Aalaap

Saturday, 28 October 2017

T.S. Sankaran

28.10.1930 - 9.4.2015
Birthdays & Anniversaries

T.S. Sankaran was the son of flute vidwan T.N. Sambasiva Iyer from whom he imbibed music and flute playing at a very tende  age. The family hailed from the village of Sathanur in the musically and culturally rich Kaveri delta. Family folklore dating back a couple generations speaks of associations with the illustrious 19th century son of Sathanur, musician Panchanada Iyer, a disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar.


Later on, “Sankaran sir” (as he was to all who knew him) was a loving and dedicated disciple as well as perhaps the closest confidante of the legendary Mali. “Mali sir” was a native of Tiruvidaimarudur, a mere stone’s throw from Sathanur. In a conversation with the poet Vali, published in the Tamil weekly Kumudam sometime in the 1960s, Mali hailed Sankaran as an Ekalavya who perfectly imbibed his style without any direct instruction. That said, Sankaran was no carbon copy of his guru. He was an original musical thinker and the innovator of a unique flute playing style. He certainly took the best elements of the Mali style, added his personal touches and perhaps combined it with other elements reminiscent of the great nagaswara vidwan T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai whom Sankaran held in the highest esteem. What he evolved was an exquisite gayaki style. When playing kritis, it was marked by great poise and control, the kalapramanam steady, precise and unhurried, the sahitya clearly articulated by an optimal blend of blowing, tonguing and fingering. His raga alapanas combined the core gamakas with long, perfectly sruti aligned karvais and interspersed by rapid fire nagaswaram-like brigas. Sankaran’s use of blow modulation for expressivity is unique among Carnatic flautists who depend mostly on fingering techniques for this purpose. Furthermore, he used head movement effectively for precise enunciation of certain gamakas and as part of his overall expression. While his “viral adi” or fingered staccato was of the strong Mali school variety, he also used true tuthukaaram or tonguing for clear cut articulation of swaraprastara. Mention must also be made of the beautiful Mali school cross fingering techniques that lent so much character and weight to spuritams. Sankaran’s posture was perfectly erect and he held his flute in a most graceful and elegant way. His gentle swaying and eye movements communicated the bhava of the music wonderfully to the fellow musicians on stage and to the listeners in front of him. 


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