Chittoor Subramanya Pillai, fondly known as Chittoor-ar in Carnatic music circles, was instrumental in starting the annual Tyagaraja Utsavam at Tirupati, where the title, 'Sapthagiri Sangeetha Vidwanmani' was awarded to deserving musicians. Had he been alive, Chittoor-ar would have gone beyond a century, in terms of age. His service to music was remembered at a function organised by the Chennai Fine Arts, at Arkay Convention Centre, Mylapore, Chennai.
Chittoor-ar had his first music lessons from his father, Perayya and mother Mogilamma. He later became the disciple of Kanjeevaram Nayana Pillai.
Chittoor-ar was one of the earliest vocalists to cut 78 RPM records for Columbia Recording, at a time when the technology of recording was in a nascent stage. He cut two records containing his own compositions, ‘Madhura Nagarilo’, ‘Kulamulona Golladana’ and ‘Mavallagadamma.’ A feat to remember, indeed!
Credit also goes to him for writing the popular Telugu javali, ‘Madhura Nagarilo’ (Ananda Bhairavi), which has found a place in Kuchipudi recitals. Chittoor-ar held many prestigious faculty positions at various music colleges in Chidambaram, Tirupati, Madras, Tiruvaiyaru and Jaffna (Sri Lanka). His disciples included Madurai Somu, Bombay Ramachandran, Chittoor Ramachandran, T.T. Seetha, Loganatha Sarma and Revathy Ratnaswamy.
At the event, violin virtuoso Prof. T.N.Krishnan recalled his association with Subramanya Pillai. He said, “Accompanists were wary of Chittoor-ar. The reason was that his laya intricacies could put you in a spot of bother. I was too young to know all this and played for him many times. The experience was indeed comforting.”
Chittoor-ar had cast his stamp on many kritis such as ‘Guruleka’ (Gowri Manohari) and ‘Raanidhi’ (Manirangu); while his Tyagaraja bhakthi was ineffable, Prof. Krishnan added. Those days, the special function he organised at Tirupathi was funded through his own savings, and this Krishnan remembered with a sense of gratitude.
Chittoor-ar’s disciple Tadepalli Loganatha Sarma presented a concert that provided glimpses of his guru. The song selection had many of Chittoor-ar's favourites. ‘Mavalla Kadhamma’ was sung with feeling.
Sarma was accompanied by Pakkala Ramdas (violin), Trissur Narendran (mridangam), Trichy Murali (ghatam) and Venkataramanan (ganjira).