– ರಾಮಕೃಷ್ಣ ಬೆಳ್ಳೂರು
– ರಾಮಕೃಷ್ಣ ಬೆಳ್ಳೂರು
21. Hoton se chulo tum [Prem Geet] – Not one line or a stanza, this is one song which makes me cry from beginning till the end. The starting, the way it picks up and the legend Jagjith Singh’s voice, wah! Indeewar’s lyrics are top class,… I specially love these lines:
Jag ne Chhinaa Mujhse
Mujhe Jo Bhi Lagaa Pyaaraa
Sab Jitaa Kiye Mujhse
Main Har Dam Hi Haaraa
Tum Haar Ke Dil Apnaa
Meri Jit Amar Kar Do
22. Matilda – I consider the best thing my uncle in the US ever did was to bring this ‘Belafonte At Carnegie Hall’ full-length gramophone LP and play it to us on the Grundig Record Player. I remember hearing this song when I probably was a two year old. I used to keep my ears next to the speakers (one song left speaker, the other right speaker) and used to think there are people sitting inside the record player and playing the songs.
Belafonte, in between the Matilda number, says these lines (which is what makes the song special):
All the big spenders… Matilda
People in the tears there… Matilda
Those people on Scholarship… Matilda
Women over Forty (I know they’re out there)… Matilda
Evvvrybawdy Hu One Two Three Four… Matilda
Even today, when I hear Belafonte sing these lines in between the song, it brings tears in my eyes.
23. Yeh Zindagi usi ki hai [Anarkali]– Associate this and the next song with Doordarshan. I saw these songs at my neighbour’s house on a Black and White Dyanora (with shutter doors). Haunting tune, simple beats, lovely voice.
24. Aapki Nazron ne samjha [Anpadh]– The tune is so mesmerizing. The minimal orchestration is such a pleasure to hear.
25. Aa Karnananthe [Karna]– This is a song from the movie ‘Karna’, where Vishnuvardhan’s family is short of money and he is on his way to donate his kidney. Being criticized throughout the film, it is he who helps the family at the critical hour. Very touching lyrics and tune.
26. Vidhi Vipareetha [Satya Harishchandra]– Admire Ghantasaala for the variety he has brought in this song! From the sounds of ghosts and grandeur of the palace (using sitar), to the raagamalike to match Hunsur Krishnamurthy’s superb lyrics. These are the lines (describing Harishchandra’s plight) which brings tears:
Chathurambhodhipareetha sarvabhuviyam taam staapisal
Karadol taanaantha kolondadim chiteyam talluta
Rudrabhumilihanaiyyo entha vaichitryavo
27. O Saathi Re [Muqaddar Ka Sikandar]– “Pyaar ye toote na, Tu mujhse roote na, saans ye choote kabhi na” and the seriousness that Kishore brings to the song at the beginning with the humming makes this song dear to me.
28. Olume Poojegende [Anupama]– One of the best SPB-S Janaki numbers. An unforgettable Ashwath-Vaidy compositions. The slow pace and the Hindustani touch in the tune takes you to a different time zone.
29. Neene Sakida Gini [Maanasa Sarovara]– A middle aged psychiatrist finds a young insane woman wandering aimlessly along the streets. He takes her to his abode for treatment. Slowly the woman recovers from her trauma. The doctor promptly falls in love with her and decides to marry her. In the meantime, the doctor’s nephew arrives and falls head over heels to her. The doctor cannot tolerate this intimacy and goes insane.
It is at this juncture this song is shown. Puttanna Kanagal, Vijayanarasimha, Vijayabhaskar – what a trio!
[Also, can’t stop putting Puttanna and Arathi in place of Srinath and Padmavasanthi when I hear this song.]
30. Kannada nadina Rasikara manava [Ranganayaki]– SPB has rendered this number in a very sober way, that too for Ambareesh, coz Ambi was not yet a rebel star. Different moods are conveyed effortlessly. When SPB sings “Hogi baa”, tears appear!
