiyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Syama Sasthri, Patnam Subramania Iyer and Gopalakrishna Bharathi (in Tamil). He took special pains to master some of the tougher and more taxing of the Thi yagaraja kritis and also mastered the special technique in tala, tala eduppu (the exact place of the tala in which he begins) and aradhis (end effects). At one stage it was said in professional music circles that he was the only musician fully and corre ctly rendering the five Pancharatna Kirtanams (as said in Tamil, Anjum padupavar), a dedicated and devoted baktha of saint Thiyagaraja - he spent a few years of his life (almost toward the end of his life) in Thiruvaiyaru singing before the samadhi of Sa int Thiyagaraja for few hours every day. This was his aim, ambition and fond dream and this he could and did achieve.
I must add a few personal particulars of Sri Viswanatha Iyer as I happen to be one of the closer associates for over 15 years and had occasion to see that he was not toady or a social climber. A person's high place in life, a bank balance or political pull had no appeal for him. Given a more liberal or adjustable temperament he could have achieved much more than what lesser artists have been able to achieve by their sycophancy urged by aims and ambitions. He would rather much prefer to stay with frie nds like me and feel at home and sing at all hours of the day and night singing our favorites among his long list of kritis of his youth and even the half forgotten compositions. He had a very lovable sense of humor, very often enjoying a joke even when it happened to be at him, his faults and his failings. He was brimful with musical anecdotes of the musical community but with no ill will or malice toward anyone.
For the first four or five years of his professional career he had few occasions to go to western districts of modern Kerala. On one of the early occasions, he had been invited and taken for a concert in Palghat by the well known Mridanga Vidwan Chattap uram Subba Iyer (said to have been one of the early tutors of the all-time great Palghat Mani Iyer). The concert had begun and after a few pieces had been sung and sung well, a senior member of the audience asked Mr. Subba Iyer "Enda Subbu Ethivarakkum e vane engege adasoochiputhi varhirenthai"? (where did you secretly keep this man till now)?. Of course all laughed over this and Subba Iyer quirked "how can I bring him unless you invite him for a concert and pay him - what is the fun in my inviting him t o my house. I can invite him to my house at any time".
On another occasion Sri Viswanatha Iyer was invited for a concert in connection with a wedding in one of the district towns of Tanjore East. The concert was arranged by Sri Alaganambia Pillai (of the silken touch on Mridangam) who would accompany the ma in artist like a shadow and never attempt to out do or drown the musician's music. The concert was arranged for a Wednesday. The performance was said to have been a success and the audience were all praise for the young musician's talent. This made the gentleman who was running the show request Mr. Viswanathan and his accompaniments to give another performance the next day. Sri Alaganambia Pillai agreed to one more performance the next day also. Since there was to be a concert the next day also no pa yments were made that day. They were entertained to a gorgeous feast that night and taken care of well. As the party of musicians were to leave by early night train about 7.00 p.m. the kutcheri started by 3.45 p.m. All the audience were guests for the marriage so there was no trouble in starting the concert early. Carefully adjusting the program, Sri Viswanathan was able to sing well as brilliantly as on the earlier day and ended the concert at the stroke of six. The payment was made to the three art ists one by one in closed covers. They got to the Railway Station by 6.30 p.m. Then Alaganambia Pillai asked young Viswanathan what he was paid as he had a suspicion that the local grandee would have pulled a fast one on the comparatively young and inex perienced Viswanathan. Viswanathan opened the envelope and found that payment had been made only for one performance. This enraged Alaganambia Pillai and also Sri Tiruchi Govindaswamy Pillai who was the violin accompaniment on both the days and he was paid for two performances as was Alaganambia Pillai, who immediately summoned a single bullock cart and went back to the house of the grandee, sought him out, and said to him "what you have done, does not add to your good name and glory - it was not well done". Without a second look at the gentleman, Pillai rushed back to the station in time to catch the train. When they got settled in their seats Mr. Govindaswamy Pillai asked Alaganambia Pillai what had happened when he met the gentleman in his house. Alaganambia Pillai replied, I told him "what you have done is not fair and well". Mr. Govindaswamy Pillai burst into laughter and remarked "Anney; I am sure, the gentleman would have fallen down and committed suicide on the spot". For the rest of the jou rney back, they were enjoying the joke. This incident was narrated to me 3 decades later, when we were talking about some of the master musicians and instrumentalists of the age. Mr. Viswanathan also took this occasion to tell me how his professionally senior vidwans, accompanists also took care of his professional engagements and were his P.R.O's. for the first years of his professional career. To the last day of his life Mr. Govindaswamy Pillai had a soft corner for Mr. Viswanathan and took every occ asion to play his accompaniment at the concerts and Mr. Govindaswamy Pillai remarked that he enjoyed Viswanathan's concert because his talents were being tested to the full when accompanying him (Viswanathan) and that he was the sort of challenge any prof essional should like. Many artists of this ilk never fade or die.
