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Perfect and aesthetic

SUGANTHY KRISHNAMACHARI

A birthday tribute to D.K.Pattammal, known for her soulful music and deep knowledge.



D.K.Pattammal.

Rewind to the year 1933. Egmore, a quiet suburb of Madras, was agog with excitement. People could hardly believe that a slip of a girl from an orthodox Brahmin family was to sing in the Egmore Ladies' Club. Most of the people who attended the concert were there to `see' the girl. But it was not curiosity that kept them there till the end of the concert. The appeal of the singer was enduring. She impressed the audience with her music and became the talk of the town.

The girl was D.K.Pattammal, who was born on March 28, 1919, to Damal Krishnaswami Dikshitar and Rajammal, both of whom had some knowledge of music.

The India that bore DKP was going through political and social upheavals. The clamour for Independence was accompanied by a desire for social reform. Poets like Bharatiyar wrote not only patriotic songs but also of the need for the emancipation of women. Rukmini Devi cast off the shackles of tradition when she learnt Bharatanatyam.

`Gayana Padu' Saraswathi Bai started giving Harikatha performances from 1908 in the face of stiff opposition from male artistes. When DKP first sang in public the walls of yet another male bastion were breached.

DKP never had prolonged training under any one guru. There was an indigent `Telugu vadhyar' who taught her in the early years. The headmistress of her school in Kanchipuram encouraged DKP in her efforts.

When she was 10 years old, Pattammal took the Government Music Exam in Madras. Ambi Dikshitar, grandson of Muthuswami Dikshitar was one of the examiners. Impressed by her singing, he volunteered to teach her Dikshitar's kritis. She also studied at Professor Sambamurthy's Summer school in 1930. She learnt many pallavis from Vidyala Narasimhalu Naidu, nephew of Vidyala Narayanaswami Naidu, who composed many javalis. Blessed with genius and encouraged by those around her, DKP, perhaps offers an example that could set at rest the heredity versus environment controversy.

Justice T.L.Venkatarama Iyer, who taught DKP many Dikshitar kritis, was critically ill when she received the Sangita Kalanidhi title. Maybe it was the strength of his affection for his disciple that kept him alive to see her and bless her.

DKP greatly admired and was in turn admired by Ariyakkudi.

Pattammal sings intricate pallavis with lan. Even when she goes through the convolutions of a complicated pallavi, she seems to do it effortlessly. Technically perfect and aesthetically pleasing is her singing of pallavis. An example is the Jaganmohini pallavi, `Nenje Ninai,' a favourite of Naina Pillai, who was a major inspiration to DKP.

DKP, who popularised many Bharatiar songs, sang `Pozhudu Pularndadu' both at the inauguration and conclusion of the 1945 Ettayapuram Bharatiyar Vizha. And she cut several 78 rpm discs. `Kannan Madura Idazhai' (Bheemplas) never fails to bring tears to the listener's eyes.

Her music is soulful, energetic, reposeful and buoyant in turns. There is in her music stateliness, dignity, purity, passion and innovation. Her knowledge is encyclopaedic. Scholarship has the tendency to snuff out artistic genius. Erudition and creativity usually never have a peaceful co-existence. But DKP's encyclopaedic knowledge has not extirpated her artistry.

One of the titles conferred on DKP is `Sangeetha Sagara Ratna.' How apt! Everytime she dips into the sagara of her knowledge, she comes up with a ratna.

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