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Alathur Brothers
Issue : 381
Published on : June, 2016



4 Sruti Box         

8 News & Notes

16 Birthday calendar

18 Alathur Brothers

26 Mehdi Hassan

30 Treatises on the arts - Natya Sastra (part 2)

34 The MS century - MS and Tamil Isai

39 Interview - S.R. Janakiraman

42 Heritage - The divine percussionist

44 News & Notes (continued)

46 Potpourri 

48 Opinion - Misconceptions galore

50 Point of view - On raga bhava - A coveted award

53 Art-stamps - Mallikarjun Mansur

56 Bookshelf

60 From the wings - R. Kalaiarasan

62 From the Editor

Front Cover: Alathur Brothers - Accompanists: Marungapuri Gopalakrishna Iyer (violin) and Palani Subramania Pillai (mridangam)   

ALATHUR BROTHERS - By music conjoined

The finest singing duo of the 20th century, in the field of Carnatic music, was the Alathur Brothers – formally Srinivasa Iyer and Sivasubramania Iyer, and informally Cheenu and Subbu. In this centenary year of the more popular but the younger of the two, Alathur Sivasubramania Iyer, much has been written, said and telecast about the duo, revealing that they were musical brothers hailing from two different families from different linguistic backgrounds.

The story begins with Alathur Venkatesa Iyer, their guru. Venkatesa Iyer learnt music from Dasavadyam Krishna Iyer of Tiruvaiyaru. Krishna Iyer, according to some accounts, was a disciple of Tillaisthanam Panju Bhagavatar, a direct disciple of Tyagaraja. Another version says that Venkatesa Iyer was a disciple of Manambuchavadi Venkatasubba Iyer. Either way, the line traces back to the saint-composer.

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13 June 2016 marks the fourth barsi or death anniversary of  Mehdi Hassan (Khansaheb). Readers may recall that on his third death anniversary, a fairly comprehensive article entitled Remembering Mehdi Hassan – The  Shahansha-e-Ghazal, was publishedin the June 2015 issue of  Sruti.  Its main theme was how Mehdi Hassan single-handedly, and radically, transformed the traditional  sung ghazal  form, and how, in the process,  he became its Shahansha.  This   second and concluding article  –  generally anecdotal  in  nature, and somewhat lighter in tone  –  would  centre  around and flesh out at least three  important facets of  Khansaheb’s  life  and art  that were highlighted  in  the first article.  One, his  strong Indian  roots – ancestral, cultural and  musical. Two, his professional as well as deep personal associations with the land  of his birth; these seem to have begun, in a big way, in the mid-1970s, and lasted up until 2002 or so, when he became too ill to travel and perform. And  three, his phenomenal popularity  with the ruling politico-cultural elite, the cognoscenti as well as the lay listener  in  India, Afghanistan and Nepal –  three of Pakistan’s  neighbours

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MS and Tamil Isai

Tributes are being paid everywhere to the legendary Carnatic musician M.S.  Subbulakshmi by innumerable organisations holding innumerable concerts with innumerable musicians old and young.  So, though I was grateful to the Sruti Foundation for giving me an opportunity to celebrate her 100th year, I wondered how and what I could add to the homage. What can I say about MS that has not been said?

I remembered Subbulakshmi’s crusade for Tamil Isai, a less known, near forgotten chapter in her life. 

We have all seen MS as the upholder of tradition, as a meek, unassuming, modest, super-conservative Indian woman of the old school. How interesting then to see MS in the role of a rebel! In the 1930s and 1940s, M.S. Subbulakshmi found herself in the midst of an aggressive, no-holds-barred, brangling controversyMind you,not on the side of Authority and Status Quo, but on theother side of the fence

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Prof. S.R. JANAKIRAMAN turns 88 on 12 July this year. When Sruti called on the veteran musicologist to congratulate him on his being conferred the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship he spoke at length on what Carnatic music means to him. His originality of musical thought, his passion for his art and his reverence for his gurus make him an electrifying conversationalist. Some excerpts:

How important has the recognition been to you as a musician?

While there have been 86 Sangita Kalanidhis, only ten or 15 musicians and scholars from south India have received the honour of the SNA Fellowship. They include greats like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Musiri Subramania Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Prof. P. Sambamoorthy, Embar Vijayaraghava-chariar, M.S. Subbulakshmi, M.L. Vasanthakumari, Dr. V. Raghavan, Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, T.H. Vinayak­ram, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and some others. I have now been clubbed with truly great legends – and that is the greatest honour for me.

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