31. Devasabhathalam [His Highness Abdullah]– Love this beautiful jugalbandhi song by Yesudas, Raveendran and Sujith. The trio sing “anuthathamudhatha swaritha prajayam thandava mukharalaya prabhavam pranavakaaram sangeetham aa nomtha nomtha nomtha aanandam ananthaanandham jagathaanandam sangeetham” in perfect harmony!
32. Hindanagali [Malaya Maarutha]– Such meaningful words from the saint Akkamahadevi! And what a raaga to sing it in – Sahana. The notes in ascending and descending scale do not follow a strict progression, but are zig-zag. Hence the note phrases contain such vakra phrases, lending a unique beauty to this raga. When Sahana is playing, she makes the whole world stop and listen!
hinDanagali hiDivaDeda kunjara tanna vindhyava nenevante nenevenayyabandhanakke
banda giLi tanna bandhuva nenevante nenevenayya
kandA nInitta bArendu nimmandava tOrayya chenna mallikArjuna
33. Shiva Shiva Endare [Bhakta Siriyala]– Another sober SPB number I love to hear anytime for its unhurried and calm pace. When Siriyala (played to perfection by Lokesh) tells “Kayaka madutha endendu, Aatmanandava saviyutiru”, tears swell!
34. Ganesha Ninna Mahime [Ganesha Mahime] – Yet another SPB number sung in such earnest manner (composed by MSV). When we hear the flute bit in between the lines “Kangalalli swami ninna divya murthy tumbali” and “kivigalalli dinavu ninna keerthi thumbi kareyali”, it makes me emotional.
35. Aadisidaata Besara moodi [Kasturi Nivasa]– A rare time when we get to hear the maestro GK Venkatesh’s voice (before this, we had heard him singing Kannadada makkalella). I remember hearing this song a thousand times when Chi.Udayshanker passed away. The meaning of the song, and Rajkumar’s gait in this song are simply unforgettable! Raj has shown how to convey sadness in just the way he walks!
36. Poojisalende Hoogala Tande [Eradu Kanasu]– Rajan-Nagendra’s signature touch is evident right from the beginning when S Janaki starts the humming. The different ways in which she has rendered ‘Raama’, the line where she hums after ‘maanikyadarathi’ , and the line where she sings for the second time ‘Olidaru channa munidaru channa’ makes me emotional.
37. Shakthi vadivelidum shakthi mayileridum Shanmuga [Thiruvilayadal]– KB Sundarambal’s rendition of the piece [before she starts ‘Pazham Neeyappa’] and the effortless ease with which she shifts to different ragas and octaves, and the alapane, makes my eyes moist thinking what a gifted singer KB was. A favourite of mine.
38. Anbaale Azhagagum Veedu [Pasanga]- James Vasanthan’s idea of choosing legend Balamurali Krishna is a masterstorke. The lovely chorus of kids and the salient prelude played on violins weaves magic.
39. Kaliveedurangiyallo [Desadanam]– A memorable number from Yesudas. The scene from the film is also what adds to the emotions. The song revolves around the personal turmoil faced by the parents of a child who is to be inducted into priesthood by a monastery. The pain of imminent separation from their only child has been beautifully portrayed by the characters played by Vijayaraghavan and Mini Nair.
40. Jo Achyutananda Jo Jo Mukunda – A lullaby to lord sri krishna composed by saint Tallapaka Annamacharya in the melodious and divine voice of MSS.
Blessed with a rich and resonant voice, she struck an immediate rapport with the audience. Coming straight from the heart, her Mellifluous and Sublime music transported the scholar and commoner alike. The aesthetic experience was equivalent to experiencing the Brahman. Soaked in spirituality, her music reached the rasikas effortlessly.
An artiste extraordinaire, MS’ timeless and priceless music and the saintly aura was enhanced every moment of her life kaaya-vaacha-manasa and of course through her divine music.
