Tiger Varadachariar

  • Published By: Sruti

A Musician' s Musician

A musician's musician— this is the phrase that occurs again and again in contemporary and subsequent accounts of Tiger Varadachariar.

In every field of human activity, particularly artistic, this kind of description represents a recognition by peers of technical excellence and yet there is a suspicion of a pejorative undercurrent, of an implication that the person concerned is not capable, for whatever reason, of affording pleasure to the layman or the less than expert enthusiast. In the case of Tiger, it was well-known that his voice was not always tractable. Accounts abound of how he used to struggle to bring it under control, using heroic measures like pouring quantities of boiling hot water down his throat to dissolve, it was said, the phlegm that interfered with the production of truly musical notes. But all these accounts also testify that, when his voice did obey his manodharma, he was-capable of flights of musical creativity that were breathtaking. This was so on the many occasions he spontaneously burst into song, especially when, early in the morning, just awake but not yet ready for the day, he launched into elaborations of a raga or kriti, providing private delight to whoever happened to be listening. No one, least of all any of his peers and contemporaries, was thus in any doubt about his remarkable potential as a performer. Thus, in his case, the phrase 'a musician's musician' signalled a sincere tribute, an admission that he was a storehouse of musical knowledge and tradition, an arbiter in musical dispute who was most qualified to play that role and, in the original meaning of the phrase, an artist whose genius could perhaps be comprehended fully only by a fellow artist.