Profiles of Artistes, Composers, Musicologists
Unless otherwise specified, the profiles in this section are
The Garland, Another Garland, Yet Another Garland and The
Fragrant Garland by Mr.N.Rajagopalan
MANPOONDIA PILLAI - PERCUSSION LEGEND......................(19th Century)
Manpoondia Pillai blossomed forth into a legendary figure in the art of
percussion. Underwent training with Tirugokarnam Mariappa Pillai,
a tavil vidwan. The credit for making the Kanjira concert-worthy
is attributed to him. His versatality on that simple instrument,
the brilliance and thrill of his play and his supreme fingering techniques
to meet the varied demands of a concert, the tone and rhythm he was able
to develop on that instrument which lacks facilities for tonal adjustments
are proverbial. His protegies, Pudukottai Dakshinamurthi Pillai and
Palani Subramania Pillai said that he had no equal in the art. There
was a period of ascendancy of 'Laya' during and subsequent to his period
with Dakshinamurthi Pillai and vocalists Naina Pillai, Konerirajapuram
Vaidyanatha Ayyar and Chitoor Subramania Pillai patronizing it.
R.Rangaramanuja Ayyangar, 'is a comprehensive term embracing a keen sense
of rhythm, tempo, arithmetical precision, etc. A firm grip over laya
is indispensable for the central, leading figure in a concert ensemble.'
imparted considerable tension to the atmosphere and the audience was breathless
with excitement'. Manpoonida Pillai and his associates gave emphasis
- perhaps natural for percussionists - to predominance of Laya at concerts
and prominent vocalists became votaries to that style.
Ayyar mentions about Kanjira Krishnamachariar and Tiruvidaimarudur Kanjira
Radhakrishna Ayyar who belonged to a generation earlier tp that of Manpoondia
Pillai, whom he describes as 'competent to play for any vidwan'.
This shows that kanjira was in use earlier too..
S.N - VOCALIST.............(b. December 8, 1914)
born in Sasalu of Nanjappa Upadru. He learnt music under Melkote Narasinha
Ayyar, Palghat Someswara Bhagavathar (higher studies, theory & concert
techniques). Mariappa entered the cinema world under H.R.Padmanabha which
provided rich scope to his good talent, knowledge and expertise. His classical
style had been appreciated by Tiger Varadachariar and others. He had been
conducting festivals and honouring many aristes. Was well versed in yakshaganas
and songs for dramas too. Mariappa has composed varnams, kritis, javalis,
etc., many of which have been used for dramas. Has tuned Astapadis,
Allama Prabhu Rachanas. Was also associated with institutions other
than those he founded.
- title conferred at Kolahpur
Gana Kala Mandira, Mysore (with branches elsewhere)
PILLAI - COMPOSER...........................(18th Century)
of the renowned Arunachala Kavirayar, author of 'Rama Natakam' and born
in a pious and religious family, Marimutha Pillai is a noted author of
tamil songs rich in spiritual and philosophical content. he enjoys
easy paced but majestic command in tamil and the songs point to a rich
and imaginative mind. he has taken to 'Nindastuti' (praise through
sarcasm) style of composing, critical on the face of the song but highly
devotional and deeply philosophical. Some of his songs:
ichai kondal - Kalyani
modi than Umakku - Surati
conceived, highly innovative and suggestive, his songs present rich scope
for imaginative dance presentation and hence few abhinaya recitals happen
to omit his pieces. There is no regimentation of words or artificiality
in composing as seen in most of the modern compositions built up brick
by brick, the artificial nature of which stands exposed. Marimutha
Pillai's devotional compositions started when he was ordained to compose
a 'Prabhandam' in praise of God to get back his first son who had renounced
worldly life and left. 'Puliyur Venngaba' was the result and Pillai
was blessed with the return of his son. He had spent his life in
pursuit of the Lord through his compositions of undying and unfading appeal
MURTHY - DOYEN OF MRIDANGAM ARTISTES.......................(August 13,
Chitrai Tirunal was the distinguished visitor to the school. A boy
of eight accompanied on mridangam his classmate, Chellamani. The
cultured ruler was delighted. None could object to a request for
enocre in a school and particularly so, when it is from Royalty.
The pleased ruler presented the mridangist with a gold medal. The
parents were ignorant of the boy's aptitude and attainments. The
Maharajah advised Thanu Bhagavathar, father of the boy to encourage his
inclinations. Thus the nominal training from his brothers became
a fait accompli and T.K.Murthy, the boy became a confirmed percussionist.
He had a brief advent in a drama troupe in which the father of K.J.Yesudas
was participating. Favourable stars guided him to Tanjore Vaidyanatha
Ayyar, the eminent mridangist. He was pleased with the delightful
play of Murthy in a musical discourse and was equally delighted to take
him as his disciple.
