Tribute Music

To sir, with love

The mischievous twinkle in his eyes was unmissable. He was full of zest and joie de vivre. He was compassionate and magnanimous. PSN sir, as he was fondly called, epitomised the adage, ‘Art is a reflection of one’s inner self.’ Whether it was singing the sangathis of his guru Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer or drinking his steaming hot cup of kaapi or listening to a raga alapana, he did it all with complete involvement.

PSN sir tuning the tambura

PSN sir tuning the tambura  

An exemplary musician and a generous guru, sir donned several hats with effortless ease. My earliest memory of him was when he visited my first guru and his close associate, K.R. Kedaranathan. After keenly listening to our singing, he would point out each child’s skill and discuss with our guru what was best for us. I saw the same meticulous approach and care when I subsequently trained under him. He made learning enjoyable and meaningful.

His vadyar (Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer) meant the world to him. Every sangathi he learnt from him was passed on diligently. He believed in upholding classicism and adhering to his bani. And yet, as a teacher, he gave his pupils, wings to fly. “His greatest attribute as a guru was offering his sishyas a rich, layered and varied experience. He gave them freedom to enrich their canvas, fusing his guidance and their exploration and enabling them to find their own path,” say vocalist-duo Ranjani and Gayatri.

Bharathi Ramasubban, who learnt under PSN sir from childhood, says, “An ashutosha, he took immense pleasure in the smallest of things. Sir allowed his students the time and space to blossom.”

Nurturing talent

Whether senior disciples like Udupi Gopalakrishnan, Balamuralikrishna, Abhishek Raghuram, Calcutta Shankar, Shankar Srinivas, Radha Parthasarathy; or younger ones like Sunil Gargyan, Prithvi, Akshay Padmanabhan and Manasvini (impossible to list all the names), every single student gained through his tireless nurturing and the pride he showed in their progress.

Guru P.S. Narayanaswami seen with his disciples

Guru P.S. Narayanaswami seen with his disciples  

He would take efforts to listen to the concerts of all his disciples and encourage them. “He had a unique way of dispelling doubts and anxiety when he attended a student’s concert,” says vocalist Gayathri Venkataraghavan.

A.S. Murali recalls how he never took any dakshina for teaching, but a small amount of whatever a student gave volitionally would be put into a hundi to be used for charity purposes.

C.R. Vaidyanathan is glad to have had the chance to provide him vocal support during his concerts and for being able to teach students in Narada Gana Sabha in his presence.

PSN sir was devoted to Tyagaraja, Sadasiva Brahmendral, and Kanchi Mahaswami. He raised funds and organised the Tyagaraja Swami Akhandam in Tiruvaiyar during Sivaratri, and the Brahmendral aradhana at Manamadurai every year. Even after he stopped travelling, he would visit the Tyagaraja Vidwat Samajam in Mylapore.

Talented tunesmith

An amazing tunesmith, PSN sir set to tune the songs of Ramalinga Swami and Narayana Tirtha and the Mooka Panchashati. He valued the knowledge he gained by interacting with vidwans during his tenure at the All India Radio.

P.S. Narayanaswamy was unaffected by the many honours he received, some of them being the Padma Bhushan, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and the Sangita Kala Acharya title from the Music Academy. These recognitions did not divert him from his primary goal of disseminating music. “His music is like the elixir, the magic potion that has been fed into us organically,” says Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna.

Words seem inadequate to describe P.S. Narayanaswamy. As I try to reconcile to the fact that I will never again sit in his class and enjoy his warmth and kindness, I remind myself that the torch he lit must keep burning bright. The music will always pay homage to him.

The writer is a well-known Carnatic musician.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 2:36:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/to-sir-with-love/article32917566.ece

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