August 13, 2012

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:20 am

Famous Musicians from my City.

“My name is Coimbatore Thayi” announced the sweet voice of the lady at the end of the 78 rpm Gramophone record after the Tamil Song. I do not remember the year but this must have been long long ago, when we had a hand winding Gramophone box with a huge funnel speaker like the one you see today in the logo of HMV Gramophone Company.In those days say seventy years ago all the artists would authenticate their records by such announcement of their name in the end. Palanikunjaram more popularly known as Coimbatore Thayi was born in 1872 in a highly cultured Devadasi family known for its accomplishments in Classical music and dance. Her mother Vengammal was a famous singer and her grandmother Coimbatore Visalakshi was a renowned Sadir (Bharatanatyam dance) artist. Initially Thayi followed her grand mother’s foot steps and learnt Sadir and performed her “Arangetram” at the age of 11. But she found her fame was in Carnatic music and the family shifted to Madras in 1890 At Madras she grewup in the company of great exponents of Carnatic music and soon became famous. The newly introduced media known as “Gramophone” in 1900 helped her music to reach the corners of the Presidency. Her recordings were most popular in those days and she headed the popularity chart of HMV for years. But sadly death took her away in her mid-forties, leaving her rich music in the recordings long afterwards.

I came across an interesting anecdote about this great lady. It seems a rich visually impaired Frenchman Maurice Delage by name, connoisseur of music heard Thayi’s gramophone record in Paris. He was astonished by the voice modulations (gamaka) of the Lady and decided to make a trip to Madras to meet her. and which he did eventually later on. The out come was his composition “quatre poemes hindous”.

Though not many names are related to Coimbatore in the realm of fine arts and Music,like Madras or Tanjore district, there are a few great men and women who had left their mark in that field.

Palladam Sanjeeva Rao, the great flautist who held the top position for decades was from Coimbatore. I have heard his concerts many times. He was the celebrated disciple of the great Sarabha Sastry. Sanjeeva Rao enchanted the listeners by his perfection in rendering Carnatic music on Flute and popularised the flute as a solo concert instrument. Palladam Sanjeeva Rao got many hounours and he was conferred “Sangeetha Kalanidhi” in 1943 by the Madras Music Academy.

At one time playing Carnatic Music on Harmonium was considered sacrilege. AIR banned this instrument from their broadcasts for about 30 years. But one person from Coimbatore became a wizard and showed his talent by bringing out the best of Carnatic music from this instrument. He was none other than Perur Subrahmanya Dhikshidar. His gramophone records “testifying his instrumental excellence while accompanying a maestro of calibre of Palladam Sanjeeva Rao” are witness to this fact. He used to attract big crowds of rustic and elite listeners by his versatility in handling the harmonium. He used to play on the instrument by covering the key board with his silk upper cloth. Harmonium as a classical instrument regained popularity during the time of Perur Subrahmanya Dhikshidar and his legacy is continued by Palladam Venkataramana Rao (though not is disciple) even now.

I used to attend the Guru Pooja day of Sri Ramakrishna Vidhyalam at Perianaickenpalayam near our City every year. It used to be a grand function with Lectures, Music programs, exhibitions and free food etc. This must be in 1950s . On one such visit, after lunch suddenly a rich voice came from the loud speakers singing Bhajans. The crowds mostly of villagers rushed to the Pandal to listen this wonderful divine music. There on the dais was an young “Sanyasi” with a cooling glass with an yellow bandanna tied on this head singing bhajan to the accompaniment of his old harmonium played by himself. I am told his name was Pithukuli Murugadas. He kept every one mesmarised by his rich music. Later I came to know Sri Murugadas belong to Coimbatore and his name was Balasubramanian. My grandma told me that his parents were supplying good drinking water to brahmin households in those days. He is very well known in the Tamil Speaking world for his rich bhajans.

Coimbatore N.Ramaswamy (Pillai) was a permanent Mridangam Artist with All India Radio for many years. He belong to the old generation of Vidhwans who were trained under the Guru Sishya Parampara. He had his gurukula under the famous Palani Subrahmanya Pillai. Though I have heard his playing on Mridangam in Radio I have never seen him in person, since he was staying in Madras.

I shall conclude this chapter mentioning three famous names in the field of Cinema and Stage who made Coimbatore famous.

T.S.Balaiah was a versatile actor who started as a villain in Cinema but soon established himself as a character actor by his style of acting and dialogue rendering. Another great name was S.V.Sahasranamam who came from the stage to cinema. He was a respected senior Actor from the NSK Nataka Sabha group. And the third name is Nagesh the veteran comedian. Nagesh entered the Cinema world as a comedian but soon blossomed into a character actor. All these great actors come from Coimbatore District.


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