Luckily for me, my younger sister was given vocal music tuition by a family friend called Sri Venkateswarulu, from her 7th year to 12th year and thereafter by our another family friend Ganakalachandra Sangeetha Vidwan Salem G Desikan. Though our house had no electricity, we had a TWIN Portable Gramophone through which we were fortunate to listen to Musical Greats of yester years like, S G Kittappa, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iengar, Musiri Subramaniyam Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa iyer, GNBalasubramaniam, Chittoor Subramaniyappillai, Madurai S Mani iyer, Alathur brothers, Manakkal S Rangarajan, and other male singers; D K Pattammal, M S Subbalakshmi, K B Sundarambal, N C Vasanthakokilam, M L Vasanthakumari, Radha & Jayalakshmi and other female singers; T N Rajarathnam Pillai, T P Subramniyappillai, P S Veeruswamy, Madurai Ponnuswami, Thiruveezhimizhalai Brothers and other Nagaswaram greats; Dwaram Venkataswami Nayudu, Mysore T Chowdiah, Kumbhakonam Rajamanickam Pillai, Marungapuri Gopala Krishna iyer, Parur Sundaram iyer, M S Gopalakrishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman, T N Krishnan, M Chandrasekaran and other Violinists; Palladam Sanjeevi Rao, Nagaraja Rao, T R Mahalingam, and other Flutists ; Palghat Mani , Pazhani Subramaniappillai, Ramanthapuram C S Murugabhoopathy and other Mrudangists; Dhanam Ammal, Desamangalam Subramaniya Iyer, S Balachander and other Vainikas etc. etc. From boyhood, I seem to have had the knack of catching any tune and repeating it immediately, so much so that I could sing all the songs I heard in gramophone etc. but also most of the songs my sister used to practise at home. Thus during my high school career of six years from first Form to sixth Form, I earned the sobriquet “Prayer Boy”!! This continued in my college days also, and I had participated in College “variety entertainment Programme” and other functions for Prayer songs, Mimicry of Sangeetha Vidwans and also flute recitals. In 1958-59, after my Graduation, Salem Sangeetha Samrakshana (Now called Vidwat) Sabha was formed by eminent musicians of Salem headed by Salem G Desikan . I got a 15 minutes slot to render a flute recital in the Thyagaraja Aradhana. I practised T R Mahalingam’s ‘Ninnuvina naamadendu’ record and Marungapuri Gopalakrishn Iyer’s Bhairavi alapana Thanam and Koluvaiyunnade keerthana and received a big ovation so much so, next morning some organisers of a function in local temple came to our home and requested my father to permit me to give a performance that evening!! My father explained to them that I was only an amateur and asked them to excuse us!!
During my frequent trips to Chennai from Salem, for appearing at different UPSC Exams which every graduate does, I used to snatch some time to go to the erstwhile Moore Market and bargain for second hand Records. Whenever my father used to go to Chennai, I will try to persuade him for getting brand New Records of TNR, Chembai & others, which he will get from Ebrahim & sons. This avidity for getting 78 rpm records continued in my life. In 1964 or so when I was working in Bhuj (Kutch) I ordered from HMV Calcutta through the local distributor, G N B’s Dikku Theriyaada kaattil, Bismillah khan’s Shehnai and K L Saigal’s Diya jalao/Sapta surana !! A funny experience at Old Delhi’s Meena Bazaar in Chandni Chowk area, in 1980s----I came across an old record shop. I was searching for a record but did not find. When the shop keeper asked me, I told him the opening lines of the song and the Artiste’s name. . He said he had it at home and he will bring it next day. Next day when I went, he handed me the old record with a flourish and smile. When the matter came regarding the price, he asked for an unimaginably high price of Rs 250 when a new record was available for Rs 5/- When I asked about it , he replied,” Saab, aap to shaukeen hai. Aap ko Yeh Gaana Mangta tha . Maine aap ko diya.” I did not say a thing; gave him Rs 250 and walked home with satisfaction of the rare record of my favourite singer tucked under my arm! Later during my peregrinations, I happened to visit Calcutta. In B B Baug, there was a gramophone shop run by a Marwari . He had many new Turn- tables and old records. I could select many records of Pankaj Mullick , Hemant Kumar and C H Atma. Back in Bombay , now called Mumbai, I located a 2nd hand Record shop known as “Saleem’s shop’, in an area called Chor Bazaar. Here I could get some rare records of K L Saigal, Kanan Devi, K C Dey, TMSoundararajan, Madurai S Mani Iyer. Also some LPs and EALPs because by then I had purchased an HMV Record player which can play Micro groove records as well as 78 RPM vinyls. Then I needed to stock the required styluses for them. After 2000, I felt the need for upgrading my musical collection and library. Thus the Analog music in Record discs, Cassettes and CDs needed to be converted into MP3 files! This was a mammoth job indeed! My 3rd daughter in Milwaukee, purchased and gifted me with a Grace Vinyl Recorder-MP3 converter turn table. This meant that I should now seriously learn Computer and also about Audacity software. My eldest daughter was my first teacher who encouraged me to learn and operate computers at my 66th year, a time when others call it a day!! I used my much- earned leisure time in converting all my vinyl/cassette/CD music into mp3 files. On my own, I purchased a couple of Cassette- to -pen drive- converters and Hard Disks and started creating my MP3 and MP4 libraries now. Though it is a painstaking job, there is no short cut. After conversion of all my cassettes, I shall be finding out ways as to how to place them all for free access to lovers of music and posterity. I also learnt to upload songs on you tube so that the music so lovingly collected over the years are available freely to music lovers and posterity.
