Nagaswaram exponent dies

S.R.D. Vaidyanathan  

: S.R.D. Vaidyanathan, a famed exponent of Semponnarkoil school of nagaswaram, died here on Monday. He was 85 and is survived by wife, six daughters and a son.

Vadiyanathan was the grandson of Semponnarkoil Ramasamy Pillai, the first nagaswaram player to cut a disc as early as in the 1920s and the son of Semponnarkoil R. Dakhsinamurthy Pillai, the younger of the Semponnarkoil brothers.

If Semponnarkoil a small town near Mayiladuthurai and sung by saivite minstrels, could secure a prominent place in carnatic music world, the credit should go to the brothers, who excelled in rendering rakthi melam encompassing beautiful and intricate laya.

Vaidyanathan teamed up with his brother S.R.D. Muthukumarasamy and they became the second generation of the Semponnarkoil style. He was trained by Mayavaram Ramaswami Pillai and learnt vocal music from Thiruvazhundur A.K. Ganesan Pillai and Madurai Mani Iyer, who was staying in Mayiladuthurai then.

“He helped me shedding inhibitions and approaching concerts with a free mind. As a nagaswaram player he had performed outdoor and the open space had a tremendous impact on his music. Perhaps I imbibed the trait from him,” said vocalist Sanjay Subrahmanyan, one of the students of Vaidyanathan.

Mr. Sanjay, whose association with Vaidyanathan began a decade ago, said his teacher was an intelligent musician with a catholic taste for music. He followed a difficult kala pramanam and excelled in rendering keerthanas and tough pallavis.

“He could play every word of the viribhoni varnam in four different kalams (speed). Flute Mali had rendered it in three different kalams,” said Mr. Sanjay and recalled how he was mesmerised by his playing of entukku beddala in sankarabharan at Tiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja festival.

Thavil player Tanjavur T.R. Govindarajan, who accompanied Vaidyanathan for many years, said only an experienced thavil could understand his music and manage a concert.

“If his knowledge of layam could be matched by a very few thavil players themselves, his playing of nagaswaram strictly adhered to the carnatic tradition,” he said.

Musicologist B.M. Sundaram said Vaidyanathan also mastered avadana pallavi: singing a pallavi and keeping at the same time different tala structures.

S.R.G. Rajanna, his cousin and another surviving senior Semponnarkoil brother, said no one could beat Vaidyanathan when it came to playing pallavis.

Vaidyanathan was recipient of many awards including Tamil Nadu government’s Kalaimamani and the Music Academy’s TTK award.