Song of Surrender

Monday, 28 May 2018

Yazhpanam Thedchanamoorthy

Amshan Kumar's film on a tavil maestro

By V Ramnarayan

The Sri Lankan Tamil contribution to Carnatic music, especially to the nagaswaram-tavil tradition of mainly temple music is perhaps not widely known. Some 20th century vidwans of Tamil Nadu had close ties with their Lankan counterparts and there was considerable artistic traffic between the two nations, with the Tamils of Eelam in particular thirsting for such exchanges. Well known documentary filmmaker Amshan Kumar recently exhibited a documentary on Yazhpanam Thedchanamoorthy (1933-1975), regarded by many as the greatest tavil vidwan in history, prefacing the film wth a Powerpoint presentation titled  Carnatic Music Tradition of Sri Lanka. Amshan Kumar has every reason to be proud of his accomplishment, as the task of making it—at the request of the The Tavil legend Yazhpanam Thedchanamoorthy Foundation of London whose chairman Gana.Natkunan and chief advisor R.Pathmanaba Iyer in particular were the prime movers behind the project—presented a huge challenge with precious little documentation available on the life and work of the artist.
It took Amshan Kumar more than two years to complete the production, but supplementing the handful of photographs of the vidwan and his family with rare recordings and interviews with the family and fellow musicians in both countries, he completed the work in 2015. Despite the inadequacy of the material, he has delivered a remarkable product, which gives the viewer excellent insights into the genius of the great percussionist. Unsurprisingly, the documentary went on to win a national award.

The maestro`s forefathers migrated from India and settled there. Born at Inuvil village in northern Sri Lanka, on 26 August 1933 he was barely 42 when he died , on 15 May 1975, to be precise, following lengthy periods of ill health. As a child of eight, he had been put by his tavil vidwan father through several gruelling hours of practice. Thanks to his precocity in the art, he was taken to India for advanced lessons from the eminent vidwan Raghava Pillai. Within 18 months, Raghava Pillai was so impressed by his ward that he sent him back to Sri Lanka to perform and learn on his own, because he felt he had nothing more to teach his brilliant pupil.
When he returned years later to perform in Tamil Nadu, he was already  a star and mesmerised his audiences with his extraordinary skill (Here's a sample:  Many local tavil stalwarts acknowledged his influence on their music, while others attended his concerts incognito! The recordings of his extraordinary tavil playing and his iconic photographs featured in the film offer proof of the maestro's consummate artistry and charisma. The film describes him as the greatest tavil player the world has known, and and it is hard to disagree.
For someone who claims no special qualifications to make a documentary film on a musician, Amshan Kumar has shown a rare understanding of the ethical, psychological and sociological factors that can determine the growth and evolution of a musician, as well as the pride and love that nurture and protect his family, in this case, both during his life and after his premature demise. Kumar is of course the maker of a documentary on Carnatic vocalist Manakkal Rangarajan, while his films on Subramania Bharati and Ashokamitran are perhaps his best known works.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

RR Keshavamurthy

                                                                Birthdays & Anniversaries
27.5.1914 - 23.10.2006

Friday, 25 May 2018

Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair

                                                              Birthdays & Anniversaries

25.5.1925 - 11.3.2013
                                       To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 206

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

CV Chandrasekhar

                                                                Birthdays & Anniversaries
                                        To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 337,349

Monday, 21 May 2018

Kalamandalam Gopi

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries
                                         To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 93-94.272

Anita Ratnam

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries
                                           To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 154,187,286,395

Sunday, 20 May 2018

MD Ramanathan

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries
20.5.1923 - 27.4.1984
                                          To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 8,226,335

Maharajapuram Santhanam

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

20.5.1928 - 24.6.1992
                                              To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 63-64,95

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Girish Karnad

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries

                                      To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 356

Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar

                                                              Birthdays & Anniversaries

19.5.1890 - 23.1.1967
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Friday, 18 May 2018

T K Jayarama Iyer

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

Thursday, 17 May 2018

H Yoganarasimham

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 325

Kumudini Lakhia

                                                              Birthdays & Anniversaries

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Tuesday, 15 May 2018


The two-day celebration of Padma Swaminathan’s 100th birthday on 1 December at Brindavan Hill, Coimbatore was attended by her family including (L to R): Nandini Shankar (great granddaughter), Shankar Devraj (Sangita’s husband), T.S. Jairam (son) and Vani Jairam, Padma Swaminathan, N. Rajam and T.S. Subramanian (son), Sangita Shankar (granddaughter) and Ragini Shankar (great granddaughter). It was followed by a violin concert by N. Rajam (daughter-in-law) with Sangita, Nandini and Ragini accompanied by Kedar Kharaton (tabla). Vocalist Vani Jairam (daughter-in-law) rendered a few compositions.

