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Strung together

At the Ramanavami concerts, late Kunnakudi’s team came back to perform for him

Photo: V. Ganesan

FLAMBOYANT Kunnakudi was a fine blend of form and technique

The dais was a compelling Kunnakudi beckon. With foreheads adorned in vermillion, the entire pakkavadya group of Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan – including his 50-year associate, Raja Ram on the tambura - was present at the Ramothsava Celebrations of R ama Seva Mandali, Chamarajpet, Bangalore, to accompany vocalist Kunnakudi Subbalakshmi Natesan (Vaidyanathan’s sister) and Aparna and Mithun Srinivas (violin students) who presented several kritis in separate concerts in memory of the violinist. It was a Kunnakudi-family union too to receive the felicitations.

Vaidyanathan was known for his unique approach in retaining a fixed group of pakkavadya artistes who have been his associates for nearly five decades. Modesty and simplicity was the hallmark of the musical family; one could see it in Subbalakshmi Natesan too. “We both used to take lessons from my father Ramaswamy Shastrigal. I only remember my prankster brother who used to be in-and-out of the lessons and in spite of his playful attitude perform better than me and my elder sister,” recalled the 78-year-old Subbalakshmi after her concert. “Our family get-togethers were totally musical because among us siblings, two of us were vocalists, with a violinist and mridangist.” Kalyani and Todi raga being the family favourites, they were taken up for brief sketches in her concert after which kritis such as “Dayamaado Ranga” and “Sanatana Parama Pavana” came along with much gusto that the Kunnakudi school is known for. Kunnakudi’s heavy-bow techniques and the sound-and-fury passionate amalgam came through with fanfare in Mithun Srinivas and Aparna’s violin duet. Taking the signature Kunnakudi school across was what the young musicians were proving with “Telisi Rama Chintana” in Poornachandrika, and what a memory-brought-alive it was to hear the stamp of the maestro in the fast-paced chittaswara! “Our Guru taught us with his vocal lessons, not with his violin, we grasped his technique observing him play on other occasions,” said Aparna. “I would say his approach was different in every aspect of his life,” said K.V.Srinivasan, Vaidyanathan’s son. He was one man who could play for a sabha audience and gallery , and that explains his 200 concerts a year!”

Kunnkudi’s interest in new attempts and innovations led him to work with veteran thavil vidwan Valayapatti Subramanian, who had 3,000 shows together. “My father gained consciousness after 25-days in the hospital after my brother’s Bhairavi rendition,” recalls Srinivasan, even as he talks of keeping alive the active work of the maestro’s Raga Research Centre on health aspects.

“Karnataka is dear to me, Chowdiah appreciated me as much as Mannina Maga Rajkumar who was my great friend…” the words of the maestro will keep ringing, even as his unorthodox bowing will always be kept afresh by the Kunnakudi Sangeetha Gurukulam.

RANJANI GOVIND

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