Music

Master of rhythm

RESONANT: Haridwaramangalam A.K. Palanivel. Photo: S.S.Kumar   | Photo Credit: S_S_Kumar

That the Cauvery basin serves as a rice bowl for millions is a given. Its contribution, however, goes beyond the palate. The proliferation of musicians, particularly in the field of nagaswaram-thavil, from this delta region is a phenomenon. Perhaps the number of temples and their festivals held throughout the year, of which the nagaswaram-thavil is an integral part, could be a reason.

Haridwaramangalam (in Sanskrit) or Aridwaramangalam (in Tamil), a village off the Kumbakonam-Alangudi bus route, is now known worldwide thanks to thavil virtuoso A.K. Palanivel of this village, who also performs in international music circuits.

Today, concerts at which he is playing are a sell-out and a big fan group throng auditoriums for the pleasure of listening to his thani. The thavil has indeed attained a special status thanks to vidwans such as A.K. Palanivel.

Ironically, S. Kumaravel Pillai, also a thavil player, did not want his son to take up thavil. His ancestors had been playing at the Alankaravalli samedha Paadaaleswarar temple, which is more than 2,000 years old.

“Music is in my genes and that must have made me dream of making it big as a thavil vidwan even at a young age. Watching my uncles on the nagaswaram and my father on the thavil was an inspiring experience. My father used to reprimand me for sneaking into his room to play on his thavil. Unable to bear the pressure from my relatives, he began to teach me. He always chose a difficult sollukattu hoping that I would get frustrated and quit but that proved to be an advantage, for I learnt to face challenges very early in life,” he says.

“Power and bus transport were a distant dream for our village then,” he continues.

“Whenever we had to go to the town, we had to cross the Vennaaru and Vettaaru by parisal to reach the main road. I realised that it was this risky proposition that set my father against my learning the thavil,” he says.

Opportunities to play

After getting to know the basics, AKP came under the tutelage of Tirucherai Muthukumarasamy Pillai.

During his gurukulavasam, he was given many opportunities to play at Sri Saranathan temple in the village.

“During festivals such as Vaikunta Ekadasi, the elders played on special stages erected at the four corners of the maada veedhi. Tirucheraiyar gave me a tremendous boost by allowing me to play, while they walked from one corner to the other,” he says. In 1960, his name appeared in the concert notice for the first time alongside his guru's, at the Samayapuram Mariamman Poochoriyal Vizha. “I was elated and was also paid two annas as remuneration. Upon my mother's instruction, I spent the entire sum on camphor and offered it to Lord Muruga.”

Several firsts

Soon A.K. Palanivel was much sought after as an accompanist to many vidwans and his stature grew. As a thavil vidwan he has several firsts to his credit. He became the secretary of the Tiruvaiyaru Sri Thyagabrahma Mahotsava Sabha. He respects G.K. Moopanar and his family for it was on the Congress leader's suggestion that Palanivel was made secretary. He has also been successfully conducting the aradhana for more than two and a half decades. He is the Government nominated member of the Sangeeth Natak Akademi.

He has been serving as the Dean of the Music Department of Annamalai University for over eight years, another first for a thavil vidwan. He recently conducted an 81-hour programme without a break, to commemorate the 81st birthday of M.A.M. Ramawamy, Pro-Chancellor of Annamalai University, at the R.A. Puram Aiyappan Temple, Chennai. The programme comprising only Tamil songs was performed by students and staff of the University.

Siva Vadivel, a music student, has been awarded doctorate by Bharathidasan University for his thesis on Palanivel's contribution to music. After an eight-year effort, a book on Palanivel, (in English and Tamil) is all set to be released soon.

Originally, the thavil was considered fit to be played only outdoors. But AKP changed this assumption by successfully adapting the instrument to suit concerts inside auditoriums.

His infectious smile, positive body language and the thavil's repartees on stage are a pleasure to watch and hear.

When I mention this, Palanivel pauses, looks into my eyes and says, “It is all due to the Blessings of Lord Muruga. He has given me whatever I have asked for… Every time I am on stage I know I have a responsibility to uphold the tradition I hail from. So each time I play like a first timer who has to prove himself. Today I play for the nagaswaram, saxophone, violin, Bharatanatyam and international fusion bands. The thavil has come to be recognised.”

“It is because of the thavil that I have come this far and hence I bow my head in obeisance to this unique instrument,” he signs off, ready to leave for Tiruvaiyaru, where Sri Tyagaraja Swami Aradhana is on.

Honour for Palanivel

On Saturday (at 4.30 pm) the Minister for shipping, G.K.Vasan, will be conferring the title 'Sangeetha Choodamani' on A.K.Palanivel on the occasion of the inauguration of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha's annual nagaswaram festival at their Nalli Gana Vihar, T.Nagar.. The award comprises a purse, gold medal and a citation. Presided over by Nalli Kuppuswami Chetty, N.Kamakoti, chairman, CUB, Nagaswara vidwan S.R.D.Vaidyanathan, Madurai T.N.Seshagopalan, music critic Manna N. Srinivasanwill be offering their felicitations to the awardee. This is the first time Sri Krishna Gana Sabha is honouring a thavil vidwan with this title.


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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 5:07:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/master-of-rhythm/article2795768.ece

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