When music smashed barriers

When music smashed barriers

Seen, heard, read

Giving away the ''Parlandu''  award for musical-instrument makers instituted by Parivadini to mridangam maker C Varadan, percussion maestro Srimushnam Rajarao related some fascinating anecdotes involving past masters of Carnatic music, though his was a 'tani avartanam' too long by a distance, eating into the time of Ghatam Karthick's lecture-demonstration that followed. Varadan had been a regular supplier of the instrument to the late CS Murugabhoopathy, and several other leading mridangists.

Among the inspiring stories Rajarao told was one demonstrating the great respect the incomparable Palghat Mani Iyer had for Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai, the khanjira pioneer many vidwans regarded as a divine avatar. Inevitably, the speaker expressed his admiration for the left-handed genius Palani Subramania Pillai, and recited some of the phrases and syllables that contributed to the magic of Palani. 
One of the anecdotes real or apocryphal related to Parlandu (a corruption of Fernand), the Dalit mridangam maker whom Mani Iyer invited into his house to honour him with a shawl, even as he waited outside like the legendary Nandan at the threshold of the temple.
The stories brought back refreshing memories of the healthy relationship and strong bonds between Carnatic music's giants of a bygone era, transcending barriers of caste and class.
Parivadini, an online TV channel and a movement committed to the archiving of music, has been the brainchild of 'Lalitharam' Ramachandran, Carnatic music fanatic, author and documentary filmmaker, and Venkataraghavan Srinivasan, a reality show maker turned passionate music promoter via Parivadini.
Two concerts of the Parivadini series stood out: one by Malladi Suribabu, veteran vocalist of the Pinakapani bani of music (which introduced the authentic Tanjavur style to Andhra), and another by Injikudi EM Subramaniam, a gifted and innovative practitioner of nagaswaram music in the forefront of his art.
Suribabu, accompanied by M Narmadha (violin), Kamalakar Rao (mridangam) and BS Purushottam (khanjira), rendered raga music of great beauty in a deeply meditative exploration marked by resonance and fidelity.
EM Subramaniam proved a fearless risktaker in both his choice of ragas and the exciting manner in which he traversed the octaves without sacrificing good taste. He had brilliant allies in violinist S Varadarajan, mridangist Neyveli Venkatesh and khanjira vidwan Venkataramanan.
Chennai has already seen an excess of music pre-December season, but the Parivadini festival was a nice change from the usual fare.
(The article first appeared in the Deccan Chronicle on 18 November 2014)