By V Ramnarayan
The name Trivandrum Seethalakshmi popped up out of The Hindu’s entertainment announcements column. I started wondering if she was the same lady who taught my daughter Carnatic vocal music at Columbus, Ohio, and who went to great trouble to treat us to a traditional lunch a couple of years ago at her daughter’s home there during my visit to the US.
Seethalakshmi Mami is a most loving teacher, infinitely proud of her own guru Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer whose memory is her constant inspiration. With my daughter and wife away in New Delhi, I went alone to the concert that evening at Raga Sudha Hall in Mylapore. It was the same Seethalakshmi Mami all right, and she had excellent accompanists in Dr Hemalatha, J Vaidhyanathan and Anirudh Athreya, each of them a personal favourite of mine.
I had listened to Mami at her Columbus residence without accompaniment and heard my daughter’s rave notices about her teaching methods, her uncompromising adherence to the Semmangudi bani, and her deep guru bhakti. This was however the first concert of hers I was listening to. She did not disappoint me. There was something childlike and plaintive about her strong, bell-like voice and her impeccable diction. Her manodharma was astounding, every bit as creative and original as you would expect in a topnotch artiste.
It was a memorable concert in which Todi was the main raga featuring Gajavadana sammodita. Starting with a lovely Bilahari, she took us on a tour that included Vasanta, Suddhadhanyasi, Mukhari, Varali, Ritigaula, a wonderful ragamalika slokam, Behag, Hamsanandi and Surati.
People who know Seethalakshmi know that she is a self-effacing kind of person, unused to starry airs of any kind, but the attention she received after the concert from an astonished audience could have turned anybody’s head!
“How come we don’t get to listen to you during the season?” asked one admirer, leaving the singer literally speechless.
Here are a couple of excerpts from some of the reviews I found on rasikas.org:
" The team was just awesome. Pristine Semmangudi sangeetham at its best!” —Bharath.
“Such intensity! Such energy! Astonishing. She sang with the power and energy of a nagaswaram recital” — Nick H.