Music

Alathur Brothers defined a brotherhood born of music

(From left) Pudukottai MV Dakshinamoorthy Achariyar (Kanjira), R Thayumanavan (mridangam), Aalathur Brothers (vocalists) and Tiruchi Sundaresa Iyer (violin) in a concert. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU

(From left) Pudukottai MV Dakshinamoorthy Achariyar (Kanjira), R Thayumanavan (mridangam), Aalathur Brothers (vocalists) and Tiruchi Sundaresa Iyer (violin) in a concert. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU  

Carnatic vocal music stalwarts Srinivasa Iyer (1911–1980) and Sivasubramania Iyer (1916–1965), famously known as the Alathur Brothers, were a duo united not by blood, but by music.

To celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Sivasubramania Iyer (popularly called Subbaier), Tiruchirapalli-based Carnatic vocalist R Kashyap Mahesh has compiled a documentary that talks about the deep bond shared by the two singers and the rigours of their training in the traditional ‘Gurukulam’ method.

Though they weren’t related by birth, the Alathur Brothers performed together as the disciples of Subbaier’s father, Alathur Venkatesa Iyer. They were admired for their vocal synchronisation and mastery over ‘laya’ (rhythm) and ‘pallavi’ (a thematic line of a song in Carnatic music).

“The Alathur Brothers are still talked about in Carnatic music. The fact that their records are available today shows that lovers of Carnatic music haven’t forgotten them,” says Kashyap Mahesh.

The 35-minute video has several archival photographs and visuals, accompanied by a narration by Kashyap Mahesh. “The family of Subbaier had celebrated his centenary in 2015 in a grand manner in Tiruchi. I had contributed a giant collage of 100 photographs of the Alathur Brothers to the celebrations, so many of the pictures were part of that collection. Several others were shared by Palaghat TR Rajamani, one of the sons of Palaghat Mani Iyer, who had accompanied the brothers on the mridangam,” says Kashyap Mahesh, who also collects Carnatic music memorabilia.

Famed friendship

The documentary not only examines the expertise of the Alathur Brothers in detail, but also has some interesting facts about Subbaier’s friendship with film star and singer MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. Besides teaching MKT the finer aspects of singing, Subbaier had also composed the music for his 1941 film Ashok Kumar.

“The songs such as ‘Unnai kandu mayangaatha pergal undo’ and ‘Bhoomiyil maanida’ continue to be popular till today. I had bought the DVD of this film from a company in Madurai 10 years ago,” says Kashyap Mahesh.

The sterling career of the Alathur Brothers deserves better commemoration, he adds. “Besides making the village of Alathur (near Tiruverumbur) famous, they also were long-time residents of the Rock Fort and Thennur areas of Tiruchi. The authorities could think of naming at least one street after the Alathur Brothers, and perhaps releasing a postal stamp in their honour,” he suggests.

The documentary can be viewed on YouTube. It is also available in audio format on SoundCloud, as part of the ‘Sangeetha Santhippu’ series of programmes.

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 7:43:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/documentary-on-105th-anniversary-of-sivasubramania-iyer-of-alathur-brothers-fame/article32274293.ece

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