Yet, she was so humble that her body language conveyed that all this was the Grace of God; not of her making. In his composition, “Shanthamuleka” in Sama raga, Sri Thyagaraja has pleasingly delivered the essence of Shantha rasa, which we can so easily associate with MS.
To quote Rajaji, “The way of devotion is not different from the way of knowledge or Jnana. When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the mind, it becomes wisdom. When wisdom is integrated with life, and issues out in action, it becomes Bhakti. Knowledge, when it becomes fully mature, is Bhakti…”
The Bhakti-filled renditions of MS can make even a bitter truth in Bhaja Govindam seem very sweet. Not only did she possess true devotion but she could make her listeners experience what true Bhakti was.
What did MS say about her music? She knew that Sangeetha was the Sanmarga to attain divine communion. “If i have done something in this respect, it is entirely due to the Grace of the Almighty who has chosen my humble self as a tool” she said receiving the Ramon Magsaysay award.
On a personal note, I still remember MS telling me, “Atmartha Sangeetha is the supreme form of singing. First you should love your music, only then will others love it.”
It is a different experience to see a performer on stage and off stage. Most of them are inaccessible. But there are few exceptions like MS. I had seen her during Kacheris, read articles and heard elders in the house describe her as a very humble and down to earth person. But I was fortunate to have seen her off stage at such close distance. As we were driving back, the feeling was yet to sink in that I had spent priceless moments with a legend. Listening to the stereo which was playing MS’s Bhavayami Gopalabalam…. I realized that because MS conveyed the meaning of devotion that the audience came to her. And came in millions.
Yours truly gets absorbed into MS’ Sankarabharanam, Khamboji and Todi renditions.
Posts related to MS Subbulakshmi on RwB.
I am P.Rangachary. I am a retired IAS officer from Chennai and i USED to be an avid reader of your blog for a long time. I used to personally know the sadasivams and later on my brother was an employee of The Hindu and we were lucky to attend a few talks R.K.Narayan gave.
I got hooked on to your blog when i was browsing through the net a few years back and carefully tracked how you were writing. I used to silently read it week after week and enjoy it. But, It has been a long since you have put up a posting here. Why? What happened? For those who want to contribute, they can surely open their own blog. This is not a ayappa swamy Hundi or Dharma sathram nor is it rocket science for them to open their blog. It is not difficult.
This blog is ramblings with bellur and it is for you to ramble and people like me who are fans of yours, to read. The others will learn to ramble on their own blogs. They must learn to. It is an old indian adage to say that ‘the curry in the neighbours house is more tastier’. Similarly you are also getting these other outsiders to blog in your blog. Similarly, I used to be an avid reader of your blog till others started seeping in and the quality of writing and everything came down drastically. I was so disappointed that i decided to stop my weekly dosage of RwB. I have come back here after more then a year and i still don’t see you writing that much.
Pardon my ignorance or arrogance, but i think You have become lazy in the excuse of others contributing. Writing is a sadhana that you have taken up. You must stick to it. If you have any friends who are writers, you ask them and they will tell you how much one needs to be dedicated to a work like writing. I remember a great writer once when asked if someone else could write his books, he replied that the same someone else will also ask him if he could sleep with his wife, take over his property and so on and so forth. If you want to read others writing, you can go to their blogs. People like me (who used to be avid readers and fans of your writing) find it very disappointing to see you not writing. So, it is a kind request to you start again. I am sure you have many wonderful topics to write on. I will wait eagerly for the next posting and hopefully it will be from you.
I am not happy that you have got 3 lakh hits. If only you would have written, you would have 10 lakh by now. Let the other fellows go and write their own blogs. I can see that you are yourself encouraging others to write and contribute. It is not bad, but you will agree with me when i say that, the neighbourhood curry tastes nice, but only ONCE IN A WHILE. Overdosage of it can make you forget your own taste or even make you forget the very art of cooking. This is a sincere request from an old retired man. Do not spoil my fun i used to have , of reading this blog, by allowing others.
