Tamil Nadu

Forgotten heroes of Carnatic music from Nagercoil

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer along with Nagercoil Harihara Iyer on violin.Photo: - Special Arrangement  

: Nagercoil, the southern-most town in the country, has produced stalwarts in the field of theatre, cinema and music.

While the contributions of T.K.S Brothers and N.S. Krishnan to theatre and later to cinema and K.V. Mahadevan’s contributions to film music are well-known, the role of classical musicians who had carved out a niche for themselves in their filed since the late 1930s is either buried in the archives of newspapers or remain only in the memory of those who have listened to them.

Their names are frequently found in the concert list of Tamil music festivals held in Annamalai University and the December concerts of the Music Academy.

Writing in ‘Kalki’ in 1941, Kalki Krishnamurthy said Nagercoil Sthanu Iyer resembled Lord Dakhsinamurthy and even at the ripe old age he was able to retain vibrancy in music. He was also an exponent of harikatha and performed across the State, including the Music Academy.

Later his sons Harihara Iyer and Ganesa Iyer followed the family tradition of music. As early as 1935, Ganesa Iyer had accompanied Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer at the Music Academy December festival.

“In many of his recordings Viswanatha Iyer is accompanied by Harihara Iyer on the violin and Ganesa Iyer on mridhangam,” said H. Viswanathan, son of Harihara Iyer, a violinist, now living in Bangalore.

Harihara Iyer was also a vocalist and accompanied by stalwarts in the filed like Lalgudi Jayaraman. Tamil dailies have waxed eloquent on Harihar Iyer’s performance both as a vocalist and violinist. The archives of the Music Academy provide glimpses into the career of Nagercoil brothers, accompanying every big name in the field of Carnatic music.

Mridhangam S. Thanu Iyer was also good in academics. “He stood first in mathematics in the State in school finals and his two brothers became outstanding academicians,” said Thanu Iyer’s daughter Uma Ramachandran.

Thanu Iyer, who studied advanced lessons in mridhangam at Annamalai University under Mylatur V. Sami Iyer, was part of actor-singer M.K. Thiyagara Bhagavathar’s troupe and for many years played for G.N. Balasubramaniam. He had even accompanied nagaswaram wizard T.N. Rajarathinam Pillai.

Even while studying in the Annamalai University, he had played for T.K. Rangachari, Mailam Vajravelu Mudaliar and Tiruppampuram Swaminatha Pillai. He continued to play for Musiri Subramania Iyer, Mudikondan Venkatrama Iyer, Palladam Sanjeeva Rao, Veena S. Balachander, T.M. Thiyagarajan and Kalakadun Ramanarayana Iyer.

In the list of musicians from Kanyakumari district, a man, however, worth mentioning is Boothapandi Arunachala Annavi, who could sing and play mridhangam and flute.

He was the teacher of many including K.V. Mahadevan and Thanu Iyer. Annavi’s son B.A. Chidambaranathan, a violinst, later became one of the music directors who dominated Malayalam film world.

Another old name is composer Neelakanta Sivan, born in Vadiveeswaram and settled in Thiruvananthapuram.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:41:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/forgotten-heroes-of-carnatic-music-from-nagercoil/article6755760.ece

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