Veterans of devotionals, Sethalapathy Soundararaja Bhagavathar and Veeramani Somu Bhagavathar, were honoured for their contribution to the genre.
The Carnatic music tradition is like a magnificent tree with very deep and widespread roots in the spiritual soil of South India. Among the rich and nourishing elements of that sacred soil are the springs of ancient devotional music, known as ‘Naama Sankirtanam,’ which still continue to flow on. The sole objective of this genre of time-tested music is the rendering of simple songs in praise of God in emotionally uplifting styles. . It is presented in rustic religious settings and occasionally in urban artistic circles.
While a few accomplished musicians are also popular as exponents of Naama Sankirtanam, the vast majority of performers of devotional music remain relatively unknown and often go unrewarded. It was therefore good to see a couple of elderly and venerable practitioners of Naama Sankirtanam being honoured at a recent function organised by the Maharajapuram Santhanam Rasikas’ Trust. It is noteworthy that Dr. Ganesh, who manages the Trust, is not only a disciple of the late maestro Santhanam who helps to carry forward the forceful vocal style of his illustrious guru, but has also been successfully performing Naama Sankirtanam in Carnatic music circles in the past few years.
The veterans receiving recognition in the presence of a fairly large gathering of music lovers, who had assembled at the Mylapore Fine Arts Society on a rainy evening, were Sethalapathy Soundararaja Bhagavathar and Veeramani Somu Bhagavathar. The valuable contributions of these two strong pillars of pious music were described in detail by Dr. Ganesh and Udayalur Kalyanarama Bhagavathar, one of the most well-known performers of Naama Sankirtanam today, and by Mr. Kamakoti, CEO of City Union Bank and organiser of the Integrated Academy of Performing Arts.
Handsome tributes were also paid by the veteran mridangam vidwan Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, who then went on to lead a percussion-oriented orchestral performance titled ‘Layamadhura,’ to enliven the evening’s proceedings. Responding to his admirable initiatives sensitively were Mysore Chandan Kumar (flute), Venkatesh (nagaswaram), VVS. Murari (violin), Vaikom Gopalakrishnan (ghatam), K.V. Gopalakrishnan (kanjira) and Chandrajeet (tabla).
Together they made it a highly sonorous soiree, featuring a rousing Mallari; Tyagaraja’s ‘Endaro Mahanubhaavulu’ (Sri raga), ‘Enta Muddo, Enta Sohuso’ (Bindumalini), and Mysore Vasudevachar’s ‘Bhajare Maanasa’ in Abheri and a powerful and dynamic trade-off between the percussion instruments.