Doyen remembered

Syed Muthahar Saqaf
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Centenary Celebrations of ‘Pallavi' Swaminatha Iyer begin today. Syed Muthahar Saqaf

‘Pallavi' Swaminatha Iyer.
‘Pallavi' Swaminatha Iyer.

T iruchi S. Swaminatha Iyer (1910–1998), whose centenary is being celebrated this year, was a multi-faceted personality. This year's event is being organised by the Srirangam based Nadhadweepam Trust for three days from July 9.

Swaminatha Iyer was born on December 1, 2010. His father was violin vidwan Subramania Iyer and his grand father was Orappalli Ayya Bhagavathar, a direct disciple of Saint Tyagaraja. Swaminatha Iyer and his elder brother Ramachandra Iyer learnt music from their illustrious father. Their first concert was held during the Thiruvisainallur Ayyaval Utsavam held near Kumbakonam in the late 1920s. The (Tiruchi) brothers were accompanied by great vidwans such as Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai, Mysore Chowdaiah, Marungapuri Gopalakrishna Iyer, Sakkottai Rangu Iyengar and other veterans.

The successful journey of this duo came to a sudden halt with the untimely demise of Ramachandra Iyer, who was then in his early 40s. It took a long time for Swaminatha Iyer to recover from that shock. His friends in Mumbai coaxed him to come down for a break, and Iyer remained there for many years propagating Carnatic music. He started teaching music and creating an awareness among the youngsters. The services he rendered in association with Mulland Vallab Sangeetha Vidhyalaya as its director and the Shanmugananda Sabha Music Department as its principal, were well appreciated.

Vintage technique

Swaminatha Iyer's forte was the laya aspect, especially Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi. This won him the title ‘Pallavi' (Swaminatha Iyer). Dhwi Avathana Pallavi (which included keeping two different talams using both the hands with different counts and simultaneous inter-change of talams) Simha Nandana Tala Pallavi and Pancha Nadai Pallavi were his specialities. Acknowledging this remarkable talent, the Music Academy, Chennai, nominated him as a member of its Expert Committee.

Swaminatha Iyer also presented jugalbandi concerts with Hindustani stalwarts such as K.G. Ginde, Jitendra Abishek and others. He was not only a musician, but also an adept composer. He encouraged his disciples, among whom are Bombay Anantharaman, Dr. Sundar, Dr. Salem Jayalakshmi and Tiruchi Ramesh.

He was the recipient of Sangeeta Natak Akademi Award (1993) and several other awards, including Kalaimamani. Various sabhas honoured him. According to Tiruchi Ramesh, managing trustee, Nadhadweepan Trust, two veteran mridangam players, Guruvayur Durai and Tiruchi R. Thayumanavan, will be honoured at the inauguration of the centenary celebration, with the ‘Nadhadweepa Kalanidhi' title, a gold coin and a purse. The vocal concerts of O.S. Thiyagarajan, S. Sowmya and Veena Sivakumar will take place during the three-day celebrations. The highlight will be the concert by the music students of California, U.S.



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