I hope you will not take me in the wrong sense. I am like a fatherly person to you. I hope to re-start my weekly reading of your blog and hopefully i will see some more of the exciting material i used to read here.
My regards to your family and your children.
Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar was one of the titans of Carnatic Music those days. As a performing mridangam vidwan, along with my father Sri Palakkad Mani Iyer, I got a number of opportunities to accompany Chembai in his concerts as well as to interact with him on a personal level. Chembai was instrumental in laying a firm foundation, for not only my father’s career but also the careers of countless other upcoming artists.
My father was ten or eleven years old when he first met Chembai. He had come to our house at my grandfather’s invitation. This was around 1921. Chembai at that time was already known throughout South India as one of the leading young performers. He was impressed by my father’s mastery over the mridangam and decided to take him on as his accompanist for his future concerts.
During those days, the Bhagavatar was holding an annual music festival at the Parthasarathy Swami Temple in the Chembai village. A concert by Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai was arranged and the mridangist who was to accompany him for some reason, could not make it to the concert and Sri Chembai wanted my father to accompany Sri Nayana Pillai. Pakkiria Pillai was the konnakkol vidwan. Mani Iyer had heard of Nayana Pillai’s mastery over laya. In the concert, Nayana Pillai sang a particularly intricate pallavi. My father made a decent effort to gauge the tala structure and succeeded without much difficulty. It was a new experience for my father to accompany Nayana Pillai. Nayana Pillai made some derisive remarks about Mani Iyer after the concert, which my father did not take too seriously.
Two months later, it was in Trichy for a sabha concert that Mani Iyer was asked to accompany Sri Nayana Pillai again. Rajamanikkam Pillai was to play the fiddle. Mani Iyer accepted the offer and before going to the concert went to his guru Thanjavur Vaidyanatha Iyer and mentioned to him that he was on his way to Trichy for a concert to accompany Sri Nayana Pillai. Thanjavur Vaidyanatha Iyer said “Oh, it is Nayana Pillai you’re going to accompany. He will create difficulties. He tried some tricks with me by not showing the tala when I accompanied him sometime back. I just stopped playing and kept the mridangam aside. But he cannot do anything to you. You are the electronic brain. Do not have any fear”. Mani Iyer then went and played for Nayana Pillai. Pillai sang a very complicated pallavi and did not show his tala openly. Mani Iyer immediately stopped playing and put his mridangam aside. F.G.Natesa Iyer, who was sitting among the audience, got up and requested Nayana Pillai not to test the young lad and asked him to put the tala openly. Nayana Pillai relented and Mani Iyer played with gusto, much to the appreciation of Nayana Pillai and all others present. Many years later, Mani Iyer mentioned that he should have tried to play and not have kept his mridangam aside, but because at that instant, he remembered what his guru had said, he also behaved in a similar manner.
Later Chembai was to sing at a marriage concert in Salem with Mani Iyer. The tavil vidwan Panchami was to play the Kanjira. On arriving at the place, Mani Iyer found that Panchami was seated in his place (usually reserved for the mridangist – to the right of the performer). Panchami Iyer wanted Mani to sit at the back. Mani Iyer was equally unyielding. Chembai said “I will not interfere in this. Settle your disputes yourself”. Someone from the audience told Mani Iyer “Either you play sitting at the back or we’ll take away your mridangam and send you back”. Chembai, who was watching Mani Iyer to see how he would handle the situation, now said in a compromising tone, “Mani, you need not sit at the back. Come here and sit by my side”. So my father performed that day sitting by Chembai’s side.
My father was very dear to Chembai. When some concert organizers used to ask Chembai about his choice for mridangam, invariably his reply would be “If you can arrange for Mani’s mridangam, good; otherwise it does not matter who plays mridangam.” My father also held Chembai in absolute reverence.
