Ariyakudi to Semmangudi

Last Sunday, I attended the programme ‘Ariyakudi to Semmangudi’, a multimedia presentation on 15 past stalwarts (only vocalists were featured) of Carnatic music by Radha Bhaskar of Mudhra, held at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Musicologist Dr. S.A.K.Durga spoke about the 15 stalwarts and her experience with them in the programme. Approximately 10 minutes was devoted to each stalwart with the multimedia presentation taking around 5 minutes followed by Durga sharing her experience with each of the stalwarts.

The multimedia presentation featured just a few photographs of each of the stalwarts with Radha Bhaskar’s recorded voice in the background giving us some info about them like the year in which they were born, who their Guru was, from what age they started giving concerts, etc. (They kept on repeating the same set of stills for the entire duration of Radha’s speech! 🙁 Is it that difficult to get a few more stills of the stalwarts?) At the end of the presentation, an audio clipping of a part of a song sung by the musician featured was played. (Due to time constraint, it lasted very few minutes) It was nice hearing the recordings of the legends. Video clippings were shown only for MLV, Semmangudi (Dr. Balamuralikrishna accompanied him on the viola) and MS (Kurai Ondrum Illai). (That too the same old clippings from Doordarshan that we all would have watched ‘n’ number of times! 🙁 )

The best part of the programme was when S.A.K.Durga spoke. It was nice hearing anecdotes about the great masters of Carnatic music.

The worst part of the day was the A/C was not at all switched on at the hall! 🙁 Sitting in the crowded place with no a/c was worst. 🙁

I don’t think many new things were said in the show. Not that I knew all of it. But, I guess those are information that you may get to know from any book on the musicians. They have plans for releasing the presentation as a DVD it seems. I wouldn’t say it is worth a buy.

The stalwarts featured were: (I have covered very few things of what was said in the programme. Blame it on my laziness and bad memory!)

1. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar
They mainly talked about the present format of concert that Ariyakudi had introduced. Earlier the number of compositions sung in a concert was supposed to be less. While talking about that, Durga remarked that some present day musicians think that singing a lot of compositions is what makes up a concert, which is not! She also went to say how RTP is not even rendered in most of the concerts today and a person should not be allowed to give concerts unless they can sing a RTP well!

2. Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer
Durga called raagam Mohanam as Sri Viswanatha Iyer’s sotthu. I don’t remember anything else that was said. 🙁

3. Madurai Mani Iyer
Durga spoke mostly about his swaram singing. Seems Madurai Mani Iyer considered Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer
as his Guru.

4. Alathur Brothers
Apart from the fact that the Alathur Brothers, Srinivasa Iyer and Sivasubramania Iyer (son of Alathur Venkateswara Iyer), were not real brothers and Sivasubramania Iyer got the Sangeeta Kalanidhi title first and the other got it only the next year when Sivasubramania Iyer was no more, I don’t remember much of what was said about them. When it was decided that one of them would be given the Sangeeta Kalanidhi each of them felt the other person deserved it more. Seems they considered Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar as their Guru.

5. Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar
He started singing along with his brother. But, he lost his voice and started learning the violin. Thankfully, he got back his voice later. He was said to have got a vengala kural.

6. G.N.Balasubramanian
Though GNB has composed many songs, he didn’t have any mudra.

7. Musiri Subramania Iyer
A lot was said about his neraval singing.

8. Maharajapuram Santhanam
Durga said that Santhanam sang with the aim of pleasing the audience always. Once a lady had given him a piece of lyrics that she had written and asked him if he can compose the music for it. Seems he composed the music for it and sang it in a concert the same evening!
Nalli Chinnasamy Chetty said that once when he had gone to Kanchipuram, Santhanam had also come there. After Santhanam finished singing, the Kanchi Acharya had a pavazha maalai in his hand. Santhanam expected that to be given to him. But, Kanchi Acharya asked him to come the next day morning and asked him to sing Mohanam at that time. Only after listening to the Mohanam, he gave it to him.

