Tamil Nadu

A master of Jaltarang

Jaltarang vidwan M. Devendra Sivachariyar performing at a temple in Ramanathapuram.— Photo: L. BALACHANDAR  

As a five-year-old kid, Devendra Sivachariyar watched in awe his father creating melodic music by striking the edges of water-filled bronze bowls only to master the art of ‘Jaltarang’.

The 78-year-old Sivachariyar is one of the renowned Jaltarang vidwans in the State and probably the only vidwan in the southern districts. He recently spellbound music lovers with a scintillating performance at a temple here.

Sivachariyar had a penchant for playing the instrument right at a young age but his father Mangaleeswara Sivam chose to teach the music to his elder sister Chellammal, a child prodigy.

As she played the melodic percussion instrument with ease, Sivachariyar had to settle for vocal. He practised vocal music but ‘Udha Kumba Vadyam’ (Jaltarang) remained his first love.

Since he started learning the music from his sister at the age of 10, there was no looking back. He has been staging concerts for nearly six decades, albeit shy of coming to the limelight.

Impressed by his talent, a Malaysian Minister, who hailed from the district, invited him to Malaysia and Sivachariyar ended up staging ‘katcheries’ in Malaysia and Singapore for nearly 15 years before he returned home in 1978.

On his return, he became the B1 grade artist for All India Radio (AIR) and his stint with AIR continues even now. “I have been performing for radio for more than three decades and I consider this a great recognition,” he said in an interaction with The Hindu .

Recalling the olden days, he said that his father and other vidwans used specially made Kumbakonam bronze bowls but later opted for Chinese-made ceramic bowls. The level of water in each bowl determines the ‘swaram’ and “even a drop of water will make a difference,” he says.

In the six-decade-long career, he has won many accolades but always cherishes the ‘Neer Isai Vendar’ award conferred on him by fans of Singapore. The Department of Art and Culture has honoured him with ‘Kalai Mudhumani’ and ‘Mugavai Isai Arasu’ awards but the State government’s prestigious ‘Kalaimamani’ has eluded him.

“I have no regret,” he says with a derisive smile. He would be happy if the government taught Jaltarang in government-run music schools and prevent the ancient music from falling into obscurity in modern times.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 9:36:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/a-master-of-jaltarang/article7160817.ece

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