Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Equal to male vidwans 
(Excerpted from the Sruti archives)

Octogenarian nagaswara artist Madurai Ponnutayi passed away on 17 January 2012 in Madurai after a brief illness.

The nagaswaram is an ancient musical instrument that has lasted through the centuries to be part of music during the daily and festive rituals in temples to this day, particularly in south India. Innumerable agaswara artists have handled and are handling this instrument traditionally. Though the nagaswaram has mostly been played exclusively by male artists, there have been some women too in this field.

Traceably, the earliest lady who became an expert in handling this instrument was Ramu Ammal (she passed away in 1980 at the age of 53). Another lady by name Sarada Ammal joined her as the second nagaswara player. Both of them were trained by Tanjavur A.K. Raju Naidu (paternal uncle of A.K.C. Natarajan). In this troupe were two lady tavil players – Pakkiri Ammal (a brilliant tavil player highly appreciated by Palghat Mani Iyer) and Kalyani. These two women were the students of Keevalur Ratnam Pillai. This troupe became very popular as the Tanjavur Women Nagaswara Set (in Tamil they were referred to as Pombalai melam). After Ramu and Sarada more ladies entered the field – Vaideeswarankoil Vadivu, Selvambal and Tanjavur Samavalli, to name a few. But the one highly talented and very eminent woman exponent of the nagaswara was Madurai Ponnutayi. All these women invariably belonged to the Isai Velalar community.

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