Ayyar, fondly called Vaithianna, took Murthy to Tanjore, where Palghat
Mani Ayyar and Thambuswami, brother of T.M.Thiagarajan were under training.
Murthi was not a mere disciple. He was taken like an adopted son
by the Guru and his noble consort. They bestowed love and care on
him. They were prevented from taking him in adoption with religious
rites but the abscence of that formality only bound the aged couple more
closely to the bright boy, whom they called 'sittu' after the sparrow,
small, alert and dynamic. Thus, born of Mahadanapuram Thanu Ayyar,
T.K. Murthy found his mentor in Tanjore Vaidyanatha Ayyar, to whom he offers
ceremonial oblations and rites still as a true son should. Did not
Rama perform the obseqies of Jatayu, the venerable bird? More so,
here as religion ordains that, 'he, who teaches one with merit, is also
a father'. T.K.Murthy is as singularly unique in his praiseworthy
conduct as he was singularly lucky in reaching that guru by chance.
Vaidyanatha Ayyar even declined to release him when as offer came for appointing
him as asthana vidwan when he was twelve as he (guru) feared that it would
spoil his training and development.
his debut at the age of twelve at Coimbatore in a concert of Musiri Subramania
Ayyar with Karur Chinnaswami Ayyar on violin and Tanjore Vaidyanatha Ayyar
on mridangam. He accompanied M.S.Subbulakshmi regularly in all her
cocnerts including those at Edinborough Festival, the United Nations, Europe,
United States of America and Sri Lanka and has accompanied all other great
He sings well
in Carnatic and Hindustani styles. His leanings to Hindustani music
can be observed when he plays for bhajans and tukkadas and brings out the
nuances and gentleness of the tabla on the mridangam itself. He has
played for celebrated musicians of the North like D.V.Paluskar and Narayana
Rao Vyas. he had left nothing untouched as he had played for street
drama, puppet shw, natyam, etc. The senior mridangam artiste is a
respected and popular figure with his rhythmic exploits, uncanny anticipation,
subtle tonal variations and rhythmic phrases and patterns. He has
received several honours including-
from Sivananda Saraswati, Rishikesh
from the T.N. Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram
from Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar
from Sri Saankaracharya, Kanchipuram
Academy Award in 1987
Ayyar Award by Percussive Arts Centre, Bangalore
Award by Sur Singar Samsad, Bombay
Nataka Academy Fellowship, 1989
HARIKESANALLUR MUTHIAH BHAGAVATHAR A TOWERING
PERSONALITY IN CARNATIC MUSIC.....................................(1877-1945)
person, a connoisseur in dressing (alankarapriya), a multi-faceted artiste
and a man of action and achievement, Muthiah Bhagavathar was a towering
personality in the world of Carnatic music for decades. 'Very few
are the musicians who combine good story-telling with high quality of music
and among the few, Muthiah Bhagavathar was a leading luminary', said E.Krishna
Ayyar. Excellent musical background, rich associations and scholarship
equipped him well to be one of the best exponents of Harikatha (musical
discourse). He was a renowned composer and a disciplinarian.
Once shocked to see a trainee taking the concert platform, to avert possible
disgrace, he went to the spot, took over singing from the disciple and
performed to the unexpected delight of the audience. He was one of
the founders of the Madras Music Academy; had presided over its Expert
Committee and was awarded the title 'Sangeetha Kalanidhi' in 1930.
He was born
on November 15, 1877 at Punalveli near Sri Andal's Srivilliputtur, of musician
Lingam Ayyar and Anandam Ammal. Muthiah Bhagavathar's grandfather
was Muthu Subba Bharathi, a composer-musician and his uncle was the scholar
M.Lakshmana Suri. Music was the staple of the family. On the
demise of his father, he came under the tutelage of his uncle at six.
In 1886, he was placed under Tiruvaiyaru Muthu Ganapatigal for the study
of Vedas. Fortune had guided him to the Centre of Carnatic
music ostensibly for studying Vedas but his natural instinct and aptitude
lay elsewhere. Even as a boy, his folk songs were the rage of the
people. The chiding slap on his cheek by his outraged uncle for taking
part in Kalyanarama Ayyar's theatrical shows drove him to the disciple
of Maha Vaidyanatha Ayyar, violinist Vidwan Sambasiva Ayyar, one in the
disciple-line of Tyagaraja. In 1893, he returned home for intensive
practice for three years. At Tiruvaiyaru, he came into contact with
Mysore Vasudevachar and at Tiruvidaimarudur, he resumed his friendship
with Kallidaikurichi Vedanta Bhagavathar, both budding trainees then.
Made his debut
at Tuticorin at the age of seventeen and was presented with a tambur.
