He was a constant accompanist to leading artistes spanning across generations
CHENNAI: Mridangam maestro Palghat R. Raghu, who evolved a unique style by blending the finer aspects of legends like Palghat T.S.Mani Iyer and Pazhani Subramania Pillai, died of cardiac arrest on Tuesday.
He was 81 and is survived by a son and two daughters.
Raghu’s musical journey began in the erstwhile Rangoon where he was born. His first teacher was Tinniyam Venkatrama Iyer. When his family moved to India and settled at Palghat, he came under the tutelage of T.S.Mani Iyer.
“I heard him and I was entranced. I wanted nothing else but to be in his presence, to learn from him and play like him. It became an obsession,” recalled Raghu about his first encounter with Mani Iyer, when he was chosen for the Sangitha Kalanidhi Award of the Music Academy in 2007.
While evolving a style of his own, Raghu absorbed the techniques of the Pazhani school. “He treated Pazhani Subramania Pillai as his ‘maanasika’ guru and one could notice the influence of Pazhani school in Raghu’s music. But his style was unique,” says K.S. Kalidas, a disciple of Subramania Pillai.
Raghu was a constant accompanist to many leading artistes spanning generations such as Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, G.N.Balasubramaniam (popularly called GNB), Alathur brothers and Madurai Mani Iyer.
He played for his peers such as T.N.Krishnan, Lalgudi G.Jayaraman, ‘Flute’ Ramani and M.S.Gopalakrishnan.
Connoisseurs still recall the musical magic created by the Palghat duo Raghu and K.V.Narayanswamy. Even the younger generation performers such as Vijay Siva and Mandolin Srinivas benefited from his presence on stage.
Raghu’s canvas was wide and varied. He played with the giants of Hindustani music Pandit Ravi Sankar and Allah Rakha and also with Yehudi Menuhin.
Lalgudi Jayaraman, who first performed with Raghu in 1947 at Madurai, said his mridangam was a perfect combination of brilliance and tradition. “When he analysed a pallavi, he would do it threadbare and it would be impossible to improvise further on it.” Mr.Jayaraman teamed up with Raghu for innumerable GNB concerts. “GNB would refer to him as one of his eyes,” he recalled.
Sangitha Kalanidhi Umayalpuram K.Sivaraman said the passing away of Raghu was an irreparable loss to the world of Carnatic music in general and to the art of mridangam in particular .“His playing captivated the connoisseur as well as the lay public.”
Recipient of many awards including the Padma Shri, Sangeetha Choodamani and Kalaimamani, Raghu leaves behind a legacy that his disciples such as Tiruchur Narendran, Manoj Siva, Bombay Balaji and Trivandrum Balaji, will aspire to uphold. His musical tradition is also being carried forward by his grandsons vocalist Abishek Raguram and mridangist Ananth Anandaraman.