I owe it to the memory of Sri Viswanatha Iyer to record the favorite ragas and kritis, he sang in those ragas. Sri Viswanatha Iyer used to sing practically all the kritis of Sri. Thiyagaraja in Thodi, Sankarabharnam, Kalyani, Kharakarapriya, Harikambodi, Durbar, Aarabhi, Devaghandari, Atana etc. The only two kritis in Simmendramadhyamam, the two in Shanmugapriya, all the kirtanas in Panthuvarali, (the only two in Gauli Pantu), Dhanyasis, and Saranga. He had an unique way of singing Kamas, Kuntalavarali, Devamanohari, Suruti and Kedaragowla. He was a great admirer of classic Hindustani Music and would avail every chance to hear Khan Sahib Abdul Khaim Khan and Bhai Kesar Bhai. The top violinists, Mridanga and Khanjira vidwans were eager to play sidemen to Sri Viswanatha Iyer as his concerts gave them the right type of elaboration on their instruments, receiving at every step his acclamation and encouragement. Sri Govindaswany Pillai was his constant accompanist for over a dozen years, then Sri Semmang udi Narayanaswami Iyer (nephew of son-in law of Tirukodikaval Sri Krishna Iyer - a violinist of undying unrivaled fames), Kumbakonam Sri Rajamanikam Pillai, Papa Venkataramaihar, Mysore T. Chowdia and last but not the least Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu - the violinist with the ideal longlow technique. Of the later generation he encouraged Sri T. N. Krishnan. The percussion stalwarts of the age were his eager sidemen, starting with Dhakshinamurthi Pillai, Alaganambia Pillai, Rangu Iyengar, Palani Subramania Pillai, Thanjavoor Vaidyanatha Iyer, Kothanda Rama Iyer and the immortal Palghat T. S. Mani Iyer. His most Mridanga support, in concerts in Madras was the everready Venu Naicker. His rendering was strictly in accordance with the Sudha Patantara. His swara singing was full of brighas, Karvais and all the embellishments as prescribed. Fortunately he has left behind some good records (disc) and of late some tape recordings though not many in number. The select band of musicians he trained including Se mmangudi Sri. Srinivasa Iyer, his own son Maharajapuram Santhanam and Mannargudi Sri. Sambasivam Iyer have done him proud. Many musicians have learnt some of his techniques rendering some kritis, shifting the "eduppu" from 1/2 to 3/4 interval for startin g. As with creative artists, composers, painters and poets, some themes, and images got greater prominence, appreciation and become the vogue of that time. Some other remain in comparative land of forgotten things. So in the realm of music, some of the immortal creations of St. Thiyagaraja have been ignored or not learnt at all, some because of lack of facilities, lack of competent exponents to sing them often and some other because of the complexity of structure, calling for voice or instrumental skil l of extraordinary excellence. Such songs of St. Thiyagaraja found an enthusiastic singer in Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer who took special pains to give authentic versions. He learned them assiduously and regaled us with these songs. There were 3 scor e such compositions, which he only sang in public concerts. What endeared him the most to his intimate admirers was his warm and affectionate, easy and unassuming nature, appreciation and approbation of good in any one especially aspiring young musicians , readiness to guide them and ever grateful for even small services or help rendered by anyone. His unshakable piety, devotion, and rapt adoration of St. Thiyagaraja inspired him and it was his ambition to end his days singing the immortal songs of the sa int at his Sammadhi. It was realized toward the close of his life. Musicologists have unanimously echoed that he was a rare musician, with a very attractive voice, Samprathaya Patanthara of kritis, a Punithan in the matter of classicism in raga delineat ion enriched by an aesthetic Kalpana Gnanam and perfect technique in Swara singing. This was a musician of rare excellence, when come such another?.
We shall recall some of the songs he sang in concerts not that those not mentioned are
|Undethe Ramudu||Hari Kambodi|
|Enta Papaninethine||Gowli pantu|
|Yehi Tri Jagadeesa||Saranga|
|Griha Palamemi||Reva Gupti|
|Tera Tiyaga Radha||Gowli Pantu|
|Narada Gana Lola||Atana|
|Narada Guru Swami||Darbar|
|Bhuvini Dasudane||Sri Ranjani|
|Raa Ra Ma||Asaveri|
Sri Viswanatha Iyer was persuaded by some of his friends to act in Assandas's "nandanar" costarring with K.B.S., who delighted the audience with exquisite music. The role that Sri Viswanatha Iyer played didn't offer much scope for any acting, and so he never after thought of acting in another film.
Fortunately, Sri Viswanatha Iyer has left behind some of his songs records (discs) and they will recall the music that was so attractive to classes and masses. Some are born great. Some others achieve greatness by their efforts. Yet others achieve gre atness and help maintain the high place their gurus had achieved. This was Sri Viswanatha Iyer's unique achievement.
He was a musician endowed with an attractive voice - classic training under a great guru to maintain the high quality of their tradition. Inspired by an aesthetically fascinating and such rich imagination he taught a number of musicians and they equally reached eminence as good concert artists.
