Receptive to changes, Semmangudi never failed to applaud young talent.
It was his bhakti for music that came across as the most striking feature of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s personality. Every concert was an acid test for his musical integrity and he treated both sabha kutcheris and wedding concerts with the same respect, giving his best on both occasions.
He worked for the success of every concert and the relief after it was over was visible. But then he had reasons for his anxiety.
His recalcitrant voice would play truant in the initial stages of the concert and with a masterly bout of swaras he he would bring it under his control and there was no stopping him after that. Every rasika had some part of the concert to savour.
The readiness with which he shared knowledge was amazing. It was a veritable procession of students — of all age groups — on Vijayadasami.
He had the highest regard for all his contemporaries and having reached the peak did not deter him from learning padams and javalis from Brindamma.
In fact, he was a great admirer of the Dhanammal School of music and had a high regard for Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar.
Honed young talent
He played a great role in honing young talent, always accommodating budding accompanists. He had the knack of getting the best out of them to provide a wholesome treat.
He had strong views about Vivadhi ragas. He felt the vibrations emanating out of vivadhi swarams were not musically soothing. Yet he mastered Nattai, Varali and so on.
He had definite ideas about composing songs. Expertise of language and music was a prerequisite, he insisted.
Before embarking on a music career, the aspirant must have spent some fruitful years with a guru, he thought. Theory and practice should go hand in hand, he thought.
The grammar should complement manodharma so that the music could sparkle.
Never one to spurn changes, Semmangudi believed that art actually thrived on them. He applauded and appreciated young talents.
Ever optimistic, he was the bridge between generations of artists. He actually witnessed the growth of music in his life time and saw a new dimension emerge.
The practice of notating was rare those days. Semmangudi was an expert at notating and had a print like handwriting. Any advanced student of music could learn the kriti by just following it.
He never admonished or got irritated while teaching but patiently went over the sangatis until the student grasped it.
The way he planned wedding concerts was touching. He believed that his kutcheri would bring happiness and prosperity to the couple. He chose kritis and ragas appropriate for the occasion. He delighted the parties by singing songs on the family deities, the towns from which they come from. Semmangudi was a true Nadopasaka. Born in a musical family, he grew up in a congenial atmosphere and offered worship at the altar of music till the fag end of his life.
(The author’s impressions are derived from a long association with the doyen.)Tribute to Semmangudi
Hamsadhwani will celebrate the birth centenary of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer from July 30. This will coincide with his birth star Thiruvadirai. All the programmes are being held in Youth Hostel, Indiranagar, Adyar.
The programme schedule for the 5 days series is as follows:
Subiksha Rangarajan will sing the invocation. N. Murali, Managing Director, The Hindu, and president, the Music Academy will inaugurate the event at 6 p.m. Guest of honour will be K. Sriram, Head, Vijay TV. Tribute will be paid by T.N.Krishnan and Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman.
A theme concert, Semmangudi Nostalgia, will be presented by T.N.Krishnan and Viji Krishnan Natarajan. They will be accompanied by Umayalpuram K.Sivaraman and B.S.Purushothaman.
The events on July 31 will start at 6.15 p.m. with nagaswaram recital by Injikudi E.M. Subramanian and Thirumeignanam K.G. Kalayanasundaram with Koivlur K.G. Kalyanasundaram.
Thirurameswaram B. Radhakrishnan will play special tavil.
Guests of Honour will be B.M.Sundaram, musicologist and A. Natarajan (former director, Chennai Doordarshan).
On August 1, at 6.45 p.m. Semmangudi’s grand old disciple, Parasala Ponnammal will present a vocal recital, supported by Bama Krishnan. She will be supported by R.K. Shriramkumar and K. Arun Prakash. Guest of Honour will be V. Ramnarayan, Editor, Sruti.
“Semmangudi-Oru Sagabdham” — Neyveli Santhanagopalan will present a thematic concert accompanied by V.V.Ravi, Vellore Ramabadhran and K. Srivatsa. Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan will be the guest of honour.
The curtain will come down on August 3 with the vocal recital of P.S. Narayanaswami and his disciples. Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, Mannargudi Eswaran and S. Karthik are the accompanists. The Guest of Honour is Charukesi.