Tamil Nadu

A calendar that pays homage to the unsung

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Parivadini helps chronicle hitherto undocumented nagaswaram, thavil players

They enlivened the Carnatic music world. To commemorate them and their music, Parivadini, a charitable organisation promoting music, has decided to make a calendar showcasing six nagaswaram and six thavil players.

“We have selected artists who have not been documented by musicologist B.M. Sundaram in his book. There will be a brief note about every artist, explaining their achievements,” said Lalitharam, founder, Parivadini, who has collected the pictures with the help of music enthusiast Swamimalai Saravanan.

Dharmapuram Govindaraja Pillai was an artist as well as a composer. His compositions are unique, often bringing out rare facets of ragas with intricate laya patterns inter-weaved. He published 25 of his Tamil Varnams in a book, ‘Abirami Isai Vanna Malai’.

Pandanallur T.R. Dakshinamoorthi Pillai was the favourite nagaswaram player of the legendary thavil player Yazhpandam Dakshinamurthi. He was famous for raga elaboration and the ability to continuously bring out fresh phrases while playing a raga for several hours.

While musicians are known by the town they lived, Vandikaratheru brothers R. Mani and Mamundiya Pillai chose to attach the street they lived — Vandikkaara Theru — in Mayiladuthurai. They often played an apparently small raga with limited scope for exploration for hours.

The first woman nagaswaram player Madurai M.S. Ponnuthayi made her mark when the likes of T.N.Rajaratnam Pillai, Thiruveezimizalai brothers were at their peak. She remained one of the most sought after artists — especially during temple festivals — for several decades until her husband’s death abruptly halted her career.

Known as one of the greatest teachers, Thirumagalam Somaskanda Pillai taught at the Nagaswaram school in Pazhani. His students include Thirupampuram T.K.S. Swaminathan, Injikudi E.M. Subramaniam, Injikudi E.M. Mariyappan and Mannarkudi Sankaranarayanan.

Semponnarkoil is known for Rakthi melam and S.R.D.Muthukumaraswami and S.R.D. Vaidhyanathan carried the weight of their legacy with ease.

Distinctive style

After spending his initial years in Sri Lanka, Valangaiman Shanmugasundaram Pillai, on his return, had the honour of being the first disciple of thavil legend Nachiarkoil Raghava Pillai. He dominated the field for five decades and his distinctive style is a unique blend of freshness and aptness. Stock accompanist for Karaikuruchi Arunachalam, Perumpallam Venkatesa Pillai was known for his unique representation of even the well-known ‘sollus’. His popularity reached a peak when his playing in the movie‘Konjum Salangai’ became a mega hit.

Thiucherai Muthukumaraswami Pillai carved a niche for himself through pleasant playing that made even a novice nagaswaram artist feel at ease, resulting in complete enhancement of the concert.

Self-designated thavil engineer Poraiyar R. Venugopal Pillai replaced the leather belts and bamboo rings with steel strips and pipes. His innovation came handy for artists who could ready the instrument in a jiffy.

Swamimalai S. Govindaraja Pillai started his concert career playing for the legendary T.N.Rajaratnam Pillai and later became the mainstay for TNR’s nephew “Kakkayi” Nataraja Sundaram Pillai.

A great thavil teacher, Kivalur K.Sinagaravelu Pillai’s ability to instil the basics in a student was unparalleled.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 9:27:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/a-calendar-that-pays-homage-to-the-unsung/article25844715.ece

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