Alathur Venkatesa Iyer

Alathur Venkatesa Iyer

Alathur Venkatesa Iyer was instrumental in building the Alathur-bani or Alathur-style of Carnatic Music. He groomed  many of  his students to become successful musicians and teachers. The bani had a unique way of rendering kritis layered with intricate step by step building up of sangatis and was known for its technical details in laya.Venkatesa Iyer also played the harmonium very well.

His disciples known as the ‘Alathur brothers’ - formed of  his son Sivasubramania Iyer, and another student, Srinivasa Iyer - made a huge impact on the Carnatic music scene. Their effective presentation of kritis with technicalities in manodharma or improvisation held the attention of both experts and laymen alike.Venkatesa Iyer accompanied the brothers on the Harmonium in their first concert, at Tiruvaiyaru Tyagaraja Aradhana festival in the year 1928.Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai was on the Mridangam for this concert.

Venkatesa Iyer’s ardent devotion to the Saint Tyagaraja,  led him to popularise many of his kritis.He equally admired Muthuswamy Dikshitar's compositions and constructed a memorial at the saint composer’s home in Tiruvarur.His contribution in bringing out a large number of kritis of Maharaja Swati Tirunal of Travancore is praiseworthy. He reinforced and tuned with care, rare compositions of great composers like Meesu Krishna Iyer. These compositions were mostly on Sadasiva Bramhendra, Lord Muruga, Siva and Ambal. He also set to tune many poems of the Tirupugazh bringing out the beauty of its unique metre through their chanda taalams. All of these compositions were made popular when Alatur brothers presented them on the concert platform.

Iyer's name is associated with greats such as - Kancheepuram Naina Pillai, Konerirajapuram Vaidyantha Iyer, Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai and Pazhani Muthiah Pillai, all giants of an earlier era in Carnatic music.He sought out the nuances of their music and taught them to his students. The effect of such training is evident in the music of the Alathur Brothers. He was known to be a disciplinarian and an unflinching traditionalist while imparting his lessons. His students include – Alathur brothers, Sarojini Sundaresan, Trichy J. Venkatraman, Chengelput Ranganathan, Clarinet A. K. C. Natarajan and the cine singer M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar.

Venkatesa Iyer formed the Sadguru Sangeetha Sabha in Trichy which conducted an Aradhana for Tyagaraja at the 100-pillar hall in the Rock Fort. This tradition continues even now. He also conducted an annual festival in memory of Sadasiva Brahmendra.