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Festival highlights rich Tamil isai

Special Correspondent
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Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar's role in promoting Tamil music lauded

Poet-lyricist Vaali with ‘Isai Perarignar' awardee Sudha Ragunathan in Chennai on Wednesday. ‘Pann Isai Perarignar' awardee N. Swaminathan and Tamil Isai Sangam's Honorary Secretary A.C.Muthiah are in the picture.— Photo: R. Ravindran
Poet-lyricist Vaali with ‘Isai Perarignar' awardee Sudha Ragunathan in Chennai on Wednesday. ‘Pann Isai Perarignar' awardee N. Swaminathan and Tamil Isai Sangam's Honorary Secretary A.C.Muthiah are in the picture.— Photo: R. Ravindran

As aspiring, young musicians, they competed in the same Thevaram contest and won prizes. On Wednesday, about 30 years later, the two artistes were honoured for their accomplishments in their chosen fields and their contributions to Tamil isai, in particular.

The Tamil Isai Sangam, an organisation that has been championing the cause of Tamil music for nearly seven decades, awarded acclaimed musician Sudha Ragunathan and Pann Isai exponent Tiruttani N. Swaminathan the ‘Isai Perarignar' and ‘Pann Isai Perarignar' titles, respectively.

Speakers highlighted the prominence that Tamil isai had centuries ago, and pointed to its waning in importance over the years. It was in such a context that Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar set up the Sangam about seven decades ago. His consistent efforts and passion helped create a space for Tamil music in the realm of mainstream classical music.

Highlighting the contributions of Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar, poet-lyricist Vaali said that until then, Tamil songs were largely confined to the ‘tukkada' segment. Speaking on the connection that the world of cinema had with that of classical music, he said: “Cinema is not something that is untouchable. Some of the most celebrated Carnatic musicians have worked and acted in films.”

Recalling his own association with Carnatic musicians, Vaali had the audience in splits as he recalled an incident of having played the tambura for the legendary Madurai Somu and falling asleep midway. “I got one tight slap.” However, many years later, the two happened to meet at a recording studio where Somu was to record a song penned by Vaali. “He felt awkward, but I told him that it was his slap that had brought me where I was.”

President of the Sangam Justice P.R. Gokulakrishnan spoke on the history of Tamil music. Pointing to evidence in works such as the Tolkappiam and Seevagachinthamani for prevalence of Tamil music in that era, centuries ago, he said several composers such as Muthu Tandavar, Marimutha Pillai and Arunachala Kavi had made great contributions to Tamil music.

In her acceptance speech, Sudha Ragunathan said she was honoured to be receiving an award that revered musicians such as M.S. Subbulakshmi, D.K. Pattammal and her guru M.L.Vasanthakumari had received.

Honorary secretary of the Sangam A.C. Muthiah commended the artistes for their contributions to Tamil music over the years.

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