He quickly shot into fame and his brother, Hariharan too got trained and
joined him. Travancore State made the first demand on his services
in 1897 and the ruler Moolam Tirunal made him Asthana Vidwan. His
voice turned turtle and so musical discourse came to be his area of specialisation.
training under Appakudam Sastri and Krishna Bhatt, scholarship in Sanskrit
and Tamil, vast reservoir of wit, humour and episodes, engaging melliflous
speech in Tamil, crisp digressions and innate musical talents soon
carried him to the pinnacle of glory. He had plenty of grit and overwhelming
ambition that knew no defeat or discomfiture. he gave musical discourses
on Tyagaraja spread over several days, though initially he was performing
only Valli Kalyanam. This was facilitated by his ujourn at Thanjavur,
contacts with T.L.Venkatrama Ayyar, help in research and theory from the
famous Abraham Pandithar and the prevailing vibrant intellectual atmosphere.
voice had changed the lives of many. But an incident narrated
by Leslie Ayre may be mentioned here for the sudden problem it created
and how it was resolved. In a performance of 'Boheme', the boss who
was singing colline whispered that he had suddenly lost his voice and could
not sing his aria the COAT SONG. The great tenor told him to move
his lips and, turning his back to the audience sang bass aria for him.
This can happen in Western music or a drama but not in Carnatic music concerts.
Varano', the pada in Khamas, is a captivating piece providing copious scope
for bhava-laden bharatanatya which has enabled numerous artistes including
T.Balasaraswathi to give thrilling performances through decades.
Likewise several songs had been popular and are noted for the depth of
diction and content such as:
pesade - Todi
all composed by the eminent Tamil poet Muthu Thandavar who lived in the
sixteenth century at Sirkali in Tanjore district. Sirkali is a place
of pilgrimage sanctified by Goddess Parvathi suckling the crying baby,
Tirugnana Sambandar, one of the 'Great Four Saivite Saints.'
as he was originally called, was doing service in the temple at Sirkali.
He felt drawn towards a woman doing service there drawing the wrath and
contempt of all. Deserted, driven by hunger and suffering from affliction
and despair, he turned to the Almighty and his prayer was granted when
a teen-aged girl in the garb of the daughter of the temple priest appeared
and advised him to go to Chidambaram for salvation of his ills. He
obeyed. Chidambaram, the seat of the Cosmic Dancer, Nataraja, witnessed
an outpouring of songs from Muthu Thandavar which have been the delight
of the public through the centuries. His padams are couched in dignified
romantic terms. Tiruppambaram Swaminatha Pillai, Flautist and Pedagogue
had set his songs to music. Sixty kritis and twenty five padams are
MEENAKSHISUNDARAM PILLAI - .PERCUSSION WIZARD......................(1894-February
Pillai wasa legend in the field of percussion. He was widely known
and much respected. A genius, his fingers did magical feats, and
the tavil he handled revealed exhilarative potential in rhythm and his
art bordered on riotous devilry. He was able to bring out stunning
and surprising subtelities in laya. His sensitivity to Art extended
to his personal belongings like polishing of his betel box almost every
minute and provide an attractive cloth cover even to his (betel) nut-cutter!
The genius was a diabetic and while asleep dissolved himself with eternity
keeping up his rhythm with nature. He was good at playing kanjira.
Had great (mutual) respect for Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai.
At a concert, Dakshinamurti Pillai playing mridangam forced him to set
on level with him. Meenakshisundaram felt that it was an insult to
the dignity of the Pudukottai maestro to sit so and stopped playing on
kanjira itself. The tone of his play was strong and impeccable and
his solos permutational and captivating.
was the word for dynamic excellence. He drew crowds wherever he went.
A grandmaster in percussion, he was affable and genial and he played with
ease but with inexhaustive energy. A creative artiste, few could
match his innovative artifices and combinations, sound permutations and
laya intricacies. Wizard Panchami, who died young as genius perhaps
has to, once told Pillai, 'I cannot produce your rhythm and melody.'
A rare tribute by another titan.
Naina Pillai told Dakshinamurti Pillai that 'mere professionalism is not
a guarantee of intelligent listening' and picked out one from the crowd
at Sri Kapaleeswarar temple who kept the beat with precision and perfection
even during the three-speed tempo pallavi. When he made a request
for the 'perfect' listener to come, he found to his surprise that it was
Meenakshisundaram Pillai and in choking voice declared:
'How lucky I am. I have been greatly honoured.
Here is an insurmountable performer who is equally a true listener.'
Pillai had his gurukulavasa with Needamangalam Govinda Tavilkarar and Nagapattinam
Venugopala Pillai. Made his debut as second to Mannargudi Narayanaswami
Nagaswarakarar in his twelfth year. Quite strangely, he died in the
midst of a huge gathering of well-wishers, relatives and admirers who had
gathered for the marraige of his son. A good singer, he kept a very
accurate diary and used only pure kahadi.