the day music died…

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Carnatic music was always on at ma’s home.
everyone interrupted our morning chores to interrupt the previous person’s song, and play our own.

ma would stop dad’s tape of Maharajpuram Santhanam singing an easy sahana, to listen to the A.m. radio’s pick of the day — may be a relatively unknown s.p. ramh with a brovabarama in bahudari.

and then I would lower the volume on ma’s pick, pretend to clean the tape-recorder and play the music I liked. And somedays my choice — would be pattammal and her brother jayaraman.

And what music! like she was a teacher, teaching a kid who was slow on the raga uptake. And her music would be always be unhurried, gentle and so KIND.

Carnatic music flustered me with its mathematics. It would sometimes rush me. faze me. and tune me out.
But not with pattammal. With her, I could relax. I could understand. I could close my eyes.

Her music was the opposite of shrill. It was in this smiling grandmotherly coaxing voice… singing “indha…indha…” (take this come here) in “Singara velavan vandhaan“; or indulgently catching the mischief in bharatiyar’s ‘Theeradha Vilayattu Pillai’ ; or taking on the bejewelled bhairavi right from the first note.

I could never imagine her young. She was so beautiful, being so old all the while.

The grand old lady of carnatic music. DK. Pattammal. 90 years. I miss you.

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18 responses »

  1. Sad – remember her absolutely zen-like calm – nothing fazed her, not drunk accompanists (Ramanavami concert B’lore in the late 70s I think), not rain (in the days of open-air concerts).

    M

  2. chox: i didnt know that

    M: tell us more… do.

    Nino’s Mum/Aparna: she was uniformly sweet-tempered in her interviews. her greatness was in her simplicity.

    Era: that she did.

    starry: am sad, still. 😦

  3. @aparna: come to think of it, MJ was a nanosecond’s blip in my formative years…

    in contrast, the essence of Pattammal and the other vidwans like MS, KV Narayanaswami, was there everyday. a solid support. but in the background.. like the tambura in a concert.

    Carnatic music did give me a hard time: : it gave me veena lessons for 15 years, five exasperated veen teachers; and a determined mom who got on my case to practice, practice and practice;

    but the training showed me the difference between the pedestrian(me) and the divine (them)

  4. I really do wish you’d write on music — I struggle to understand Carnatic music all the time especially since my ed seems to think I should do all the special pages on it. So someone explaining the terms and conditions would be brilliant. But apparently, DKP did sing the male parts of a duet and she never sang ‘loue songs’ either. Part of my DKP speed reading course before I did the special page. And did KM tell you she met DKP? Read her piece if you haven’t. It’s lovely: http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS-City-Chennai-At-home-with-DKP/articleshow/4787082.cms

  5. smal: my jaw had to be scraped off from the floor when km told me she met dkp.
    these are the twain that should never have met, i thought. i have never met someone who was more flighty or less musical than km.
    but i changed my mind after the piece.

    have you written something as well? ? i was asking ma, if you had?

  6. so do you still play the veena? as in practise it still?

    i ask because three of my friends who played the veena for <= 20 yrs, haven't touched their instrument since kids – one of them since 10 yrs 😦

  7. agree with smal … you must must write on carnatic music. even if it is for a select few, which hopefully includes me.

    Her music was the opposite of shrill. It was in this smiling grandmotherly coaxing voice… singing “indha…indha…” (take this come here) in “Singara velavan vandhaan“; or indulgently catching the mischief in bharatiyar’s ‘Theeradha Vilayattu Pillai’ ; or taking on the bejewelled bhairavi right from the first note.

    There have been countless obits. But not one of the writers thought of the above lines to catch the eye of the curious, but not expert reader.

    your writing is music in itself.

  8. Haven’t heard her much, but this post made me go to you tube and i checked out a few of her songs and interviews..so very humble..she says in one of her interviews..all she wants to do is sing until her last breath!

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