There was an unfortunate incident which led to a misunderstanding between my father and Chembai. My father once accompanied M.A.Kalyanakrishna Bhagavatar at the Trivandrum Navarathri Mandapam. My father thought M.A.Kalyanakrishna Bhagavatar deserved much more popularity for all his vidwat (knowledge). So, when the organizers at the Music Academy asked him whether he could accompany Chembai that year, he said, “Would it not be more beneficial for M.A.Kalyanakrishna Bhagavatar if I accompanied him instead of Chembai? Word got around to Chembai that Mani Iyer was not interested in accompanying him. This news embittered Chembai and the rift widened as they did not meet each other to sort things out. Later, at the Sashtiabthapoorthi Celebrations of P.A.Raman Iyer at Bombay, Chembai was to perform. Mani Iyer was also present for the occasion. It was there that Mani Iyer had an opportunity to explain things to Chembai and assure him that he did not have any hard feelings. That brought back the lost rapport and Chembai asked Mani Iyer to accompany him in his concert there, which Mani Iyer did.
My father and Chembai jointly learnt some kritis like Jesinadella, Chetulara etc. from Karur Chinnaswamy Iyer. My father used to tell me he had a great interest in learning vocal music, and had he not taken to playing mridangam, he would have become a vocalist.
My first opportunity to accompany Chembai was at the Thiruvaiyar Thyagaraja Aradhana. My participation in it was quite unexpected. I had just gone there to listen. The organizers wanted me to participate in accompanying some musician. I accepted and the musician was none other than Chembai. Sri V.V.Subramanian was providing fiddle support. The concert was being relayed through AIR. The radio authorities had a practice of not announcing the names of artistes who were not auditioned. Chembai, when he heard that my name would not be announced, said “So what?” The concert commenced and he sang ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’. Just a few minutes after he started singing, in the middle of the song, Chembai suddenly said “The mridangist who is accompanying me here is Rajamani. He is Palakkad Mani’s son. He is an engineer by profession.” The radio authorities were shocked. One of them came near and said “Relay is on!” Chembai replied calmly “I know that”, and proceeded to inform a lot of other details about me over the mike. Later, he told me “I have told all that is there to be told about you in the radio. Are you happy?”
Later I also accompanied Chembai in a concert recorded by the All India Radio in 1963-1964. This was my first radio concert. My father took me to his house two days before that concert. I offered him a veshti and some fruits as a token of my respect and sought his blessings. Since the AIR station was close to Chembai’s house, he asked me to come to his house on the day of the recording and suggested that we all go together. Accordingly, I went to Chembai’s house on that day about an hour before the recording was to commence. Chembai Narayanan was to provide vocal support. We went to the Radio station in Chembai’s car. Sri T.N.Balappa was to play the dolak for the concert. Chembai told him “Balappa, come here. You want your cheque only, is it not. I’ll get you your cheque. Rajamani is playing in the Radio for the first time today. You need not play at all. I will see that you get your cheque.” When the relay was about to begin, Chembai said “When the red light is switched on, play softly. Don’t be too loud. When the green light glows, play as you wish”. This incident made me feel how much he was interested in my success on the dias.
In 1966 or 67, at the Krishna Gana Sabha, my father and myself were to play mridangam for Chembai. At the time we were playing the thani, I and my father taking turns, Chembai abruptly said, looking at my father, “Mani, today you will lose.” We did not know what was going on. The audience was equally clueless. Chembai repeated “Mani you will certainly lose today, no matter what”. When asked for an explanation, he said, “Today, if your son plays better than you, you will lose. If you play better than him, it will mean you haven’t taught him properly. So you will lose in either case. You are going to lose”. The audience, in rapt attention till then, applauded greatly in amusement.