The 34th Kinkini Nrithyotsava was inaugurated by Prathibha Prahlad (senior Bharatanatyam dancer, organiser and writer) on 21 January 2018 in Bengaluru. The five-day festival featured solos, duets and thematic group presentations in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Mohini Attam, as well as a Mohini Attam-Kathakali jugalbandi titled Radha Madhavam directed by guru Sadanam Balakrishnan.

The third Vellore G. Ramabhadran Award was presented on 27 January 2018 to violin maestro M. Chandrasekaran by chief guest Trichur V. Ramachandran at the Tattvaloka auditorium in Chennai. The award, instituted in 2016 to recognise outstanding contribution in the field of Carnatic music, carries a citation and a purse for 10,000 rupees. The speakers, including Cleveland V.V. Sundaram and ‘Hamsadhwani’ R. Sundar, narrated incidents highlighting the qualities of Ramabhadran as a person and a mridanga vidwan. This was followed by a violin concert by M. Chandrasekaran and his daughter G. Bharathi. They were accompanied by Vellore Ramabhadran’s senior disciple Ramesh Srinivasan (mridangam), S.V. Ramani (ghatam) and Girija (tambura).

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Prem Lata Sharma

                                                              Birthdays & Anniversaries

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Kalakshetra Foundation

                                                               Admission Open

Mallika Sarabhai

                                                                 Birthdays & Anniversaries
                        To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 277,280,291,344,354

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Girija Devi

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries

8.5.1929 - 24.10.2017

To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 250

Jnan Prakash Ghose

                                                                Birthdays & Anniversaries

8.5.1909 - 18.2.1997

Monday, 7 May 2018

Aban Mistry

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

   To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 380

Saturday, 5 May 2018

KP Kittappa Pillai

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries
5.5.1913 - 30.10.1999
                                To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 157,295,344,345,346

Friday, 4 May 2018


                                                                 Birthdays & Anniversaries
4.5.1767 - 6.1.1847

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Maya Rao

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries

2.5.1928  - 1.9.2014

 To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 361

Vasantrao Deshpande

                                                            Birthdays & Anniversaries

2.5.1920 - 30.7.1983

Tuesday, 1 May 2018


Sruti, May 2018

John Arlott was a much loved radio commentator on BBC, a star of its Test Match Special known for his rare descriptive skills. “You have a vulgar voice, but an interesting mind,” was his boss’s verdict early in his career. Arlott’s voice was different from the usual BBC stereotype, but it had character, a rasp and a buzz that excited the listener’s imagination. When for example he described the diminutive Indian batting maestro as “Little Gundappa Viswanath; he has forearms like an ironsmith’s,” the word picture he was creating for you was almost spine-chilling in its imagery.

Listening to a recent vocal concert by Thoppur Sairam was a somewhat similar experience. His voice is hardly vulgar, but it is different from the standard Carnatic music voice (just as Arlott’s unique Hampshire burr was from the more sophisticated voices of the general run of cricket commentators). It is a strong voice, often nasal, and marshalled by someone seemingly focussed on using it as an effective instrument. Its range is impressive too, and the use of vowels in alapana conscious and planned, with minimal intrusion by consonants. Every raga I heard that evening came to life, with its image painted in a poignantly loving manner, despite the occasional awkwardness of phrase, possibly the result of the singer’s acute striving.

I had never heard Sairam before, so it was an altogether pleasant discovery of a new voice for me. He was accompanied by M.R. Gopinath (violin) and B. Ganapathyraman (mridangam), and it seemed the trio were immersed in a spirit of homage to the memory of Venkateswaran, a diehard rasika of music who haunted every Chennai sabha until he passed away some years ago. I did not ask the organisers of the memorial concert why they had chosen the vidwans of the evening. Were they Venkateswaran’s favourite musicians? They probably were, for having known Venkateswaran personally I could see that he would have approved of the kind of music they offered that evening.

Venkateswaran was in his early seventies when he passed away, with his proverbial boots on, as he was at concert venues almost till the very end, which was sudden and unexpected. He was a systematic listener who took down notes, and had a clutch of fellow fans surrounding him, often feverishly identifying ragas and composers, sharing nuggets of knowledge, even disrupting the peace sometimes. He stayed back after the concert to personally appreciate (or criticise) the artists. He loved Hindustani music and he often felt let down by the lack of importance given to the voice in contemporary Carnatic music. “All of you go and drown yourselves in the ocean,” he once admonished our singers after a Hindustani vocal concert that met his exacting standards. You did not always agree with him but could not help admiring his spirit.

I find it amazing that Chennai actually takes the trouble to organise an annual concert in memory of a rasika, a humble one with no claims to fame or pedigree. Srikanth Hariharan, S. Sivakumar, S. Kannan and Lakshminarasimhan are among the devout rasikas who have been honouring their friend’s memory in this manner. This year, Naada Inbam at Raga Sudha Hall, Luz, presented the concert, while Arkay Convention Centre had done so in the past. As for the audience, all the usual suspects were there, many of them as devoted to music as Venkateswaran was. May their tribe increase, and what a wonderful gesture!