In the quiet sunset, when the garudotsavam procession began in the temple complex of the Thennangur Panduranga kshetram, mellifluous nagaswaram music wafted in through the breeze. It was so mesmerizing that the devotees stood transfixed close to the nagaswaram group, even when the garuda vahana slowly started moving.
The nagaswaram player was vidwan Sithukadu T.G. Murugavel. Bright faced, the young vidwan and his troupe had just arrived from Chennai specially for the evening’s garudotsavam.
“Mr. Krishnaswami asked us to rush here for the Garuda Sevai, when his Natyarangam group would dance to the tune of my instrument in this sacred place. We are blessed,” says Murugavel, in all humility.
It was the third time we were listening to him enchant the crowd of devotees and dancers at Thennangur.
Murugavel hails from a music family of Sithukadu, Tiruvellore District. His gurus were Malayambakkam M.D. Mani, Tiruvarur Lakshappa Pillai, Tirucherai T.S. Sivasubramaniam, Mambalam M.K.S. Siva and M.K.S. Natarajan for more than a decade and a half. For the past thirty years, Murugavel has been performing all over India receiving appreciation from discerning rasikas.
“I have been an honorary performer at the Kapaleeswarar-Karpagambal temple at Mylapore, the Murugan temple at Vadapalani, the Karumari Amman temple at Tiruverkadu, and the Mariyamman temple at Samayapuram, Trichy,” Murugavel tells us. “This annual performance here, is of course special. I also perform at the Thyagaraja aradhana at Tiruvaiyaru.”
Murugavel has performed in the Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan, as well as the National Programme of Music, twice. The Nadaneeranjanam programme at Tirupathi Devasthanam at Tirupathi has also been special for him.
Having obtained a diploma in music and the Vadya Visharada title from the Tamil Nadu Music College, Chennai, he received his first major recognition from the Tamil Nadu Government’s Department of Culture, in the form of the title of Kalai Sudarmani. Then came the title ‘Saptaswara Isai Gana Kalaratna Jyoti by the Tyagi Viswanatha Das Isai Peravai, Chennai. He has also been the Asthana Vidwan of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. At present studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Music (third year) at the University of Madras, Murugavel is an A grade artist of both AIR and Doordarshan. For about ten years, he has conducted and performed many concerts under the auspices of these two government organizations. Many young nagaswara vidwans are training under him.
“My aim is to spread the nuances of nagaswara music to the next generation next,” Murugavel says.
Professor of Nagaswaram for over two years in the Tamil Isai Kalloori at Raja Annamalai Manram, he is a familiar name in the sabha circuit. His cassette Mangala Vaibhavam is a popular recording.
Sithukadu Murgavel has forayed into the film music field and has collaborated with MS Viswanathan, Ilayaraja, Sankar-Ganesh and a few other music directors. He has played nagaswaram music for Suriyan FM.
Murugavel has served as a member of a panel of judges to discover fresh young talent for All India Radio, in both the nagaswaram and the flute.
Murugavel was to tour Sri Lanka this July, but unfortunately it was politics that played spoilsport and the loss was only to the Tamils living there, who are ardent fans of nagaswaram music.