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Pattammal passes away

Meera Srinivasan

— FILE PHOTO: S. THANTHONI

D.K. Pattammal.

CHENNAI: Her music was known as much for its technical brilliance, as for its emotional appeal. One of the celebrated icons of Indian classical music, D.K. Pattammal, passed away at her residence here on Thursday following a brief illness. She was 90.

Hailed as one of the “women trinity” – M.S. Subbulakshmi and M.L. Vasanthakumari were the other two — of Carnatic music, Smt. Pattammal carved a niche for herself, which was marked by an uncompromising adherence to tradition, deep engagement with technical nuances and emphasis on bhava and rakthi.

She was known for her rich repertoire, and particularly for her rendition of compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar. She learnt some of them from Ambi Dikshitar, a descendant of Baluswami Dikshitar, brother of Muthuswami Dikshitar, and later, from T.L. Venkatarama Iyer, an authority on Dikshitar kritis. Her renditions, considered one of the most authentic versions, serve as a valuable guide to other musicians.

In the unique timbre of her voice and unmistakably clear diction, compositions of Subramanya Bharati and Papanasam Sivan reached the masses. She had the honour of performing at the foundation-laying ceremony of the Bharati Memorial at Ettayapuram.

Smt. Pattammal’s background that was steeped in orthodoxy, but her contributions were progressive — from being one of the earliest women to give vocal recitals on a concert platform, to becoming one of the first women artists to handle the ‘Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi,’ traditionally considered a male bastion.

Smt. Pattammal was also one of the earliest Carnatic musicians to sing in films, beginning with ‘Thyaga Bhoomi’ and later, for others, including ‘Naam Iruvar.’ As someone who popularised patriotic songs, she was invited by the All India Radio to sing on the eve of Independence. She was a recipient of several awards including the ‘Padma Vibhushan’ and the ‘Sangeeta Kalanidhi,’ which she received from The Music Academy in 1970.

Smt. Pattammal was an embodiment of sincerity, honesty and humility. A magnanimous guru, loved by her students, she constantly emphasised that music was an ocean and there was so much more to learn.

Born on March 28, 1919, she grew up in Kancheepuram and later moved to Chennai. She is survived by her husband R. Iswaran and sons I. Sivakumar and I. Lakshmankumar.

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