Tribute to Pichumani Iyer

Veena Pichumani Iyer.  

With the diminishing number of veena players (in Carnatic style) in the country, the passing away of my guru R. Pichumani Iyer has created another vacuum amongst vainikas. Having been under his tutelage for almost 17 years, I realise that veena music needs a higher level of musical taste to appreciate the greatness of the instrument. Never seeking opportunities to perform, my guru performed willingly when sabhas and other institutions approached him for concerts. Laurels came his way in the form of Kalaimamani award, from the Government of Tamil Nadu, The TTK memorial award from The Music Academy, and Sangeetha Kala Nipuna from the Mylapore Fine Arts Club, besides other awards. He was an ‘A’ Top graded artist of All India Radio and Doordarshan.

Pichumani Iyer qualified as Sangeetha Bhushanam from the Annamalai University, where he was groomed by the likes of K.S. Narayanaswamy, Gomathi Sankara Iyer and others. His initial training was under Kuppana in Tiruchi. A long stint with AVM studios had him work with leading film music composers such as M.S. Viswanathan, Viswanathan-Ramamurthy duo and others. He bid adieu to playing for films and pursued classical Carnatic music. His numerous disciples include R. Visweswaran, Suresh Krishna (from the TVS family ), the Iyer Brothers based in Australia, B. Kannan and Vasantha Krishnamoorthy.

Pichumani Iyer was a staunch devotee of the Paramacharya of Kanchi and at the Seer’s instructions he performed at tandem with Lalgudi Jayaraman and flautist N. Ramani at the Kanchi mutt on a couple of occasions. He adopted an unhurried method of teaching and would never rush disciples to learn compositions in a hurry. He would ensure that the students perfected the lessons of the previous class before he proceeded further. For many years during the period when this writer was his disciple, only one line of a varnam would be taught in a class. This ensured that the patantharam remained firmly etched in one’s mind. His repertoire of varnams was amazing and covered almost 100 compositions of this genre. As a composer he has a few thillanas in ragas such as Vasantha Kaishiki (Vasantha with the kaishiki nishadam), Brindavana Saranga, etc to his credit.

Pichumani Iyer was one of the early artists to cut a long playing record of veena music for HMV. This record continues to be broadcast by All India Radio, Chennai, occasionally. He has also recorded for other companies like Sangeetha. He maintained a cordial relationship with fellow veena vidwans such as S. Balachandar, Chittibabu and Vidya Sankar and would make it a point to be present when they performed in the city. He had great admiration for Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s music and played many kritis as per the Semmangudi patantharam. His eldest son P. Viswanathan was a guitarist at All India Radio, Chennai, and had also accompanied his father on the mridangam. For many years Pichumani Iyer performed on Saraswathi puja day, at the Vaishnavi shrine in Thirumullaivayal near Chennai.

Though confined to bed during the last couple of years of his life, he was mentally alert and would discuss the happenings in the Carnatic music world with those who called on him.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 12:45:45 PM |

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