C.S. Murugaboopathy’s birth centenary falls today

Ramanathapuram – one of the driest districts in the state – is well-known for being a fountainhead of classical music.  Some of the outstanding musicians including Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, his trendsetter disciple Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Ramnad Krishnan and mridangist C.S. Murugaboopathy, whose birth centenary falls on Friday, were sons of this dry soil.

Murugaboopathy dominated the concert platform despite the presence of two legends in the field – Palghat Mani Iyer and Palani Subramania Pillai – through an entirely different style. He has accompanied all the doyens of Carnatic music, including G.N. Balasubramaniam, Madurai Mani Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Alathur Brothers.

“His playing on the thoppi was unique and the emerging beats would sound like a cooing of a pigeon. He was also a large-hearted man and introduced me to Madurai Somu,” said eminent ghatam player T.H. Vijayagaram, known as Vikku Vinayagaram, who paired with Murugaboopathy for many concerts.

Murugaboopathy was born into a family of musicians. His father Chitsabai Servai was a disciple of Pudukottai Mamoontiya Pillai. Servai is a sub-sect of Mukkulathor, a warrior community. Murugaboopathy’s brother Sanakarasivam was a multi-faceted musician, who could sing and play the mridangam and the veena. Alhough Murugaboopathy lived until he was 84, he could not get the kind of recognition and fame achieved by Mani Iyer and Subramania Pillai.

“While Subramania Pillai could not get what came in the way of Mani Iyer, even that eluded Murugaboopathy. But he had an energy which was never matched by both Mani Iyer and Subramania Pillai,” said S. Kalidas, an engineer by training and a student of Palani Subramania Pillai.

Vocalist Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, a disciple of Murugaboopathy’s brother, said the mridangam player would inspire awe in the audience through his mellifluous beats.

He was equally brilliant at playing kanjira and the late Harshankar was his disciple. For many years, Murugaboopathy accompanied Seshagopalan.

“Once I listened to him playing misa jambai for one hour without repeating what he had played earlier. On another occasion, for three minutes he played parans and his fingers whirred like a fan. When Madurai Somu was singing Entha Veduko, he played the mridangam so well that the late Yazhpanam Dakshinamurthy went to the dais and presented him a shawl,” recalled Mr Seshagopalan.

Parivadini, a Chennai-based organisation for music, has organised a function on February 16 to commemorate the occasion.