Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sangeetha Bhupathy Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer

Dr. K. Rohiniprasad

Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer (1896-1970), the renowned Carnatic vocalist, was the guru of the great singer Semmangudi. Son of Shri Rama lyer, himself a good singer, Viswanathan was trained initially by Umayalpuram Swaminatha Iyer, a direct disciple of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer had learnt from a direct disciple of Tyagaraja and thus Viswanatha Iyer represents the fifth generation of the Tyagaraja School. Young Viswanathan also learnt from Thanjavur Rangappa Iyer, a ghatam exponent.

In his teens, Viswanatha Iyer sang at the Ramanavami celebrations at Kumbakonam. The gathering comprised of musical exponents, experts, artists and music-lovers. His self confidence, good voice, lyrical exposition of the ragas with daringly lengthy alapana and authentic rendering of the compositions pleased the audience. This led to other recitals in temple festivals, gatherings at the Sankara Matham etc. The pontiff of the Matham became the first patron of young Viswanathan, who sang frequently for the seer.

His first recital in Palghat, arranged by the well-known mridangam artist Chattapuram Subba Iyer was very well appreciated and the organiser was congratulated for his discovery of the talented young man. Similarly Viswanatha Iyer’s recital in Tanjore district was organised by another mridangam artist Alaganambia Pillai. The success of this performance led to another on the following day. As the music party was about to return, the accompanists Tiruchi Govindaswamy Pillai (violin) and Alaganambia Pillai noticed that young Viswanatha Iyer had been paid remuneration for only one recital. The enraged senior musicians rushed back from the railway station and extracted further payment from the organisers on behalf of the young vocalist and still managed to catch the train. Viswanatha Iyer remained indebted to his senior colleagues for ever for taking care of him during the early part of his career. Accompanists like Govindaswamy Pillai always had a soft corner for him.

Viswanatha Iyer specialised in singing Tyagaraja’s compositions fully and correctly. He would spend a few days at the samadhi of Tyagaraja at Tiruvaiyaru every year, singing for a few hours. Viswanatha Iyer was the first to sing the five pancharatna kritis at the annual Tyagaraja festival and this has now become a tradition. While his repertoire mainly consisted of Tyagaraja's compositions, he also sang nearly all the compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri, Patnam Subramania Iyer, Gopalakrishna Bharathi and others. He took special pains to practise the more difficult kritis of Tyagaraja, rendering authentic versions and mastering the special techniques in tala.

Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer excelled in detailed raga elaboration with phrases that would enrich the pattern of presentation. He could sing the same raga alapana for half an hour one day, and for one minute the next day, but both would seem complete. He became a legend in his own life time, winning titles like Sangeetha Kalanidhi and Sangeetha Bhupathy. He greatly admired Hindustani musicians like Abdul Karim Khan and Kesarbai. Listeners would discern the influence of Hindustani music in his recitals. Viswanatha lyer was an accomplished mridangist as well.

He never sought high positions, wealth or influence and avoided sycophancy. He preferred the company of friends, singing day and night his favourite compositions. With lovable sense of humour, he would regale listeners with musical anecdotes without any ill will or malice. He would freely joke about his own failings too.

He preferred to dress in silk with gold buttons on his kurta, jari angavastram and dhoti. He loved English movies and himself acted in a Tamil film "Nandanar" along with the noted singer K.B.Sundarambal, delighting the audience with exquisite music. His famous disciples include the renowned Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, his own son Maharajapuram Santhanam and Mannargudi Sambasivam Iyer.


Blogger raghavendra v said...

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6:59 AM  
Blogger raghavendra v said...

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and i am sending photo's and data please add the matter

7:01 AM  

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