It was the occasion of my marriage, when a lot of the front ranking singers like Chembai, Semmangudi, Ariyakudi, Musiri, Alathur Brothers, etc agreed to perform and I, my father and Sri Umayalapuram Sivaraman took upon ourselves to accompany them for two concerts each. I was to accompany Chembai. Chowdiah was at the violin. After the first few songs, Chembai started singing the song ‘Raghuvara’ in an expansive manner. It is generally quite difficult to make the mridangam more audible when the singer is someone like Chembai, and I was trying my best to keep up to Chembai’s voice. When he started singing swaras, I thought he would sing for a few avartanams. So I played with much effort right from the beginning. But Chembai used to stretch the swara for many avarthanams and the mridangist will get completely exhausted by the time he comes back to the kriti. My father, who was listening, is said to have remarked to his friend about me thus “Rajamani is not quite experienced. This is not the way he should strain himself now. The Bhagavatar will keep singing for a very long time . He should play softly now and reserve his energy for the end.”
Once I was at the Madras Central Railway Station in 1968. There in a first class compartment of the train, were seated Chembai & Yesudas. On seeing me through the window, Chembai wanted to know why I was there and called me inside. I explained that I had come to see a friend off. Then, he asked Yesudas to fetch some drinking water. After he left, I asked Chembai where he was going. “There is a concert we have in Coimbatore tomorrow”, he said. “It is going to be a hundred years concert”. I couldn’t understand. “A hundred years concert?” I asked. “Yes, a hundred years concert. When we perform tomorrow, the sum of my age and that of Yesudas will be 100”. I laughed.
There was this concert of Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi that Chembai went to attend with his wife in a Sabha in Madras. The organisers wanted Chembai to felicitate M.S. by garlanding and blessing her. Chembai did not know what to say, so he asked the organizers to find out whether he garlanding M.S. was objectionable to her. M.S. said that she did not find it objectionable in any way. When Chembai heard this, he said “So she does not have any objection. But ask Sadasivam (M.S.’ husband) whether he has any objection to my garlanding her.” The organizers came back to report that Sri Sadasivam did not have any objection either. Chembai said “So M.S. has no objection, Sadasivam has no objection. Now let’s ask my wife whether she has any objection.” When his wife (Smt. Meenakshi Ammal), who was generally quite reticent in nature, conveyed her no-objection, Chembai observed, “So MS has no objection, Sadasivam does not object, and my wife also does not object, but I do object! She has my blessings but I will not garland her.”
There was this unknown violinist who could just play so and so. After some effort in attempting to coach him up to a certain level, Chembai wanted the violinist to accompany him at a concert. In the concert, the violinist found it really difficult to accompany Chembai and was trying his best not to fumble. On noticing his difficulty, Chembai said openly, “You played well at home, why are you afraid when I’m here.” Though the words did not help the violinist much, it dispelled the idea among the audience that the violinist was mediocre. Chembai was at work again in trying to prop-up yet another artiste.
In the old days, when Chembai used to pay Rs.50 per concert for violin support, there was this violinist who asked for Rs.75. After some thinking, Chembai agreed to pay Rs.75. In the concert the violinist could not keep up with Chembai’s singing. Things reached a point when he had to stop playing. Chembai, with a twinkle in his eyes, said “What happened. You wanted Rs.75, is it not?”
There were concerts in which my father used to play mridangam and Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai used to play kanjira for Chembai. Dakshinamurthy Pillai was a devotee of Lord Muruga, and he would make a vow after the concert not to play again in combination with my father. This was due to the fact that he had put much effort to play with Mani Iyer and each concert was more or less a challenge. He’d say “I will not play with this ‘maana’ again”, referring to my father. He would later, invariably accept concerts with Mani Iyer as mridangist and himself at Kanjira citing financial reasons. On one such occasion, when he asked Chembai for a concert booking, Chembai remarked “So without this maana, there is no paana” (Paana = money).
My father learned many things from Chembai. One important attribute he learned was straightforwardness. It was not for Chembai to talk in a round-about manner. He was bold and direct in everything he did. It was the same with Mani Iyer. My father was always direct and to the point.
Once, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and Mani Iyer and I went to Bombay. The occasion was that Mani Iyer was to be felicitated and awarded at the Bharatiya Sabha. Chembai had been camping in Bombay for some time and he was invited to attend the function. In his speech Mani Iyer spoke at length and acknowledging the contributions of his well-wishers, said “Sri Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar and Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar are like my two eyes.”
