Flautist Sikkil Kunjumani, the elder of the renowned ‘Sikkil Sisters' duo, passed away here on Saturday morning. She was 83 and is survived by her sister Neela, a daughter and a son.
Ms. Kunjumani learnt to play the flute as a little girl from her uncle Azhiyur Narayanaswamy Iyer and, later, from her father and reputed mridangam vidwan Azhiyur Natesa Iyer.
Even as a child she showed immense promise. After rigorous training, she was ready to perform and begin her career as an artist. In her time, it was not too often that women chose to be in the public sphere. However, her love for music and dedication paved way for a successful career that spanned nearly seven decades and inspired generations of musicians, particularly women.
Ms. Kunjumani who began giving solo concerts initially also mentored Ms. Neela with whom she performed for most of their career. Adopting a mellifluous style known for its poise and depth, the sisters won the hearts of fans in India and abroad. In the recent years, the sisters, along with Ms. Neela's daughter flautist Mala Chandrasekar, have also been performing as a trio.
The Sikkil Sisters received several prestigious awards, including the Padma Shri, the Sangeeta Kalanidhi awarded by The Music Academy, the President's award conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Sangeetha Choodamani by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.
Recalling their association with the Sikkil Sisters, vocalists Bombay Sisters C. Saroja and C. Lalitha said that the flautists' style appealed to both the connoisseur and the lay listener and was marked by technical superiority.
“When we were in Bombay, we listened to Ms. Kunjumani's solo recital, too. Playing the flute is no easy task. It requires high stamina and good lung power. The contribution of the duo to flute playing, conventionally considered a male bastion, is simply remarkable.”