Music

Career of awesome proportions

SWAN SONG: Mayavaram Somu in the background at the concert of T.N. Seshagopalan for Hamsadhwani.  

The late Mayavaram Somu, renowned ganjira vidwan, enjoyed the respect and affection of artists, age being no barrier. A few record their impressions of the stalwart with whom they shared the concert platform more than once.

M. Chandrasekaran, violin exponent

I played the violin and Somu was on the ganjira for Madurai Seshagopalan’s concert for Hamsadhwani on February 11. Can’t believe that he is no more. We exchanged pleasantries and I learnt that he was 88, a fact none who listened to him as he played vigorously for nearly three hours would have believed. And it was of such high quality. He was an artist of great calibre, so respected by the late Madurai Somu, whom he accompanied for four decades.

N. Ramani

An excellent laya vidhwan, there was not a single stalwart for whom Somu did not play. For over five decades since 1950, he has accompanied me. Just nine months ago he accompanied me for an AIR programme.

Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman

The passing away of Somu is a great loss to Carnatic music and particularly to the percussion world. He had learnt this art under great masters and he chalked out a unique bhani, which was at once appreciated and liked by vidwans and rasikas. Till his end he lived up to his principles of classism, purity and precision.

Sudha Raghunathan

GS accompanied all the giants. When I was learning music from my Guru MLV he accompanied her. I feel a singer is at her best and gets fulfilment only when the accompanists keep in step. GS’s kaala pramanam was great and he never came in the way of the main singer or other accompanists. His soft beats were a perfect foil for the mridangam. As president of “SIMCA” we had the privilege of honouring GS two years ago.

Vikku Vinayakram

We have lost the senior most ganjira vidwan of a great tradition. He was an expert in kanakku. I had played along with him for Madurai Somu for over three decades. The last time I played in GS’s company was for N. Ramani in April last. It was always highly educative.

Guruvayur Dorai

During his 80th year, the trust I run honoured him. He was senior to me but we were great friends. I remember the concerts in which we accompanied Sirkazhi Govindarajan. He had reached an elevated status but had no airs. I was there on the mridangam at TNS’s Hamsadhwani concert and was extremely happy that he played with the same spirit.

T.V. Sankaranarayanan

We both belong to Mayavaram. He was my very close family friend. Calm and soft-spoken, he commanded great respect. Since 1970's we were sharing he dais. We both travelled a lot together for various concerts. GS being my senior, I always took his blessings. Just two months ago, we were honoured by Valayapatti Nadha Laya and used that opportunity to recollect the past.

Lalgudi G. Jayaraman

GS and myself combined several times to produce memorable recitals. His passing away is a great loss to Carnatic music..

T.N. Seshagopalan

GS hailed from the thavil parampara and his “Laya Nerthi” was always superb. Primarily he was a very good Rasika and a good teacher, who has shaped disciples of great merit.

T.K. Murthy

GS and myself shared the stage for over five decades since 1960, bulk of them for the concerts of Madurai Somu and Tiruvarur Namasivayam. I feel sad at the passing away of this great musician.

Valayapatti Malarvannan, who has married the grand daughter of Madurai Somu, gets emotional. GS was instrumental in my getting close to the great Madurai Somu. A versatile player, he could effortlessly pick up the lead left at any point in the thala, any stage, by any mridangam player. Such was his laya gnanam. He raised a big family of six daughters and two sons but was fiercely independent. Somehow he always reminded me of a majestic lion, although he was gentle in his demeanour. Last December, our sabha had the privilege of honouring him with the title, “Valayapatti Naadha Laya Sironmani Award”.

K.S. Rangachari, father of Mambalam Sisters and GS’s friend for six decades speaks highly of his knowledge. “But that never went to his head,” he says. He brought alive the style made famous by stalwarts such as Pudukkottai. Mamundaya Pillai and Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai.

Kadiri Gopalnath, AKC Natarajan, Mandolin Shrinivas, Veena Gayathri, Srirangam Kannan, Manoj Siva, Selva Ganesh, Nergunam Sankar, B.S. Purushothaman and Krishnapuram KVRS Mani join a host of musicians, who record their condolences on the passing away of Mayavaram Somu.

Papanasam S. Sethuraman, disciple

I met GS in 1985. He suggested that I learn the ganjira. He gave me one week’s time to consult my father and come back to him if I had so wished. But I agreed at once and did not regret my decision. My arangetram happened in 1987. He can play for any musician's Pallavi or thani avarthanam. I was with him in over 2,000 concerts but I never saw him asking the musician what he was going to sing. Once when a mridangam player failed to come out of his first Korvai, GS took over and showed him the way. He started with thavil but unhappy encounters made him switch to ganjira and discouraged me from taking up thavil.


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