Maestros Music

The very breath of nagaswaram

Nagaswara Chakravarthi Thiruvaduthurai Rajarathinam Pillai.

Nagaswara Chakravarthi Thiruvaduthurai Rajarathinam Pillai.  

(This piece is on nagaswara chakravarthi Thiruvavaduthurai Rajarathinam Pillai.)

“My grandfather Papanasam Sivan had great respect for the nagaswaram chakravarthi. He would often say, “As in the case of human voice, where each voice has a special timbre, in the nagaswaram too, Rajarathinam had a particularly attractive timbre in the tone of his instrument.”

The following incident happened on the final day of the music festival in Tiruvaiyaru. On the last night, the portrait of Saint Tyagaraja would be carried on a decorated palanquin through the four main roads of Tiruvaiyaru to the accompaniment of nagaswaram and thavil. That particular night, Rajarathinam Pillai played the raga Charukesi and the kriti “Aada modi.” He wove an intricate pattern of swaras. It was what the crowd was waiting for. The thavil legend Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai too produced some extremely innovative and ingenious beats.

The mridangam vidwan Palghat T. S. Mani Iyer, who was in the crowd, so enjoyed the music that he started keeping tala with his feet and hands! It looked as if he was dancing with joy.

No wonder at the end of that display, Mani Iyer went and held the hands of Meenakshisundaram Pillai and paid his respects and showed his admiration to him. Then turning to Rajarathinam Pillai, Mani Iyer said, “Who else but you can invoke such a grand display of tala on the nagaswaram?”

Thatha often recalled that TNR used to attend his bhajans and concerts during 1930s and had a great respect for his bhava-laden music.

Fortunately, TNR has left behind some recorded discs. His recording of Thodi raga alapana is spoken of with great admiration by discerning lovers of Carnatic music even today. On his death, an old man is believed to have remarked, “The sun has set on nagaswaram music!”

(The writer, a Carnatic vocalist, is the grandson of composer Papanasam Sivan.)

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 9:16:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/the-very-breath-of-nagaswaram/article6724928.ece

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