KALPAGAM SWAMINATHAN

I was a teacher at Music College and Kalakshetra for a number of years. So much so that for a very long time, most people thought I was only a teacher and not a performer. Therefore, every concert has been special to me. However, I recall one show in Cleveland. There was pin drop silence and the acoustics was so superb that every gamaka could be heard so clearly.

I remember one funny incident. I was recording for AIR. I informed the tambura artist that I would be playing in ‘two kattai’ so that she could tune it accordingly. She did not seem to comprehend. Then I explained the scale was D. Even then she did not react. And after a pause, she said that she had never tuned a tambura! What was even worse was as I started playing I suddenly noticed that she had dozed off! I think I played very badly then.

I am a great fan of Mali. But as is well known, he was an eccentric. I remember one kutcheri. For about an hour he played a series of kritis which would last only for about a minute or even less. Just when we thought he was going to elaborate the raga, he would finish the song and move on to another! But what melody!

Similarly, once, he performed at a sabha in Mambalam. There was a downpour that day and the whole area was flooded. So a plank had been erected between the road and the stage where the audience could sit. I think he played Sahana for us! It was as if Lord Krishna had graced the Earth!

(As told to Savitha Gautam)

(Artists recall performances/impressions that stand out in their memory)

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