Of melodies and memories

STRINGS OF SWEET MEMORIES: P. Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar who belongs to the 1939 batch--the very first--of he Swathi Thirunal College of Music strumming the 'thanpura' used by his guru Muthaiah Bhagavathar at the College principal's office on Monday. Photo: S. Gopakumar.   | Photo Credit: S_GOPAKUMAR

Uruvay.. aruvay… uladhai… iladhai…maruvai… malaray.. maniyay… oliyay… When he sang this Tamil song dedicated to Lord Murugan in soulful Bhairavi, the years fell away for P. Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar. For a few moments, he was that bright-eyed student of music in the first batch of the then Swati Tirunal Music Academy in 1939.

As he walked haltingly through the corridors of his alma mater, which is now a full-fledged college, in the city on Monday, memories came flooding in. “There was no auditorium there…that old building was where we used to have our classes…and in this place there was a ground where Semmangudi (Sreenivasa Iyer) used to come and play tennis in the evenings…” Yes, the college does not look the same now but the campus is still captivatingly beautiful.

Initially, Mr. Vaidyanathan enrolled for the ‘gayaka' course, which was later renamed ‘ganabhooshanam.' “We used to have four periods in a day,” he told mediapersons at the college.

The 90-year-old vocalist is in the city on a two-day visit to meet his ailing sister. He has been living in Mumbai for the past 50 years.

Born in Kollam, Mr. Vaidyanathan had his early training in music from vocalist and mridangam exponent Vaikom Krishna Iyer and later from Neelakanda Bhagavathar. He had his ‘arengettam' at the Shiva temple at Vaikkom when he was just 13 years old.

One day when the young Vaidyanathan was rehearsing the famous Swati Tirunal composition in raga Panthuvarali Saarasaksha… on the Shanghumughom beach, someone called him aside and asked him who he was and where he had his training from. It was only much later that the young musician realised that the query had come from none other than the legendary Muthaiah Bhagavathar.

His daughter, Mahalaksmi, said that even at this age, Mr. Vaidyanathan learnt and taught music. “It is through music that he communicates with god,” she said.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 1:26:46 AM |

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