No one said anything against Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar since both fellow musicians and the public held him in reverence. But there are two incidents which can be called the only low-points in his life. In those days, in Palakkad, an annual Thyagaraja Aradhana was being held. Once, Chembai went to listen to an artiste and unintentionally sat down in a place reserved for ladies. Someone, on seeing this spoke some derisive and unbecoming words to Chembai. His remarks were particularly unwarranted and harsh, considering a person of Chembai’s age and character. Chembai got up, and without saying a word in reply, left the place. He never since attended any concerts at the Palakkad Thyagaraja Aradhana. In another case it was a concert in which Mani Iyer was playing for Chembai. After Mani Iyer played a brilliant thani, Chembai remarked in Tamil “Oru payalum idhu varaikum ippadi vasichadillai” (No one has played like this before). One observer was indignant that Chembai should not have used the word ‘payal’. He criticized Chembai’s remark in the newspaper saying that he had meant to call all earlier mridangists by using the offensive word and also resorted to dharna and hunger-fast before Chembai’s house demanding an apology. Chembai was put off by the way these things shaped up. He remarked that he did not mean all that he said, that he had only wanted to convey that Mani Iyer had played well, and that he had no disrespect for earlier mridangists.
Years back, Chembai was giving a concert with Mani Iyer at Srinivasa Sastry Hall, Mylapore. He was being given vocal support by his disciple who was a youngster. In the kriti ‘Raghuvamsa sudha’, he was singing a sangathi which needed little effort to sing. When it was to be repeated, he kept quiet allowing his disciple to sing. The disciple with the idea that his master will sing the difficult sangati was just singing the outline, without taking pains to sing it. But by Chembai, keeping quiet, this was exposed to the public. Sri Chembai looked at the disciple and asked “What is it you are doing?” The audience burst into laughter. The incident only shows the sense of humour in him.
There is really no end to the anecdotes on Chembai. I hope my recollections are useful for the readers in getting a better idea of Chembai and the special relationship which my father and I enjoyed with him.
Chembai (1895-1974) performed his last concert on 16 October 1974, at a temple in Ottapalam, which had been the venue of his first concert. He had finished his concert with his favourite song “Karunai Cheivan Endu Thamasam Krishna” (Why is there so much delay in conferring your bliss, Krishna?) and passed away shortly thereafter. Even after his demise, Chembai continues to inspire many musicians who participate in his memorial concerts.
(T.R.Rajamani is a respected and critically acclaimed mridangist in the field of carnatic music. He underwent training under his father, the illustrious, Palghat Mani Iyer. He has accompanied top notch musicians of yester years such as Chembai, G.N. Balasubramaniam, M.L. Vasanthakumari and Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar to name a few. He has also accompanied Lalgudi Jayaraman, K.V. Narayanaswamy and a host of other contemporary musicians.)
I was listening to a recording of a spectacular MS Subbulakshmi concert held in 1978 at Bhakta Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Bombay. The recording quality is mediocre at times but the music makes you forget this. The concert opens with a majestic rendition of khamAs which immediately reminded me of something I read about 40 years ago that I would like to share it with you all.
About 40-50 years ago, an immortal novel called “ThillAnA MohanAmbAL” by KalaimAmaNi Kotthamagalam Subbu was serialized in Ananda Vikatan – the protagonists of the novel are Shanmugasundaram, a nAdaswaram player and MohanAmbAL, a BharatanAtyam dancer. My recollection is that Subbudu modeled his characters respectively after Sri T.N.RAjarathnam PiLLai and Smt. Kamala Lakshman. In the novel, initially they have a competitive relationship which later blossoms
into romance. They challenge each other – his music vs. her dance. The competition starts and Shanmugasundaram plays a few songs and she was an even match. Then, the climax – thillAnA is about to commence – Shanmugasundaram blows into his reeds and starts his thillAnA – Subbudu describes this with the following sentence “khamAs thuLLiyadu” – this short sentence spoke volumes about Shanmugasundaram’ s music – alacrity, authority, command, dexterity, elegance, enthralling, exhilaration, majesty, virtuosity…
I was reminded of this when I heard MSS commence the concert with a vibrant, brisk and majestic rendition of khamAs – indeed ‘khamAs thuLLugiradu” . This is followed by one stunning gem after another – Arabhi, varALI, AanandabhairavI, mOhanam, tOdi and hEmavatI – amazing AlApanais and stunning swara vinyasas. As you are immersed in the blissful state, you reach “thAkur tumH SharaNAyi” and your head brings you back down to earth and tells you that thukkadAs means the concert is coming to a close. But your heart pines for more.
