Tiruchi S. Swaminatha Iyer (1910–1998), whose centenary is being celebrated this year, is a doyen of Carnatic music and a multi-faceted personality. The Srirangam based Nadhadweepam Trust is celebrating his centenary for three days from July 9.
Swaminatha Iyer was born on December 1, 2010. His grand father Orappalli Ayya Bhagavathar was a direct disciple of Saint Tyagaraja. Swaminatha Iyer along with his elder brother Ramachandra Iyer learnt music under their illustrious father. Their first concert was held during the Thiruvisalur Ayyaval Utsavam held near Kumbakonam in the late 1920s. Both the brothers started performing together in the name of Tiruchi Brothers and won accolades world over. They were accompanied by great vidwans such as Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai, Mysore Chowdaiya, Marungapuri Gopalakrishna Iyer, Sakkottai Rangu Iyengar and other veterans.
The successful journey of this duo came to a sudden halt, with the untimely demise of Ramachandra Iyer, who was then at his early 40s. It took a long time for Swaminatha Iyer to recover from that shock. A large number of his well wishers and followers, who were in Mumbai, succeeded in convincing him to come down to Mumbai for a break. He stayed there for many years propagating Carnatic music. In the meantime, he started focusing towards teaching Carnatic music and creating awareness among the youngsters. He joined hands with various organisations in Mumbai that were involved in promoting Carnatic music. The services he rendered in association with Mulland Vallab Sangeetha Vidhyalaya as its director and the Shanmugananda Sabha Music Department as its principal, were well appreciated in various quarters.
His forte was music - its laya aspect, especially in Ragam, Thanam, Pallavi. This expertise made others to address him as ‘Pallavi’ Swaminatha Iyer. His rendition of Dhwi Avathana Pallavi (which included thumping two different talams in both the hands with different counts and simultaneous inter-change of talams between the hands), Simha Nandana Thala Pallavi (which includes 128 aksharas in one round of a talam), and Pancha Nadai Pallavi were his chef-d’oeuvre. For this vintage technique, the Music Academy of Chennai nominated him as a member of its Expert Committee.
Swaminatha Iyer had also given Jugalbandis with stalwarts of Hindusthani music such as K.G. Ginde, Jijendra Abishek and others. The proficient musicians such as Dr. T.N. Krishnan, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, M. Chandrasekaran, Palghat Raghu, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Vellore Ramabhadran, Tiruchi Sankaran, Harishankar, T.H. Vinayakram, Nagai Muralidharan and other legends of Carnatic music were willing and keen on accompanying him.
Swaminatha Iyer was not only a musician, but also an adept composer. He had composed small kirtanas, Taya Geetham etc., which are still in his own manuscripts. He also encouraged the talent of his disciples, the list of which includes Bombay Anantharaman, Dr. Sundar, Dr. Salem Jayalakshmi and Tiruchi Ramesh.
He was the recipient of Sangeeta Nataka Academy Award in 1993. The then Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran presented the Kalaimamani award to him. Various noted sabhas all over the country honoured him.
According to Tiruchi Ramesh, managing trustee, Nadhadweepan Trust, two renowned mrindangam players, Guruvayur Durai and Tiruchi R. Thayumanavan, will be honoured at the inaugural of the three day centenary celebrations, with the ‘Nadhadweepa Kalanidhi’ title, a gold coin and a purse. The vocal concerts of O.S. Thiyagarajan, Somya and Veena Sivakumar will take place during the three-day celebrations.
“The highlight of the centenary celebrations is the concert by the Carnatic music students of California, USA. They have been specially invited for this occasion,” Mr. Ramesh adds.