A CD containing the songs of Narayanaswami Ayyar and the first edition of his book were released recently.

Income Tax officer K. Narayanaswami Ayyar (1887- 1967) had a love for literature, music and philosophy, all of which found expression in the songs he composed. All of his songs had been notated by Kalakkad Ramanarayana Iyer, but the notations were lost. But his family knew the ragas and talas in which Narayanaswami Ayyar had composed the songs. So with inputs from the family, a CD of 27 of his songs rendered by Bharat Sundar and Kritika Arvind, has been brought out.

Flautist Bala Sai had a major role to play in bringing out the CD, which was released at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai, on January 28 by Mangalam Venkatraman and received by eminent musician P.S. Narayanaswami. A fresh edition of a book of Narayanaswami Ayyar’s songs titled ‘New world Songs,’ first published in 1956, has also been brought out, this time with transliterations by his granddaughters - Shanti Natarajan and Ganga Dakshinamurthy.

All surviving members of Narayanaswami Ayyar’s family were present at the function. P.S. Narayanaswami spoke on the musical merit of the kritis. Author Sivasankari marvelled at how all the compositions adhered to the rules of prasa. Daughters of Narayanaswami Ayyar – 94-year-old Mangalam, 86-year-old Ranganayki and 76-year-old Krishna Bai said their father had friends from many walks of life, such as Sister Subbulakshmi, musician S. Rajam, U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer and Gandhian Marjorie Sykes.

Bharat Sundar in his brief concert, on the occasion, sang Patnam Subramania Iyer’s ‘Eranapai’ (Thodi) and ‘Paridaanamichithe’ (Bilahari) and Narayanaswami Ayyar’s ‘Yengal Pitaave Kripai Thaa,’ in Shanmukhapriya. Dancers Shyamala Dakshinmurthy and Somwya Dakshinamurthy from Canada, who are great granddaughters of Narayanaswami Ayyar, and dancer Jayadev Raju, also from Canada, presented a few of Narayanaswami Ayyar’s compositions, which they had choreographed.

The musical lineage

Veteran dancer Kalanidhi Narayanan and Sangita Iswaran gave a lecture demonstration on Patnam Subramania Iyer’s compositions. Why Patnam Subramania Iyer? Because he was the paternal grandfather of Narayanaswami Ayyar! The inclusion of this fact at the end of this write-up is for a reason. Kuppuswami Iyer, son of Patnam Subramania Iyer and father of Narayanaswami Ayyar, would tell his son that he was never to use his grandfather’s name as a prop.

Narayanaswami Ayyar could see the merit in his father’s advice, and never sought to bask in reflected glory, although he had great regard for his grandfather. In fact the musical lineage goes back even further, to the time of Patnam Subramania Iyer’s grandfather, Panchanada Sastri, who was the asthana vidwan in King Serfoji’s court.

Narayanaswami Ayyar’s songs reflect his catholicity of vision, and his belief in Vasudaiva Kutumbakam- ‘all the world is one family.’ By releasing the book and CD, his descendants have reaffirmed their commitment to our musical tradition, and to their ancestor’s vision.