Music and Thiruvananthapuram

Kuthiramalika in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar

Kuthiramalika in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar   | Photo Credit: S.GOPAKUMAR


Thiruvananthapuram has been a hub of classical music since the days of Swati Tirunal

Come Navaratri, the city’s cultural spaces come alive with the notes of Carnatic music. Music in Thiruvananthapuram is inseparably connected to the name of Swati Tirunal. During his hey days, for about 10 years, Thiruvananthapuram was the capital of Carnatic Music.

Was it royal patronage alone? No, it was the master musician at the centre stage who attracted musicians from far and wide. Chinnaswami Muthaliar wrote in 1893 :A certain musician who had composed a melody in this style [with swarakshara] appeared before the Maharaja [Swati Tirunal] and boasted that he had accomplished an extraordinary feat such as had never been attempted before. His Highness at once produced a number of pieces of the same kind, to show that he himself was capable of doing great deal more without difficulty”. No wonder that he chose to describe Swati Tirunal as “a distinguished authority” [of music].

Subharama Dikshitar, Muthuswami Dikshitar’s brother’s grandson, was a scholar and composer. He wrote in 1904: This capable King of Kerala country learnt many languages including Sanskrit, Andhra, Huna, Kerala and Hindusthani. He possessed expert ability in music. He composed, in rakti ragas and desiya ragas, innumerable cauka varnas, and a vast number of kirthanas in Sanskrit language which were replete with poetic beauty and which bear the stamp signature of ‘Padmanabha’. He is said to have authored many Kavyas such as campu. He composed cauka varna padams in telungu. He also composed many kritis in Kerala language.

The interest in music waned after the passing away of Swati Tirunal. Also the Sopana school led by Govinda Marar and Maliyakkal Krishna Marar also waned. During Ayilyam Tirunal's time, music again got a pride of place. Travancore State Manual claims: “In the closing years of 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th the music of Travancore suffered a great degeneracy in standard and in growth, particularly among the professionals due to the absence of first-rate masters to keep alive the musical art of the State at a high degree of excellence, and also to the influence of cheap drama songs imported from what is termed the Parsi drama and from the Tamil districts outside. But by the introduction of musical instruction in the girls’ schools of the state a certain amount of musical interest has been kept up all these years.”

The biography of T. Lekshmana Pillai makes a mention of a ‘Gana Samaj’ in existence in Thiruvananthapuram in the early 1890s. It says: “T. Lekshmana Pillai enabled the public of Trivandrum to enjoy [music] by forming a Gana Samaj and organising periodical musical performances under its auspices. The services of the Palace Vidwans were obtained under the sanction of the Travancore Government.”

Music teaching in girls’ schools was quite established in the city by the turn of the 19th century and the Trivandrum Women’s College also started teaching music from 1930. Narasimhan Thampi, father of Indirabhai Thankachi (famous dancer and descendent of Irayimman Thampi), had established a Swathi Thirunal Music School, a few years before Sri Swathi Thirunal Music Academy was founded. The city is known for many music festivals in addition to the 175–year–old Navarathri Music Festival, perhaps the oldest in south India. The Swathi Festival at Kuthiramalika, Soorya Music fest, Neelakanta Sivan Music Fest and many others organised by cultural groups continue to make it a city for music buffs.

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Printable version | Aug 23, 2019 8:13:11 PM |

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