S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Saturday, 31 March 2018


Sruti, April 2018

The venerable D.K. Pattammal was a sprightly 64 when we launched Sruti magazine. Can you imagine the excitement the young Sruti team (the editor Pattabhi Raman was himself a mere stripling at 50) experienced when the lady, all smiles and looking quite grand in her tasteful silk sarees, visited Alapana, the home of the editor as well as the magazine, on more than one occasion and so graciously opened up about her life and times with her interviewer Gowri Ramnarayan and facilitated the young journalist’s first contribution to any magazine. Pattammal appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue and we could not have asked for a more auspicious Pillaiyar suzhi. Other stars were featured in that issue. The boy prodigy U. Srinivas shared space with the Sangita Kalanidhi on the cover, which also had dancers Lakshmi Viswanathan and Sonal Mansingh on it. But make no mistake. Pattammal was the superstar among all these artists. Today we have entered Pattammal’s centenary year, and we cannot help feeling that her blessings have carried us thus far in our own journey.

Soon followed another memorable profile of another enduring icon, a Sangita Kalanidhi like Pattammal, but from the world of Bharatanatyam, in fact the only dancer to be so decorated so far. Tanjavur Balasaraswati (born 1918) was another supreme artist whose centenary is being celebrated this year. Bala too was generous with the time she gave Sruti, and Pattabhi Raman and Anandhi Ramachandran, the two authors of the Bala piece, virtually walked on air while she gave them a ringside view of the Dhanammal legacy. Others like S. Guhan and T. Sankaran were invaluable resources and the successive profiles of Pattammal, T.N. Seshagopalan, Rukmini Devi Arundale and Balasaraswati gave Sruti the kind of flying start even Tendulkar-Ganguly-Sehwag could not have bettered. It is therefore not easy for us at Sruti not to remember these icons with abundant gratitude over and above the awe and wonder their stellar careers and extraordinary qualities of head and heart inspire in all of us.

We must also stop to acknowledge the contributions of the many friends and well wishers who freely gave of their time and knowledge to Sruti, thus helping it to build a formidable database of stories true and apocryphal. Their many articles, solicited and voluntary, were of course edited and polished to provide the reader a veritable treasure house of recent history of music and dance the likes of which had seldom been seen outside academic publications.

A look at the contents page of the magazine in the early months and years will easily prove that Sruti was indeed the beneficiary of some rare wisdom from scholars, connoisseurs and rasikas. What these remarkable pioneers of the Sruti tradition—S. Rajam, M. Krishnan, S. Krishnan, S.K. Saxena, S.T.P. Sarathy, K.S. Muthuraman, V.S. Sundararajan, Manna Srinivasan and P.C. Jayaraman to name a few—have done is to place a considerable burden of responsibility on their successors; in Sruti and elsewhere. They have well and truly raised the bar for arts journalism in this part of the world. We sorely miss them, just as much as we miss Balasaraswati, Rukmini Devi and Pattammal.

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