Tuesday, 10 October 2017


Birthdays & Anniversaries

BM. Sundaram is hailed as a multilinguist, research scholar, musicologist, writer, composer and an eloquent speaker. On 27 March 2016, students of Vani Sangeetha Vidya Gurukulam where he teaches music, organised a function to celebrate the 81st birthday of the octogenarian.

Bala Meenakshisundaram Sundaram – popularly known as BMS – derives his name from his mother Balambal and his father Meenakshisundaram Pillai, the great tavil maestro from Needamangalam. He was born on 10 October 1934. He was the first disciple to learn music in gurukulavasam from Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna. He has a M.A. in Music and Ph.D in Musicology.

He served All India Radio, Pondicherry, as Music Composer and Music Producer for over a decade. It provided him opportunities to come in contact with the great musicians of his time. During his tenure he arranged for several “Invited Audience” programmes in many towns. While serving in AIR-Pondicherry, he organised several music recitals on the sixth day of the Natyanjali Festival after five days of dance programmes at the Chidambaram Nataraja temple. For as long as he was in AIR, these programmes were an annual feature.

He was a guest lecturer of Indian Music at Wheaton University, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Though he wrote monologues and submitted papers on various aspects of music, he first authored Palai Azhi (on the ascents and descents of more than 4000 raga scales). Most of his works were written and published only after he retired from All India Radio. He might have collected the details and information for these books even while he was in service but the books were printed later.

His writings can be classified broadly into two categories – musicological and historical. Books such as Palai Azhi, Tala Sangraha and Tana Varna Tarangini are writings on the grammar of music. In Tala Sangraha, he has given the details of some 1100 talas, while Tana Varna Tarangini deals with 880 varnams (with all available pathantara variations). BMS himself has composed 22 tana varnams.

In the second category, he wrote books containing hundreds of brief biographies. At that time, details about vidwans who lived in smaller towns and villages in Tamil Nadu were known only to a few. His first work in this category, Mangala Isai Mannargal, consisted of details biographical, and of the musical lineage and unique expertise of 126 nagaswaram and tavil maestros. He also listed a similar number of vidwans who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries.

His next book, in 2003, was on dancers Marabu Tantha Manickangal (Jewels of Tradition). It covered the biographical details of 121 dancers mostly of those belonging to the devadasi tradition. To complete the folio, Marabu Vazhi Natya Peraasaangal (Great Masters of the Dance Tradition), covering the lives and achievements of nattuvanars was published.

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