On The Eve Of His Birth Anniversary, A Look At What Made Semmangudi And His Music So Popular
One of the travails that current Carnatic musicians face is the robust competitors from musicians who’ve handed a very long time in the past. Blame it on the recordings or the proliferation of YouTube releases, however the artistes of yesteryear proceed to stay in our minds, generally way more than present performers. Semmangudi is certainly one such artiste. Like different top-ranking performers who remained within the limelight for a lot of their lives, he understood the necessity for audiences and the need to stay related.
How a lot this mattered to him I realised when, within the remaining years of his life, I occurred to name on him within the firm of my guru, V. Subrahmaniam. The Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer Golden Jubilee Trust had been arrange by the maestro’s disciples when he accomplished 50 years as a performing artiste. My guru being one among Semmangudi’s prime disciples was on the forefront of celebrating his birthday annually and we visited him to formally invite him to the occasion. “Will there be an audience,” was his first and solely query. Not for Semmangudi the pretence that he didn’t want audiences and sang just for his internal satisfaction. On the day of the occasion, Semmangudi arrived on the venue properly earlier than time. He had had a cataract surgical procedure and was carrying darkish glasses. After coming in, he peered by these glasses and was visibly upset to see many empty rows. “Kootame illiye (there is no crowd),” he stated. VS sir assured him that it was not but time and extra individuals would are available in quickly.
And certain sufficient they did, filling all of the seats by the point Semmangudi took to the stage. He was delighted. And he spoke for 20 minutes, giving the viewers loads to ponder over and chuckle at. “Carnatic music is not something tangible like a soap,” he stated. “Audiences come, sacrificing other avenues of entertainment, and when they leave, all they have with them is a sense of happiness. It is the duty of the artiste to ensure they get that.” This was a press release he usually made and he repeated it on this event too. Coming from him it was a homily. Many administration books have been written on this dictum, however with far much less impact.
To me, he was the final word skilled, who would have succeeded in any area. It was music that he selected and in it he shone. The story of Semmangudi is one among grit and willpower. True, he got here from a hallowed household — his uncle and cousin have been famed violinists — however that didn’t in any method make it simple for him. Indeed, his broken vocal cords have been extra a deterrent than an asset and the legendary Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai is claimed to have remarked that the boy could also be higher off coaching as a violinist. But nothing would cease Semmangudi. He had the expertise and he was going to precise it vocally, come what might. And he did succeed, to the extent that to many diehard followers that nasal twang, the excessive decibel rendition of ‘Amba!’, and people rasping breaths have been as a lot part of the music because the sonorous alapanas, the cascade of swaras, the beautiful shlokas, and the delectable ragam tanam pallavis.
Networking is at this time a modern time period, particularly with regards to skilled success, however Semmangudi was a previous grasp at it. He had his pockets of affect — cupboard ministers, royalty, well-heeled patrons in Shencotta, Kallidaikurichi and Madras. He had senior musicians too on this choose coterie — Musiri Subramania Iyer in all probability being probably the most well-known of them. Having M.S. Subbulakshmi as a scholar mattered as properly. It is simply that the entire networking was finished from a place of energy. This was no whingeing supplicant. It was thought-about an honour to have the ability to help Semmangudi. His mates knew his value as a musician and have been glad to do their bit to ahead his profession and pursuits. And he didn’t hesitate to ask when it mattered. It should even be identified right here that he was not a grabber of any alternative that got here alongside. It needed to be in step with his stature and his ideas. Thus, he by no means accepted an abroad invite, as a result of he didn’t imagine in crossing the black waters.
Today, any dialog on Semmangudi sadly tends to float to his involvement in controversies with Balamuralikrishna and Balachander and his affect on the Music Academy. But what’s forgotten is that these occurred on the fag finish of a profession replete with one of the best of music regardless of probably the most recalcitrant voice. While they did reduce the halo, they may not take away something from his contribution to the artwork. His bani continues to be one of the crucial widespread, handed on to youthful generations by the a number of disciples he skilled. His on- and off-stage witticisms nonetheless do the rounds, and his renditions stay reference factors for any side of the artwork. That is maybe his biggest contribution.
What then of appellations such because the Chanakya and the Cunningham of Carnatic Music? We usually are likely to neglect that these are the very traits which can be thought-about praiseworthy in different professions. Why then ought to classical music alone differ? Should the ideas that Tyagaraja thought-about ideally suited be the requirements by which each and every performing musician is judged?
Semmangudi would have disagreed. In a life spanning a century, he had seen Carnatic music change in all the things, from presentation to patronage to know-how. He survived all of it. After all, we preserve saying that adaptability is without doubt one of the chief traits for fulfillment. Surely it applies to Carnatic music as properly.