Little did Parur Sundaram Iyer know when he migrated to Madras, that the seeds of music sown by him would grow into an orchard.

Little did Parur Sundaram Iyer know when he migrated to Madras, that the seeds of music sown by him would grow into an orchard. His eldest son, violin vidwan Parur Anantharaman, who has completed 81 years of service to music and 77 years of broadcasting, is carrying forward the dream of his father.

His wards, M.A.Sundareswaran (MAS), M.A. Bhagirati and M. A. Krishnaswamy (MAK), and their children are all involved with music in one form or the other.

Bhagirati's daughter Harini wants to pursue music more as a passion. “I completed M.Phil in music. My mother, Kalpagam Raman, Latha Krishnaswamy and V. V. Srivathsa are my gurus. I also learnt violin from my grand uncle, Parur Venkatraman, and uncle M.A.Sundareswaran. I love composing and also write for music journals”.

Inclined to Western music

Thanks to Harini for breaking the ice. The grandchildren begin vying with each other to talk. Hemamalini Nagarajan, Harini's sibling, a civil engineer in the making is surprisingly into Western music. She has her own group, and sings all genres of Western Music. “I too learnt violin from Parur Venkatraman, but dropped it to pursue vocal training under Kalpagam Raman. I write and compose songs and also write (lyrics) for the western music composed by my friends.”

M.A. Bhagirati, who holds a doctorate in music, works as an associate professor in the field at Chennai's Queen Mary's College. She is also a guide to research students. She is involved in Pann research at the Tamil Isai Sangam along with stalwarts such as Lepakaru Ramanathan Chettiar, Tirupamburam Shanmugasundaram and a host of Odhuvars.

Bhagirati reveres Justice P.R. Gokulakrishnan for his unstinted support in the research. She has written a book, ‘Peria Puranathil Isai Koorugal.' Her husband, Kanagasabesan Nagarajan, is with Vivekananda College as its Controller of Examinations.

Having been trained by his grandfather Parur Sundaram Iyer, M.A.Sundareswaran is now one of the most sought after accompanists. He works for AIR, Chennai. “I first performed at the age of seven alongside my grandfather at Thiagaraja VIdwath Samajam. As I was half way through the CA and ICWAI courses, it was a tough decision when I got an offer from AIR, Pondicherry. There I rubbed shoulders with doyens – the experiences were enriching. It was in 1990 after I shifted to Chennai that the trio, with my brother and father, was formed.

“Krishnanand, a disciple of Gangubai Hangal, taught me Hindustani music. I accompanied him and his guru in their concerts. My grandfather evolved a new style called the ‘Parur style' in violin. He was capable of playing dilruba and veena. He had travelled widely from Kabul to Kanyakumari that helped him expand his musical knowledge”.

MAS learnt the nuances of Pallavis from Pathamadai Krishna Iyer. MAS's wife, Rama, was taught by Chembai Anantha Bhagavathar and holds a Masters in Music. Currently, she is pursuing M.Phil. Their daughter Ananthasri, a disciple of dancer Roja Kannan, learns music from all the elders in the family. Son M.S. Ananthakrishan is already a performing vidwan, who is also studying ACS and MBA. He plans to take up music full time, like his father MAS.

M.A.Krishnaswamy also learnt from his grandfather.“It was rigorous training, apart from listening to my father and uncle MSG who practised regularly. Veterans of classical music frequented our house to discuss music with grandfather. Music was his first companion. Learning, notating and teaching kritis from Sangitha Samprayada Pradarshini was a ritual for him.

“Our neighbour, Advocate Nagaraja Iyer, took Sundareswaran and me every Sunday for almost three years to play in the presence of Mahaperiyava. Enfield recruited me under their musician quota and I then joined AIR, Madurai. I was baptised by Dr. S. Vedavalli to play for her in the senior slot”.

A disciple of Madurai T. N. Seshagopalan and Delhi Sisters, MAK's wife Lakshmi is a post graduate in music and has also completed M. Phil. Their daughter, L.K. Ananthalakshmi, has taken up violin and also gets her vocal lessons from her mother and Nithyasree Mahadevan. Sarada Sethuraman trains her in dance.

Parur Anantharaman, the scion of the family finally speaks, “My father Sundaram Iyer learnt violin from Trivandrum Ramaswamy Bhagavatar and Narayana Bhagavatar. Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar trained him in Hindustani music. Then came a stage when he was given teaching assignments, apart from accompanying Paluskar in concerts. This paved the way for the entry of violin into Hindustani music. “Tiger, Chembai, Madurai Pushpavanam Iyer and Saraswathi Bai were the doyens whom he had accompanied. He was a professor of music for both Carnatic and Hindustani at Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya, Mumbai.

“Right from the age of five, I accompanied him to music classes where he taught vocals, violin and veena. In 1929, he started the Thiagaraja Vidwath Samajam and since then, the annual aradhana has been frequented by stalwarts. My sisters were also proficient in music. One of them was the leader of South Indian Ladies Orchestra and as a boy I joined the group and played at Bombay Opera house. In 1936, we played alongside our father and toured many places in South India and thus was born the concept of trio in violin concerts.”

The family is also involved in training underprivileged and differently-abled children in music.

Keywords: Carnatic music