Her voice was as sweet as her bow

The late T. Rukmini was a peerless violinist and a top ranking vocalist

June 04, 2020 03:02 pm | Updated 03:03 pm IST

T. Rukmini

T. Rukmini

T. Rukmini remains the rarest of rare gems in the field of Carnatic music. With her rich knowledge and experience, she was a pioneering violinist. If her guru R. R. Kesavamoorthy ushered her into the world of Carnatic music, tutelage under maestros Lalgudi G Jayaraman (violin) and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (vocal) made her talent blossom. All of 16 at that point of time, she went on to become one of the finest artistes of the century. Rukmini served the field for more than 65 years, sharing the stage as accompanist with five generations of artistes. She also presented solo concerts.

Rukmini’s music was aesthetics personified. Be it a simple and sweet Ritigowla or a tongue-twister of a Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi with assorted mathematical calculations, her response to the primary artiste was most admirable. It appealed to both the rasikas and scholars. Rukmini was the only violinist to have matched Mali’s (flute) brilliance when she was barely 16.

There was dignity and poise in her playing, which was devoid of any unnecessary phrase. Even as a young artiste, she was much in demand to accompany stalwarts such as Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, T. K. Rangachari, Voleti Venkateswarlu, Ramnad Krishnan, D.K. Pattammal, D.K. Jayaraman, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Veena Balachander, M.D. Ramanathan, M.L. Vasanthakumari, M.S. Subbulakshmi and so on. With T.R. Subramanyam (TRS) she engaged in exciting exchanges while her fitting responses to the Sikkil Sisters during the kalpanaswara spells or ragamalika renditions were both interesting and educative.

Poorna, Kalpana, Santhanam, Shertalai Shivakumar and Amrita Mourali with their guru

Poorna, Kalpana, Santhanam, Shertalai Shivakumar and Amrita Mourali with their guru

Sought-after combination

The DKJ-Rukmini combo needs special mention. It was a much-awaited experience, which the audience relished. She was affectionately called Ruks by the DKJ family. They travelled the world extensively on concert tours.

Rukmini also provided vocal support for the Bharatanatyam performances of Padmalochana Nagarajan and Vyjayanthimala Bali in India and abroad. Rukmini served the Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam (Mylapore) as vice-president for six years. Other than the State and Central Government recognitions (Kalaimamani and Sangeet Natak Akademi), she was adorned by awards such as Sangita Kala Acharya and Sangeetha Choodamani.

She was the only artiste to have an ‘A’ grade in both violin and vocal for a long period of time, apart from being a top rank artiste of All India Radio in violin. Apart from composing varnams and thillanas, she also set tune to several songs of Subramanya Bharati, Dasar Padams Tiruppavai and other Pasurams. Her vocal prowess found her singing with Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna.

A student of Rukmini had a lot to imbibe. A patient teacher, she extended maternal affection towards all her disciples. On stage, she was most encouraging. She put me at ease whenever I sat beside her to accompany. If the presence of stalwarts made me nervous because of which I erred, she would step in to erase the tension in one gentle reassuring stroke. She was such a dedicated teacher, her blessings will continue to guide her students.

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