Some Real life quips relating to Musicians and Music concerts during my younger days. In Salem, when I was a 7 year old kid in 1945 or so, there was a popular Lodge called Coimbatore Lodge owned by (late) N P Goshteswara Iyer. In their family some marriage was there and the reception was held at Sri Komutti Matham near 1st Agraharam. Sri Chembai’s concert was there from 6 pm to 10 pm or so. My elder brothers Krishnamurthy and Vaidyanathan had taken me to the concert. That was a period when Chembai was in his prime. The concert was very enjoyable. He rendered alapana in kambodhi quite elaborately. The accompanist on violin,( I did not know is name but he was very white in complexion), also played well and Chembai encouraged him by giving him a sugar candy ( Kalkandu )from his silver casket. Meantime many Rasikas started sending request slips to him. When he was about to start the kruti, I could not help shouting a bit loudly “Paalinsutaku”. My brother gave me a nudge and put his forefinger on is lips indicating I should not shout. But wonder is the great Vidwan obliged a young kid by singing the same Kruti !! In the same concert another thing happened. An elderly person, probably in his seventies, was gesturing and appreciating Chembai”s song very sincerely and this was probably noted by the great vidwan. At the end he started rendering the song in raga Hamsanandhi “Ummai Maravaadhirukka Varam Arulvaay’’—and he added the words “He Thaatha” doing Namskaar with his hands pointing to the elderly gentleman! The entire congregation enjoyed and applauded. On another occasion at the same venue, a concert was held of N C Vasanthakokilam. She was a Cine star having acted opposite the first Super star M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar in Haridas etc. The crowd could not be controlled. It was surging from the entrance door toward the dais. The organisers had the presence of mind to Pack her off secretly through a back door and announce that she was not well and programme was cancelled. Every year, in Salem, they used to hold a series of concerts for 10 days at Pennaadam Venkataramayyar Street, further to 3rd Agraharam. There will not be any traffic on this street and it is totally residential with Pyols (Thinnais) in front of every house. Sri B K Viswanatha Sarma, Violinist, used to arrange these music concerts. I was fortunate to attend concerts of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Radha Jayalakshmi, Karukurichi P Arunachalam, Vikatakavi Thiruvisainallur Ramaswami sastrigal and others. Once I was sitting through Flute Mali’s concert. Time should be midnight around 1 AM when Mrudangam Thani Avarthanam was going on. When I raised my head suddenly Mali had vanished from the stage and only Mrudangist was playing his ‘thani’!! After some time Mali reappeared on the dais and continued till 2 AM. By that time every one was about to leave. But he was insisting that only now he was getting into the mood and played for some more time!! I had also the pleasure to listen to a young 19 year old Lad S Balachander who gave his first Veena concert at an open space near Lakshmana Perumal koil at the beginning of 2nd Agraharam. He was clad in spotless white shirt and Dhoti with a red vermillion tilak on his forehead which went well with his own fair complexion.
Once I happened to hear in 1954 or so on Radio, a relay of Thyagaraja Aradhanai from Thiruvaiyaru, a partial concert of Manakkal S Rangarajan. I was astonished at the felicity of his vocal cords. I made up my mind to listen to his full concert some time. I did not have to wait for long. Soon enough in 1958-59 Manakkal S Rangarajan’s Concert was arranged in Salem Kannika Parameswari koil. From that day I have been his Loyal fan. Though my professional life caused me to leave South india and move about from place to place in the north and abroad, My love for music, especially Carnatic music has remained intact. Some of my latest favourites are Abhishek Raghuram, Ranjani Gayatri, Visakha Hari, Nandini Rao Gujjar and others while in Hindustani classical, my favourites are Kaushiki Chakraborty, Manjusha Patil, Rahul Deshpande, Anand Bhate, Jayteerth Mevundi, and others. However as per me, Salem G Desikan’s music is a class apart. His two disciples won President of India’s award in two consecutive years. Thus my life’s journey is smoothly sailing like the musical waves in all three octaves, sometimes Low, sometimes high but generally in medium pace, with a heart to share the good with every one!! As our Musical Trinity have shown the way, I believe that music is also one way to Attain the Eternal Bliss !! Sarve Janaah Sukhino Bhavantu! ASN - Blog Archive (www.apkoilns.blogspot.com)