9. M.L.Vasanthakumari
Palghat Mani Iyer was hesitant to play the mridangam for female artistes initially. But, he became impressed with MLV’s singing and started accompanying her. Durga said that she considered MLV to be a very great person and wished she could be like her. She narrated an incident that took place when she was in US and MLV had come there. It seems MLV did so much shopping that left Durga wondering whether she was planning on selling the items she bought in India! Only later she came to know that MLV had bought all those for her students! Such was the way she treated her students.

10. T.Brindha (Since Muktha had been alive when the presentation was prepared, she wasn’t included)
Padams and javalis by Brindha and Muktha were the main thing that was discussed. A beautiful padam in Khamas sung by them was played.

11. M.D.Ramanathan
Durga spoke about the way he sang with no hurry in a slow tempo. A.Natarajan of AIR who had come for the programme told how once MDR had come to AIR Studio for a recording and while leaving he had to go in the same car as MDR. When he told MDR that Reetigowlai was his favourite and he was disappointed that he didn’t sing it that day, MDR sang it while travelling in the car itself! Since the charanam was still left when the car reached MDR’s home, he got down from the car only after he finished singing it!
Such is the greatness of the musicians of those days!

12. D K Jayaraman
I don’t remember anything at all about what was said about him!

13. M.S.Subbulakshmi
Durga called MS an Angel. Due to time constraint, not much was spoken about her.

14. Voletti Venkateswarulu
Again due to time constraint, not much was spoken about him except how he managed to succeed and make a mark for himself in spite of hailing from Andhra. He had taken classes in radio for more than two decades!

15. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
Durga said that Semmangudi is the perfect example that you can have of a person who succeeded in becoming a great musician because of sadhakam even though he didn’t have a great voice.

SAK Durga spoke about a musician from whom she learnt who made her write the swarams for the songs that he was teaching on her own. She said he didn’t give her written notes for any song at all. I don’t remember who it was. Do any of you know? It was Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer. Besides, she also said how most of the students these days are in a hurry to give concerts and want to learn everything so quickly and even if she herself says she will teach only slowly, no one would be willing to learn from her!

On the whole, it was nice spending an evening getting to know more about the legends of Carnatic Music!

For more information about the programme, visit this link.

7 thoughts on “Ariyakudi to Semmangudi

  1. Sathej

    Hello Aparna,
    Good review!Tell you what,you can write more such reviews for concerts that you attend! DKJ – well, Maayamma is what comes to my mind immediately.And Carnatic Summers is full of anecdotes about the stalwarts.
    Regarding notations,here is one anecdote. Vidushi Vidya Shankar was learning from Shyama Sastri(no the composer,but belonging to his lineage). She aslo happened to be studying Literature in college. Her Guru used to say ‘Shakespeare Oda Lines Ellam Nyabhagam Vechirukke! Why can’t you remember a few words like Amba, Kamakshi and so on?’Courtsey : The latest issue of the monthly – Shruthi.
    I do not know the person who taught Dr. SAK Durga.Supposedly,she learnt from Shri Madurai Mani Iyer, Ramnad Krishnan and Balamuralikrishna among others.
    By the way, it seems a rare Bhairavi Krithi by Alathur Brothers was played.A person at says so.But,he too doesn’t remember the words.Any chance that you remember?
    Anyway,great review!Keep them coming!

  2. cogito

    Thanks for sharing this with all of us. Though most of it is known facts, this event would have been richer if the rasikas had contributed. There is a treasure trove of info with the rasikas about these masters. I hope someone can capture it so to that it can be passed on to the future generations.

  3. Aparna

    Belated welcome to my blog! 😉 Thank you!
    Thanks for reading many posts of mine 🙂

    yeah it would be great if that happens!

  4. Adithya

    whoa… i too was present at the audi for the presentation but don remember anythin.. u’ve a good memory ! u’ve noted down almost all points abt everyone they spoke the other day.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *