The musical saga of legendary singer D.K. Pattammal and the celebrated history of Madras were recalled during the Madras Week celebrations.

When the eight-year-old girl won a gold medal for her song at a school function, little did her anxious parents know that it was only the first step towards her celebrated career. Soon music found a way to get into the household of D.K. Pattammal and the rest, as all know, is history.

A lecture on ‘A celebration of Madras and a celebration of the life of an icon of Madras – D.K. Pattammal’ traced the musical career of the legendary singer, who holds an eminent place in the history of the city.

The lecture, organised as part of the ‘Madras Week’ celebrations at University of Madras on Monday, was segmented into two parts – a presentation on the history of Madras by historian S. Muthiah and one on the musical saga of Pattammal by V. Sriram, a Carnatic music chronicler.

Mr. Sriram flashed a few childhood pictures of the singer and spoke on her determination to overcome the communal shackles. He narrated an instance when the two-year-old Pattammal was taken to Thiruvannamalai and sage Ramana blessed her by applying honey on her tongue.

People behind her

Pattammal’s first inspiration was her parents, who recited Sanskrit kritis and bhajans at home. As she grew up, she took the singing lessons from her brothers, who furtively wrote down the lyrics when the singers perform. "Musicians of her age were very guarded about the songs and would not reveal the lyrics to anyone. Pattammal’s brothers divided the writing task between them to make sure they don’t miss anything to teach her sister," he said.

He also recalled that Palghat Mani Aiyer, who was determined not to take any woman performer on his mridangam recital, made an exception for Pattammal. Her love for Tamil was fostered by Papanasam Sivan and her singing career in films too was on an upswing right from the beginning. Awed by her musical prowess, T.L. Venkatarama Iyer enriched her knowledge by imparting over 200 Muthuswamy Dikishitar compositions.

Historian’s call

Mr. Muthiah talked about the evolution of Madras, which established strong roots on which the modern India grew. The city was a hub of trade and commerce and the infrastructural developments began in north Madras. The first regiment of the Indian Army saw its beginning in the city and the Indian Civil Service also had its roots here, he said.

He urged the students to understand the history of Madras and celebrate its glory during the ‘Madras Week.’ University Vice-Chancellor S. Ramachandran presided over the event, organised by the Department of Music and the Department of French.