Carnatic musician passes away at 74

Suguna Purusothaman was known for her flair in layam —Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Suguna Purusothaman was known for her flair in layam —Photo: S.R. Raghunathan  

Noted carnatic vocalist and teacher Suguna Purusothaman, an exponent of the Musiri school of music, died here on Wednesday, after a battle with cancer. She was 74 and is survived by her husband and two daughters. 

“She wanted to listen to something in the hospital. I had, on my mobile phone, Musiri Subramania Iyer’s Nadupai in Madhyamavathi and Marivere in Shanmugapriya and her daughter played the songs for her. She opened her eyes for a second, and the end came,” said Rajeswari Thyagarajan, a family friend and wife of Thyagarajan, the grandson of Musiri Subramania Iyer. 

Suguna, a native of Ponvilainthakalathur in Chengalpet, came under the tutelage of Musiri Subramania Iyer, on a Central Government scholarship in the 1960s. She was also a good composer.  

The late mridangist Thinniyam Venkatrama Iyer taught her the intricacies of layam , and introduced her to Musiri. “She would say it was the emotion and feeling in his music that convinced her to learn with him though Musiri then was past his prime,” said Mr. Thyagarajan. She studied with Mani Krishnasamy, Suguna Varadhachari, Padma Narayanasamy and Rukmini Ramani. 

Suguna had a great flair for layam and could use her hands to keep two different thalams even as she sang. “An expert in pallavi singing, she could even render simma nanthana pallavi (128 counts) in a way that appealed to a lay rasika,” said writer Lalitharam. 

Mr. Thyagarajan recalled she would ask more questions than other students and had a great sense of humour.

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