There are awards and there are awards. But for the first time in the history of the Carnatic music season, an award instituted in the name of an instrument maker, will be presented on December 25.
Named after Fernandes, the mridangam maker for Palghat T.S. Mani Iyer, the award will be presented to his son F. Selvam, who is also a mridangam maker. A documentary film on Fernandes, known locally as ‘Parnandu’, a Dalit Christian from Thanjavur, will be released on the occasion.
The award has been instituted by Parivadini, an internet channel, offering platforms for upcoming artistes and others who have failed to get due attention despite their talents. Parivadini hosts live concerts on YouTube, and organises lecture demonstrations during the music season.
“Fernandes was such a brilliant craftsman that Palghat Mani Iyer decided to shift his base to Thanjavur and experiment with the mridangam,” said Lalitha Ram, who founded Parivadini along with another friend, S. Venkataraghavan. Both are engineers, but have dedicated time, money and effort towards the cause because of sheer love for music.
Mr. Lalitha Ram, who is also the biographer of Palani Subramaniam Pillai, a contemporary of Mani Iyer, said the purpose of the award and the film was to acknowledge the contribution of the subaltern.
Fernandes’ father Sebastian and his two brothers Chengol and Chetty alias Antony, were also mridhangam makers. All their descendents living in Chennai have taken up the family profession.
Fernandes’ son Selvam also worked with Mani Iyer for many years. He, however, gave up the profession after he lost his right hand in a road accident in 1995.