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Individual Issues

Devakottai Narayana Iyengar
Issue : 260
Published on : May, 2006



3 Sruti Box

7 News & Notes

18 Tribute

22 Main Feature

33 Heritage Landmarks In Music

39 Opinion Coumn

41 Seres For The Younger Generation

45 The Book Shelf

52 Editor's Note

Front Cover: Devakottai Narayana Iyengar
Samudri Archives / K. Mani & K. Raman

Main Feature
Devakottai Narayana Iyengar

Veena is one of the most ancient among Indian musical instruments and is as old as Hinduism. Sanskrit texts on music of yore refer to all stringed instruments as veena-s. Hence we have Rudra veena, Saraswati veena, satatantri veena (santoor), chitra veena (gottuvadyam) and so on. Even sarangi is classified under veena. The greatness of the South Indian or Saraswati veena lies not just in its ancientness. It can bring out all the subtleties and nuances of a raga delineating the raga bhava. Therefore, those who give lectures on gamaka-s often prefer it for the purpose of demonstration. It is a hard taskmaster requiring constant practice for attaining proficiency. Not long ago one of the requirements in many Tamil households was for the daughter to learn to play it along with vocal music as a qualification for marriage! The number of vainika-s who have mastered it is limited and those who can command the loyalty of many rasika-s can be counted on one's fingers. Devakottai Narayana Iyengar was one of those rare vidwan-s who could establish their hold on the rasika-s without resorting to any gimmicks or publicity for themselves.

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The Mylai Sangeeta Sabha

Unlike the kshetram-s that we have covered so far, this is a sthalam that exists only as a memory. Both the institution bearing the name and the venue where it conducted its performances are long gone.

Today the very word Sabha appears to be synonymous with Mylapore. But there was a time when Mylapore, despite its hoary past, was only a small village waiting to be absorbed into Madras city. The city itself meant George Town and its environs and it was here that all the musical entertainments were held as the patrons, the wealthy dubashes and merchants lived there. Then, in 1863, came the High Court and with it came a new breed of patrons, namely the native vakils many of whom came to the city from music rich Tanjavur. Initially, these vakils lived in George Town, but by the 1880s, Mylapore began to emerge as a residential area especially for the top ranking members of the legal profession. We have seen, in this series on sthalam-s, that the Madras Jubilee Gayan Samaja held a performance in 1888 at the residence of V. Bhashyam lyengar at Luz. However, the majority of music performances continued to be held at venues in north Madras at places such as the Tondaimandalam School, the Hindu Theological School, the Everest Lodge (Park Town), the Pachaiyappa's Hall (see Sruti 245), Hindu High School (Triplicane), Saundarya Mahal and the Kachaleeswarar Agraharam.

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A Series For The Younger Generation
Stamp On Arunagirinatha

With the article on Samartha Ramdas [Sruti 253, October 2005), we concluded the series on Stamps On Saint-Poets.

The saint-poets might not have been 'musicians' or 'composers' as these terms are now understood. Nevertheless, they composed their devotional outpourings in musical garb, that is, the lyrics were set to then prevailing musical tunes by the saint-poets themselves even while they wrote the songs. They themselves sang and propagated them.

Their use of the regional language or dialect, the oral mode of dissemination of the songs, stress on devotion and their ultimate goal of Godrealisation—all these formed the tenets of composers of keertana-s (sankeertana-s) who were to follow the saint-poets.

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News & Notes

VEENA ARPANA: NATIONAL VEENA FESTIVAL -MANNA SRINIVASAN & MANJARI SINHA The four-fold classification of musical instruments generally starts with the chordophonic/string group, though the percussion and the wind instruments may have earlier antiquity, even in the matter of 'divine association'. Veena has become the generic term for this category in the Indian tradition. It is this instrument that has the privilege of being held by the Goddess of Learning. This could be an indicator of the primacy of strings for purposes of musicology like the principles and precise demonstration of the 'sruti' concept, its varieties and many other aspects and nuances. Every pioneer in musicology, from the ancient 'Trinity' of Narada, Hanuman and Ravana, is associated with expertise in the stringed instrument. The oft-quoted verse of Sage Yagnavalkya, "Veena vaadana tatvagnyah srutijati visaaradah", indicates the exalted place for the 'string' group in the Indian perspective, the spiritual pursuit with 'moksha margam' as the goal. What if the main concern is the 'kutcheri margam'? In the Tamil music tradition also, the close linkage of 'Yazh' isai and 'Ezh' isai (the seven-note music) has often been referred to. The hymn of the Tevaram saint-singer Appar, Maasil veenaiyum, refers to the benevolent quality of faultless music from this instrument. Conceptual and esoteric significance is attributed to the structure and design, the components and the placements and also the materials used, in respect of the veena. The veena / yazh variety has always been the main melodic accompaniment for vedic chanting and vocal music through the ages. Yet, as is often pointed out, if not lamented, the fortunes of this category-- the plucked variety-- as a primary instrument of melody seem to have declined in recent times in the concert circuit in art music, the main criterion in contemporary evaluation and discussions. Often, the relative 'decline' of the veena is contrasted to the growth of the violin in Carnatic music.

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