Other musicians cloyed the appetites they fed but Sri Viswanatha Iyer made his audience more hungry where more he satisfied with his devotion to the Trinity of Bhava, Raga and Jala-nadha Brahman.
One of the earliest prestigious music sabhas Sri. Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha had the distinction of being run by some of the real music lovers, scholars, pandits, vidwans, patrons and rising artists. Monthly concerts were arranged in the 1st floor of a b uilding, where Shri. G. N. Balasubramanian had every opportunity of hearing good music.
The gift of voice is an asset to any musician and should be grateful for, but then there is a practical problem involved, which a moment's calm analysis will show. In such a voice running at so fast a speed the effects of Brighas, twists and turns, come in quick succession that most of the audience, the lay audiences fail to appreciate and feel restless. Those with a musical ear, sure knows some of the nuances but this is loss to the lay audience, of course, and also a loss to the musician that his gre at achievements pass unnoticed. This was what I had to impress on Mani (G. N. Balasubramanian) in those days. The cascade of notes were so overwhelming that our intimate friends failed to grasp the subtleties as confessed by them. In this attempt, anot her close friend and well-wisher was a trained mridangam expert Sri. K. Rajamani, B. A. B. L. (one year my junior in Presidency College, Madras) trained by Sri. Krishna Pillai of Pudukkottai, another disciple of Manmudia Pillai. The residence at No. 73, Big Street, Triplicane, Madras was where we three met. Mani got to practice to the accompaniment of mridangam. This helped him a lot and taught him many useful bits about mridangam technique which he could make use of in his concert. Some of the earlier appearances of Mani were with Rajamani on mridangam. Very many of the earlier performances of the few early years were at some friends' house parties, college functions etc.
A performance was arranged by one of his admirers a well-wisher in Theosophical Society, Adyar under the world famous Banyan Tree (which has been there for centuries and ever green) Srimathi Rukmani Devi Arundale was the patroness of the occasion. Her a ppreciation and applause were noticed by the press representatives present on the occasion and they gave a glowing report of the concert in the next day dailies and that meant Mr. G. N. Balasubramanian ( still my Mani) had arrived and the road to name, fa me and fortune were open to him. Tributes paid to G. N. B. by the press did start the period when he received invitation from many of the music sabhas in Madras and some important mofussil towns where they had established Music Sabhas. Nothing succeeds like success and within a few years, he was among the most sought after male vocal musicians. His style of Raga elaboration, rendering of standard kritis in the classic traditions and apt swaraprasthana endeared him to the average music hall audience as well as to the knowledgeable musically trained critical audience of this time. He had restricted the speed, ideally suited to his voice at the same time easily followed by the audience. He had gained by attending the vocal recitals of the all time great Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar the Kalpana Sangeetham of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer and achieved a synthesis of the two models, most attractive and technically perfect. No wonder, he was at the top of the profession and he had gathered around him a larg e number of admirers, and ardent audience. His fan mail grew fast.
This was not an unalloyed good. The inevitable frequency of kutcheries, the frequent travel by air, and surface route, the irregular hours of food and rest began to tell on his health. When remonstrated with his undertaking 18 engagements a month often in places distant from each other, he had only one thing to say "I must meet my needs. They are great - my family is big, frequent marriages do and cost quite a bit and I cannot spoon pick and choose and not undertake so many engagements". This he agai n said when he came to Bombay for a concert and stayed in Wadala with his kinsman. The next evening he called on me at my house in Chembur, stayed for a few hours - would not eat - could not eat - just a mouthful of payasam and left early to take rest. This incident depressed me and all members of my family to see him in poor health. He had taught and groomed during his active years number of his disciples to reach the top grade among professional musicians of the day - Radha Jayalakshmi, M. L. Vasant hakumari, Trichur V. Ramachandran, S. Kalyanaraman - to name a few - and they in their turn had trained musicians fast approaching the top. G. N. B. had the honor and pleasure of seeing his second generation shisyas numbering among the top of the profess ion. He had won all the top honors and distinctions in the field of music. He was made the state vidwan of Travancore, a Sangeetha Kalanidhi of Madras Music Academy etc. He developed and perfected a new style of vocal music rich-classical and very effe ctive, appealing to the people as well as the pandits
Mani was persuaded by his friends and admirers to act in a film called "Bhama Vijayam". This film was unique in the sense that Mani and M. R. Krishnamoorthy (brother of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer) together gave some excellent music in perfect unison. Later he acted with the celebrated musician M. S. Subbalakshmi in Sakunthala as Dushyantha. This film gave occasion and medium for the two top class musicians of the male and female groups to act and sing together - a feast of reason and flow of soul.
"The quality of such music is not strained but blesseth the person/persons who sing and those who hear as well". Kritis GNB Introduced into Public Concerts which later gained currency and Many Suggestions Key: X - introduced; XX - sung often
|4||Me Valla Gunadosha||Kapi||XX|
Contributed by G. Nagasubramanian
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