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Banni Bai, born in 1912, belonged to the village called Chittukkadu near Pat tab hiram. Her parents were Duraisani Amma and Parthasarathy. This couple was blessed with five daughters: Janakavalli, Jivaratnam, Alarmelu aka Banni Bai, Lakshmikantam and Saraswati. They also had a son named Nagabhushanam.
Banni Bai's maternal grandmother, her mother and her aunts were all performing musicians. The family wished that one, of the children, preferably Banni, should take up Harikatha. In the event she did. Even at the age of seven, she had already learnt several compositions to accompany her sister janakavalli in the latter's music recitals. When she turned nine, she started learning Sadir. Her teachers were Kanchipuram Tiruvenkata Pillai and Mylapore Gowri Amma.
Preparation for a career as a story-teller, Harikatha style, required tutelage under many. She learnt music from Appakutti Pillai, Kumbakonam Swaminatha Iyer, Narayanaswami Iyer, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, his disciple Vaidya- nathan, Veena Dhanammal, Kalakkad Ramnarayana Iyer, his brother Kalakkadu Mahadeva Iyer, and the celebrated composer Kotiswara Iyer .
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