Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai

(15 Dec 1869-16 Nov 1938)
 
Who’s Who in Classical Music

By V Ramnarayan

Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai hailed from a family of musicians who migrated from Kalyanachozhapuram near Mayavaram to Tiruppamburam. He was born on 15th December 1869 to nagaswara vidvan Swaminatha Pillai and Paripoornathammal.

Natarajasundaram and his younger brother Sivasubrahmaniam first learned nagaswaram from the maestro Injikkudi Kumarappillai. To expand increase their kriti repertoire, Swaminatha Pillai placed them under the care of Umayalpuram Duraiswamy Iyer and Sattanur Panchanada Iyer, the first a storehouse of Tyagaraja kritis and the latter of Dikshitar compositions. Swaminatha Pillai invited them to his town. 

Natarajasundaram Pillai and Sivasubrahmanya Pillai were perhaps the first nagaswaram duo. Srivanchiyam Govinda Pillai, Mannargudi Pallupakkiri Pillai, Ammapettai Pakkiri Pillai and Vazhuvoor Muttuviru Pillai were some of their tavil accompanists. 

The Tiruppamburam Brothers as the pair was known, paid much attention to fidelity to the sahitya of the songs they played, employing tuttukaram to optimize the aural impact on listeners brought up on the lyrical masterpieces of Carnatic music. Sahitya bhava was central to their playing style.

Like Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer and the Tiruppamburam Brothers, Veena Dhanammal also learnt Dikshitar kritis from Panchanada Iyer, whose ragabhava-soaked singing she admired. Long years later Dhanammal not only recognised Natarajasundaram immediately when he visited her in Chennai, but also agreed to sing in unison with him, when they found that they had retained their Dikshitar kriti pathantara identically.

Natarajasundaram Pillai published a collection of Muttuswami Dikshitar compositions titled Dikshita Kirtana Prakasika. In Tamil script, it contained 50 notated kritis. 

Pillai built a Vinayaka temple at his own expense near his residence at Tiruveezhimizhalai. At its kumbhabhishekam in 1929 such leading vidwans as the Karaikudi veena brothers, Kanchipuram Naina Pillai, Ariyakudi, and Brinda-Muktha, gave concerts and Saraswatibai performed Harikatha. The great nagaswara vidwans of the day like Madurai Ponnuswami Pillai, Perambalur Angappa Pillai and Tiruvudaimarudur Veeruswami Pillai added lustre to the proceedings.

Natarajasundaram Pillai’s son Tiruppamburam Swaminatha Pillai—who taught at the Government Music College, Madras—achieved eminence as a flautist, whose disciple T Viswanathan went on to emulate his guru as a great vidwan and teacher. 

Natarajasundaram’s other sons included Somasundaram Pillai who became principal of the Palani temple’s nagaswaram school and Sivasubrahmanya Pillai, a lecturer at Annamalai University.

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