From the Archive: Striking an immediate rapport

For the Chennai music season 2019, The Hindu brings to you a series of articles from our archives on musical trendsetters. Today, here is an article on S. Sowmya.

The guiding hand of her father and also that of an eminent musician during her formative years have laid a strong foundation in Carnatic music for S. Sowmya. This has lead to her making a mark as a talented and responsible performer. With a facile voice, her recitals in general generate immediate rapport with the listeners.

“ My father is still not fully satisfied with the way I sing.” she said with a smile.

“ Why? It is natural that a parent expects too much from his daughter.”

“ That is one aspect. My father learnt music from Dindigul S.P. Natarajan, the flutist, and has a good stock of the Kirtanas of the Trinity. My repertoire of Thyagaraja kirtanas — I know about 400— is my father’s gift to me. ”


“You know 400 Thyagaraja kirtanas. Well, that is a great achievement.”

“I started learning from him when was four. But even when l was two and a half years old, I could identify many ragas. My father was not very anxious to give much publicity to it.

Even today the Calicut radio has a recording of my demonstration. I too have it with me.”

“Why the Calicut radio?”

“My father was then employed in Kerala. He had himself given many performances there. He was associated with some line arts organisation In Udyogamandal. He would also arrange performances by top ranking Vidwans— M.D. Ramanathan, Dr. S. Ramanathan, Seshagopalan, T.V. Sankaranarayanan and others. I had heard all of them and my father would ask me to sing before them whenever musicians came there to perform.” Once S. Ramanathan visited our house. I sang Bhavayami Raghuramam” and the Todi varnam “Eranapai.” Then he suggested to my father to send me to his house for learning music. My father agreed.”

“But what about schooling?”

“ I would go to Ramanathan’s house and stay with him during the holidays. My tuition under Dr. Ramanathan began when l was six. This arrangement continued till 1980 when my father decided to settle in Madras.”

“Is it for your sake that he decided on this course?”


“Besides vocal music can you play on any Instrument?”

“Yes, the Veena. l was practising playing on the Veena while we were in Kerala. S.Ramanathan, too taught me both vocal and Veena.” With pride, she added, I can even give a full time Veena concert.”

“How did Ramanathan teach you?”

“He had many pupils learning under him. He would set apart time for each group. Since l stayed with him I would listen to all the lessons taught to the different group. Normally Ramanathan’s daughter and I would be given lessons at night.”

“When were you given the Government of India scholarship?”

“When I was nine. The test was conducted at the Kalamandalam when I sang the Saveri song ‘Durusuga’ and thanam.”

“I am told Ramanathan took special interest in bringing you up as a high class


“Yes, he taught me several songs besides those of the Trinity- Thevarams, Thiruppugazh, that of Gopalakrishna Bharati and other Tamil composers sangati by sangati . He laid great emphasis on lakshana.”

“I have heard you sing occasionally good padams and javalis.”

“That is also due to Ramanathan’s good offices. One day he asked my father to take me to Y.G. Doraiswamy’s house in Kalakshetra Colony saying he would meet us there. We waited but he did not turn up. Muktha was conducting classes there. She told me that I could join her class If I desired. Thus I came under Muktha to learn padams and javalis. Dr. Ramanathan then told us that lt was with that intention that he asked us to go to Y.G. Doraiswamy’s house. I learnt nearly 40 padams and 20 javalis.”

“ Were you with Dr. Ramanathan till his death?”


“What is your preference in musical style?”

“i want to follow Dr. Ramanathan’s footsteps madhyama kala and sarvalagu pattern in swara singing.”

“What do you think about your rating among your contemporaries?”

“There is keen competition , no doubt. Some special techniques have necessarily to be adopted to preserve the position.”

“I heard you were a student of IIT”

“Yes, I studied Chemistry in Meenakshi college and took the post- graduation course in IIT. Half way through, I gave up my Ph.D attempt.”

“Does that mean you have decided on music as you profession?”

“Yes, if by chance it fails, I can always get a good job.” She said with assurance. “But now the going in music is good.”

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 12:04:44 PM |

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