Smt M.S.Subbulakshmi Live at Bhakta Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Bombay, 1978.
Smt Radha Viswanathan – Vocal Support
Sri V.V.Subrahmanyam – Violin
Sri T.K.Murti – Mridangam
Sri V.Nagarajan – Kanjira
Sri T.H.Vinayakaram – Ghatam
01. mAtE malayadhvaja pANDya (daru varnam) – khamAs – harikESanallUr muttaiyA bhAgavatar
02. chAla kallalADu – Arabhi – tyAgarAja
03. sESAcala nAyakam bhajAmi – varALI – muttusvAmI dIkShitar
04. O jagadambA – AnandabhairavI – SyAmA SAstrI
05. paripAhimAm nRharE – mOhanam – mahArAja svAti tiruNAL
06. murugA murugA enRAl – sAvErI – periyasAmi tUran
07. manasulOni marmamulu – Suddha hindOLam – tyAgarAja
08. dASarathI nI RNamu – tODI – tyAgarAja… followed by Tani avartanam
09. raNganAyakam – nAyakI – muttusvAmI dIkShitar
10. RTP – hEmavatI – khaNDa jhampa (khaNDa naDai)
11. ThAkur tum SharaNAyI – mAND – guru nAnak
12. aLivENI endu ceivu (padam) – kuri~njI – mahArAja svAti tiruNAL
Received a request mail a few days ago:
I need the free downloadable Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram mp3 of MS Amma.
From where I can download it? Please help.
I have noticed over the past couple of years, I have had too many requests for MS Amma’s commercially available recordings. The requests are flying thick & fast as many rasikas seem to want a “free download” of these recordings.
My point is this: Why would a so-called “genuine” fan or devotee of MS Amma engage in such piracy, promoting a parallel surruptitious market to exchange what is easily at any time available in the market?? Recordings like Vishnu Sahasranamam, Katrinile varum geetam, Kurai ondrum illai, Bhaja Govindam, the numerous slokas that Amma has sung, etc. etc. etc. are all very common recordings easily procurable even through online shopping channels.
So why would such a “genuine” rasika want to shirk paying royalty to the memory of such a great legend as MS Amma?? Why don’t people want to loosen their purses a bit to enjoy such divine music? I can understand if the request is for rare concert recordings, not commercially available, and difficult to come by for the common rasika.
I feel it is blatant & shameless to easily ask for available commercial recordings for “free download” which is an absolute disgrace to MS Amma’s rasika fraternity.
I request & urge every rasika to wake-up & ‘smell the coffee’ or else you will soon find yourself in a legal quagmire, being forced to shut down. Please avoid such unpleasantaries.
Because of the Bandh yesterday, just stayed at home and spent time listening to old gramophone plates. Heard Begum Akhtar, MS, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Aaradhana (Film) among others.
Just seeing the plate turn and spin out classic numbers made me feel really nostalgic. I went back in time.
Sharing the above article that appeared in The New Indian Express on August 26, 2006.
26 January, 1950 issue of Indian Express
Impose Helmet Rule: Letter to the Editor
“Designer tribute to Karnataka”
‘Of hero worshippers and fan followings’ by Vijay Sai
‘Malgudi Times’ dated October 10, 2005