A walk through musical lanes

DID YOU know that the Mani Iyer Hall in the Raja Hanumant Lala Street at Triplicane hosted the second conference of Music Academy in 1930? Or that many doyens in the field of Carnatic music including G.N.Balasubramanyam, M.S.Subbulakshmi and Mali spent their initial years in Big Street, Triplicane?

These buildings and many more in the city now are part of a nearly forgotten heritage. Some of them are passed on through generations and hence, preserved. But many others stand mute testimony to the rich cultural history of the City, away from public glare.

Mani Iyer Hall, which has been kept closed for over a decade, was once a venue for many `kutcheries' performed by well-known maestros of Carnatic music.

Now, the Theosophical Society plans to renovate it.

It is against this backdrop that "Heritage Walks" organised annually by Sangeetham Dotcom Infotech, an organisation promoting awareness about Carnatic music through a website, gain value.

"People are mostly oblivious of this treasure in their backyard. The joy of rediscovering heritage drives us to organise this walk every year," says Sriram. V, one of the founders of Sangeetham Dotcom. Such walks are also organised in Mylapore and George Town areas. The bookings are usually done online.

On Wednesday, the mixed crowd of music lovers included a journalist from Germany who is on a trip to India, and another from France.

They shared the experience and enjoyed the trip thoroughly, said Charubala of The Classical Store, a partner of Sangeetham Dotcom in the activities.

The disappointing note, however, is that every year buildings keep disappearing or giving way to multi-storeyed apartments.

Says Sriram, "As is the practice in the U.K., at least a plaque can be put up at the place where the monument stood. We have many persons coming forward to bear the expenses."

Next year, Santhome and Purasawalkam are to be added to the Heritage Walk scheme.

The database of musicians is being updated and its results would determine how effective the walk would be, the organisers say.

Old records, biographies of musicians, interviews with patrons and leading families of Chennai are adding the information for additional walks.

By Saptarshi Bhattacharya