Song of Surrender

Monday, 11 May 2015

Homage to Rajappa Iyer

By Nandini Ramani

The entire hall was brimming with glowing tributes to a veteran teacher-performer from the field of percussive arts. The function was filled with deep regard and a sense of sincere reverence to Kumbakonam Rajappa Iyer on his eighth anniversary observed by his son and prime disciple, K.R. Ganesh, senior exponent of mridangam at his centre, Layodaya. This centre has been honouring veterans in the field of Carnatic music annually on this remembrance day. This year, K.S. Kalidas, veteran exponent and a prime student of the legendary Palani Subramania Pillai, and Sendangudi Jayaraman, a prime disciple of stalwart D.K. Jayaraman were honoured with mementos. The awardees dedicated their cash awards back to Layodaya. Both the recipients fondly remembered Rajappa Iyer; also, they shared their own personal musical and emotional experiences over the decades in the field while working with their illustrious masters.

Chief guests, renowned musicians, Bombay Sisters Saroja and Lalitha, offered their felicitations to the awardees as well as to Layodaya for their dedication to their 'Guru parampara'. It was heartening to see so many leading students of Rajappa Iyer participating in the event to offer their homage. The doyen, a renowned performer of mridangam and ghatam, had accompanied stalwarts during his prime career. A respected and renowned teacher par excellence, he had trained almost a thousand students in his lifetime, many of whom have reached the top as percussionists and ghatam players.

Earlier, the function began on an auspicious note with Vedic recitation. After K.R. Ganesh welcomed the audience, a short, vibrant percussive solo in Khanda Chapu tala by one of the leading disciples, Kumbakonam Ramakrishnan accompanied by Madippakkam Murali, gave a bright start to the proceedings. A brief multimedia presentation with tributes by several eminent musicians and clippings of classroom sessions of Rajappa Iyer with some of his senior students was screened.

The highlight of the event was certainly an outstanding display of tremendous skill by two young talents, Subrahmanyam from the US, currently an IITian here and Akshay Anand (from Bengaluru), both of them trained to perfection by K.S. Kalidas, in the “Pazhani" style of mridangam playing. K.S. Kalidas, at first explained the invaluable concept of playing the “Chatusram” (sarvalaghu) in concerts which is no easy task and which has its own intricate, nuanced approach. He further spoke of his training under Palani Subramania Pillai. Kalidas, a mechanical engineer by education and by profession a very senior official (retired) of the Indian Railways, has taken it as a mission to propagate the “Pazhani" school, to the future generation, in order to preserve its excellence for posterity. The two students made their teacher proud with their immense skill, involvement and stunning performances, each one carrying himself with ample confidence and verve. Eminent members of the audience like the Bombay Sisters and all leading students of Rajappa Iyer encouraged them in great appreciation. It was indeed, a fitting tribute to the great teacher Rajappa Iyer. V. Sundararaghavan, senior disciple and board member of Layodaya proposed a vote of thanks.

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