S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Friday, 1 March 2019


Awards and accolades alone cannot be the yardstick to measure the greatness and goodness of people. S. Rajam and Charukesi S. Viswanathan were two such persons who did not receive the recognition they deserved. For them work was indeed worship, and they believed in selfless service. We are proud of the fact that the two gentlemen had a long lasting association with Sruti till their last breath.

S. Rajam respected tradition and believed in fostering it. He was a creative artist who encouraged innovation within the traditional framework. He was a rasika of excellence in any form. As these are the very values Sruti stands for, it is no wonder that Rajam and Sruti got on so well. He would spend hours with us discussing and explaining matters of music and art. He was indeed our most dependable resource person as he was a musician, music teacher, scholar and artist—all rolled into one. Rajam was a great friend of the magazine and was a grandfather figure for all of us at Sruti for almost 25 years, especially after the untimely demise of founder-editor N. Pattabhi Raman. In fact, it was he who suggested we should have someone as knowledgeable and eminent as K.V. Ramanathan to steer us through the difficult period. Rajam’s illustrations on musical themes and personalities adorned the pages of Sruti for more than two decades—sometimes on the front cover, sometimes inside. Rajam reviewed audio recordings for Sruti under the penname ‘Sundaram Bharadwaj’. He was very happy when we started serialising his 72-melakarta calendar and paintings. The subject was something very close to his heart. His Music Appreciation Notes covering the 72 melakartas, janya ragas, and notes on more than 70 ragas, was very popular among Sruti readers. We have catalogued all his notes on ragas and brought out a special E-book to commemorate S. Rajam’s centenary.

In 1991, I had the wonderful opportunity of being his painting assistant while he was working on a series of paintings portraying the 67 Sankaracharyas. The experience gave me a close insight into the way he researched every subject, his unique painting technique, and his untiring dedication to his work. He gave generously of his knowledge—be it music, painting or good advice. Working with him was not only a learning experience, it was great fun. He was probably the only person to combine both music and painting so beautifully and seamlessly—one enriching the other. His original paintings of the saptaswara devatas on treated plywood adorn the walls of the Sruti office at Cathedral Road. The Sruti-Rajam collaboration was mutually rewarding. It is quite impossible to describe the scholarship, vidwat and versatility of such a treasure trove of knowledge, but the centenary has given us an opportunity to relive our association with S. Rajam. In this issue, veteran musicologist Dr. N. Ramanathan recalls the man and his music for Sruti readers.

Charukesi, the prolific bilingual writer and organiser, was a simple, self-effacing man who could never say ‘No’. He was ever ready to help others and believed in encouraging talent. His writing was marked by his subtle sense of humour. We pay our tribute to this principled, dependable writer who never missed a deadline.

We have articles on two dance conclaves held during the season which offer “food for thought”. We also have reports on the DKP 100 celebrations and the Parikrama festival curated by disciples, and the feature on Nalanda Dance Research Centre in Mumbai—which highlight the prevalent guru-sishya and family relationships in private music-dance schools and recognised institutions.

Our performing arts have flourished and have been successfully transmitted via the guru-sishya mode for centuries. However, recent happenings have shown that everything is not hunky-dory with the system and blind faith has heightened the dark areas of partiality and predatory behaviour. It would be wise to take a relook at the close knit guru-sishya system and make it more open and transparent.

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