In the name of music

Illustration: Sreejith R.Kumar  

The name is V. Karthikeyan, Trivandrum V. Karthikeyan. And there are more musicians like him who have made ‘Trivandrum’ a part of their name. What’s in a name? Quite a lot, say these musicians. There are many maestros who have put the capital city on the music map of India. In addition, some of them have prefixed the name of the city to their names and proudly carry it as a badge of honour.

For most of these musicians, adding ‘Trivandrum’ to their names meant getting an identity when they started their career, especially with All India Radio. “When I became a staff employee of AIR, it was suggested that I add Trivandrum to my name to establish an identity. In those days, perhaps the only one who had attached the name of the city to his name was Trivandrum R.S. Mani,” says ghatam exponent Trivandrum V. Karthikeyan.

In the case of mridagam maestro Trivandrum V. Surendran, it was his guru, the legendary Palakkad Mani Iyer who suggested that he add the name of the city to his name. “I became his disciple in 1963 and stayed with him at Tanjore. In 1967 when I got a chance to audition for AIR Trichinappally, he said, Un peru munnale Thiruvananthapuram ennu vachukko (add Thiruvananthapuram to your name). I cleared the audition and when I debuted with a thalavadya kutcheri, he gave me Rs. 250 to buy a transistor so that I could hear my name being announced as ‘Thiruvananthapuram V. Surendran.’ It was nice to hear how they pronounced it. There was also a magazine Vaanoli that carried the full schedule of AIR programmes. My name was printed as Thiruvananthapuram V. Surendran for the first time in that. Later Thiruvananthapuram got shortened to Trivandrum because many non-Malayalis found it difficult to pronounce Thiruvananthapuram correctly, especially when we performed outside India,” says Surendran.

When it came to his younger brother V. Raveendran, the suggestion to prefix Trivandrum to his name came from his guru, mridangam maestro Umayalpuram Sivaraman. “When I started performing in Chennai, he said that I should not end up as just any Raveendran. After all, our city is only second to Chennnai when it comes to the music tradition and I felt proud about adding the name of the city to my name,” says Raveendran.

Somebody who has followed suit is their nephew – ghatam artiste Trivandrum R. Rajesh, son of their brother V. Rajendran. His uncles were an inspiration for him, says Rajesh. “Also, it gives me an identity as there are other artistes with the same name in the field. For instance, there is another ghatam artiste Rajesh, who hails from Aluva and is known as Aluva Rajesh,” says Rajesh.

For violinists Trivandrum R. Mahadevan and Trivandrum N. Sampath too, the name of the city has helped them to stand out from the crowd.

“The name Thiruvananthapuram itself earns a lot of respect in music circles outside Kerala and I felt proud to attach that to my name,” says Mahadevan.

Meanwhile, for some musicians, it was serendipity that attached their names to the city they hail from. Vocalist Trivandrum Krishnakumar belongs to that category. “It’s a practice for Carnatic musicians to use the name of their birthplace along with their name. However, when I started my career, I didn’t adopt that. But as I started singing in Chennai, since 1989, people started identifying me with Thiruvananthapuram. Later it became a permanent fixture. Now, when I perform abroad, people come up to me and ask about the city,” says Krishnakumar.

Not all the musicians who identify themselves with ‘Trivandrum’ hail from the city. For instance, mrindagam exponent Trivandrum R. Vaidyanathan was born in Kollam but he has roots in the city. “My parents hail from Thiruvananthapuram. It was in Chennai that I did my advanced studies in the instrument. When it came to adding a prefix, I felt that Kollam was not a familiar name in the music circuit and so I opted for Thiruvananthapuram. Though I am settled in Chennai, even now I come to the city once a month,” says Vaidyanathan.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 11:42:53 AM |

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