History & Culture

Musical notes from history

RECOGNITION: Historian S. Muthiah (third from left) presenting the award' to V Sriram (second left). R T Chari (left) is also seen. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

The TAG centre has been the venue of many South Indian heritage lectures. On September 5, historian V. Sriram was conferred the first Vedavalli Memorial Heritage Award at the centre. The award carried a citation and a purse of Rs.50,000 and will be is conferred on a person below 50, who does research on heritage.

The awards ceremony was followed by a lecture on the ‘Growth of Madras as a Music Capital' by Sriram. This was the centre's 125th programme and Sriram's 100th lecture. When the city of Madras was founded in 1639, no one would have thought that it would one day replace Thanjavur as the cultural capital of South India, although that was what happened over the years, said Sriram. Madras was a city without a ruler. What patronage there was for the arts came from the dubhashes and businessmen. One of the musicians honoured by a dubash was Sonti Venkatramanayya, the guru of Tyagaraja. There were four prominent devadasis in the city, each of whom was attached to a dubash. North Madras is the key to understanding the cultural history of Madras, he said. Mylapore entered the scene much later.

Longest song

After composing his Rama Nataka kritis, Arunachala Kavi visited the city, and stayed in the house of Manali Muthukrishna Mudali, who built the Chenna Kesava Perumal temple on Devaraja Mudali Street, and who was instrumental in bringing Ramaswami Dikshitar's family to Madras.

Tyagaraja Swami stayed in the Bunder Street house of Kovur Sundaresa Mudali. Thiruvaiyaru Subramania Iyer became Patnam Subramania Iyer, because of his long sojourn in Madras. One of the earliest sabhas in the city, the Thondai Mandala Thuluva Vellala Sabha, had a punishment for mridangists who made a mistake. The mridangam would be slung over their shoulders, and they would have to play standing for the rest of the concert!

The Madras Gayana Samaj, established in 1883, aimed at educating the British on Carnatic music. Queen Victoria's third son was a patron of this sabha.

Recording sessions

As for recording, two companies that made a name for themselves in Madras were Saraswathi Stores and Broadcast. Broadcast was run by the Surajmal family. The rivalry between the Music Academy and the Indian Fine Arts Society, the contests organised in connection with King George's visit, the ban on devadasis performing in Gokhale Hall, the adoption of a Brahmin girl Lalitangi (mother of MLV) by a devadasi, the role of the Press and the war against Professor P. Sambamurthi by Ariyakkudi, Musiri and C. Subramania Iyer were other topics that Sriram touched upon, in a well-researched and well-presented lecture. He must be commended for not glossing over uncomfortable facts in the history of Carnatic music.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 11:36:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/Musical-notes-from-history/article15910092.ece

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