Friday Review » Music

Updated: March 6, 2014 17:44 IST

The gentle perfectionist

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Savithri Sathyamurthy. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan
The Hindu
Savithri Sathyamurthy. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

Savithri Sathyamurthy, a disciple of Dr. S. Ramanathan passed away on 3 March in Bengaluru. Geetha Ramanathan Bennett, Ramanathan’s daughter and a close associate of the veteran musician, pays tribute:

“Mrs. Sathyamurthy was a vocalist and also played the violin. She was an A grade artist in both for the All India Radio, India. All her life, she accompanied many musicians on the violin, including M.S. Subbalakshmi and Mani Krishnaswami. Mami came to study with appa (S. Ramanathan) in her 1960s. I remember her coming to the house before sunrise, spending the whole day in class, absorbing appa’s style, learning, teaching other students in his absence, and being a right hand for him. She became part of the Ramanathan family. She would notate as he sang, and sometimes even his own compositions as he composed. Thanks to Mami, many of appa's creations have been preserved.


When I think of Mami, the word ‘meticulous’ comes to mind. She was truly a perfectionist. After my father's time, I wanted to learn compositions that were taught by appa (his patantara) and Mami had volumes of bound note books with the notations. You would never find even a small scratch in her writing. Not just in music, she was always well turned out. Her sari was always ironed and worn neatly and there was nothing out of place in in her appearance. She was highly disciplined about her meals and daily exercises.

In his last days, appa had asked Mami to take one of his pet students under her wings and train him further. She kept her promise and trained and polished P. Unnikrishnan into a sparkling star, who is shining brightly in the Carnatic music firmament.

I also had the opportunity to learn more than a hundred compositions from Mami including my father's Narayanagowla, Senjuruti, and Pantuvarali Lakshana varnams.

In the U.S., wherever I travel to perform, I always come across at least one person reporting that he/she was Mami's student. She lived with so much enthusiasm about music until her last day. She was my mentor in so many ways and I will always strive to do justice to her. I am very sure that she is now one with her beloved 'Krishna'.”

I agree with Geetha Bennett about mami’s discipline, healthy habits,
and very deep knowledge in carnatic music. I would like to add about
her great Guru bhakthi. Not a single class completed without
mentioning her guru Dr S Ramanathan. People who learnt from her would
also vouch for her unique style of teaching and passion for teaching.
Mami always encouraged her students to attend various concerts
including her own and ask our feedback next day, she would also asked
her students to sit and listen to learning sessions of her other
students. Mami, a treasure chest of Carnatic music, her passing away
left a huge void in the music world. Thanks to mami for preserving Dr.
S Ramanathan’s work and develop lot of talented students.

from:  Raghav Narayan
Posted on: Mar 8, 2014 at 05:01 IST
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