The Music Academy is an integral part of the lives of ardent lovers of Carnatic music. The organisation’s conference and concerts during December is looked forward to by connoisseurs zealously. P. Sarangapani, a native of Kumbakonam who has been attending the Academy’s fest continuously since 1952, is one such rasika. For this 81-year-old, it is as important as his annual visit to Varanasi every Deepavali for a holy dip in the Ganges.
Sarangapani retired as Post Master, serving the Postal department in various capacities during his career.
“Right from my school days, I would never miss any of the temple festivals. Kumbakonam, the temple town, wore a festive look throughout the year. It would resonate with nagaswaram-melam music during such festivals. Nagaswaram vidwans such as Tiruvavaduthurai Rajaratnam Pillai (TNR), Veeruswamy Pillai, Tiruvengadu Subramania Pillai and Kulikkarai Pichaiyappa Pillai would play for hours, sometimes throughout the night, right from 9 p.m. onwards. Thavil vidwans Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai, Nachiar Kovil Raghava Pillai, Kumbakonam Thangavelu and Valangaiman Shanmughasundaram Pillai would be part of the nagaswaram coterie. I was fascinated by their music although I did not have any formal training or knowledge in Carnatic music,” he says seated in the newly furnished VIP lounge of the Academy. He also recalls the festivals at Oppiliappan temple and Tiruvisainallur Sridhara Ayyaval Samadhi, which featured concerts of veterans. Weddings in the villages in and around Kumbakonam would never be complete without concerts of leading musicians. “The annual homage to Saint Tyagaraja at Tiruvaiyaru kindled my interest further. All these helped me gain a fairly good knowledge of music,” he says.
The next logical move for Sarangapani was to start attending the annual music festival at The Music Academy, Madras. “In my first ever season, Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer was the Sangita Kalanidhi. To date, I have never missed a single season, including this year, and all through, I breathe and live music for a fortnight. A thatched pandal growing into a full-fledged auditorium with state-of-the-art technology is what I consider as the biggest change over the years. Throughout this period, I have been enjoying the food served both at the concert hall and the canteen. As the Academy is very special for me, I never go sabha hopping. The sannivesahm (ambience) right from my first season, has been very unique and still continues.” He reels out a big list of memorable concerts by legends that he has listened to over the years. The life membership of the Academy after 21 seasons is close to his heart and he shows the card with pride. He fondly remembers sneaking on to the stage to garland harikatha exponent Embar Vijayaraghavachariar after he was conferred the Sangita Kalanidhi title, something not permitted by the Academy authorities those days.