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Profiles of Artistes, Composers, Musicologists
Unless otherwise specified, the profiles in this section are from
The Garland, Another Garland, Yet Another Garland and The Fragrant Garland by Mr.N.Rajagopalan
Born on December 30, 1875 (one authority mentions 1877), of Ramaswami Pillai, Dakshinamurthi Pillai was a good for nothing lad till eighteen. Entered service at Pudukottai and served as guard at the Palace for three years. Learnt ghatam from a Pandaram and mridangam under Tanjore Narayanaswami Appa and at his age of twenty-five or so, came under the tutelage of Manpoondia Pillai, a wizard.

Pillai in his professional play had a robust view to 'keep to the middle of the path. Appreciation of the entire audience was his motto. The odd man is not your target to please.' He was at the helm to the last.

After his training, he joined Balamani Ammal's troupe as percussionist and was playing for musical discourses also. His entry into the world of concerts certainly elevated the standard of the performances at which he was present with his sweet, soft, adjusting brilliance. He was a colossus, a familiar figure respected and admired and one is yet to see the replica of the Percussion duo of Palghat Mani and Pillai on mridangam and kanjira. Versatile both on the mridangam and kanjira, Dakshinamurthi Pillai was a wizard on kanjira and was perhaps the first and the last of the giants on that instrument which lacks sruti adjustments and has to be operated by one hand, holding it by the other. He was cordial with one and all, quite prominent in higher circles, an eternal source of encouragement to the young and an inspiration to great masters like Karaikudi Sambasiva Ayyar and Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Ayyar. Immense faith in God Muruga, his exclamations, response and appreciation were always 'Andava, Andava'. Quite in keeping with his life, he entered on sanyasa at the end and took the name of Chinmayananda Guru.

M.M. DANDAPANI DESIKHAR - DOYEN OF HYMNODISTS.............(August 27,1908 - June26, 1972)
Dandapani Desikar was a supremo for decades in the field of devotional tamil songs and dominated several fields of activities like singing of tamil devotional songs, teaching, films, etc. He enjoyed a rich, absorbing voice and style best suited for tamil devotional pieces and he appeared just when Tamil Isai also was in its stride. Born at the pilgrim centre, Tiruchengattangudi near Nannilam, of Muthiah Desikhar, he studied at the pial-school at Poovanur and learnt Thevaram and music under his father as well as Manicka Desikhar, Sattayappa Nayanakarar and Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai. He was very popular and widely respected for his attainments, musical compositions and contribution to the spread of tamil music.

He made his debut at Tirumarugal, noted for its Saivite shrine and for its brilliant nagaswaram maestro Natesan. He was teacher from his eighteenth year at the Okkur Lakshmanan Chettiar Thevara Patasala for ten years and was Professor and Head of the Department of Music, Annamalai University for fifteen years. He was giving concerts.

He has published on behalf of the Annamalai University and the Tamil Isai Sangam, songs of Bharati, Padinalvar, Thevaram, Divya Prabandam and Tirupugazh in 'Isai Tamizh Paamalai'. He has included his own compositions also. He has acted in a number of films like Pattinathar, Vallala Maharajan, Manickavachakar, Thayumanavar, Nandanar and Thirumazhisai Alwar. His chaste pronounciation, sweet voice and steady tempo, spiritual and devotional songs and devout rendition helped him and the films in gaining high popularity.
Honours and titles :
'Isai Arasu', 'Pandisai Pulavar Kone', 'Thevara Mani', 'Sangita Sahitya Siromani', 'Tirumurai Kalanidhi', 'Thandaka Vendhu', 'Pannisai Vendhan', 'Isai Pulavar', 'Kalaimamani' from the Tamil nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram, 'Isai Perarignar' from the Tamil Isai Sangam and 'Sangita Natak Academy Award'.

VEENA DHANAMMAL - VEENA MAESTRO.............(1868 - Oct. 15, 1938)
An Institution, a phenomenon, a Queen Victoria in the Empire of Music, that is how she is described. Years have gone by and still she is admired, her name is treasured and her day is celebrated with acclamation.

'For elegance and purity of style, for richness and variety of store, she stood supreme for half a century' - that was her merit. 'It looked as though the instrument was invented for her; and she for the instrument', said E.Krishna Ayyar. Dhanammal was the grand daughter of Kamakshiamma, reputed vocalist and dancer; daughter of Sundaramma, who was trained by Subbaraya Sastri, son of Syama Sastri; niece of Appakannu, the violinist; disciple of her mother, Sathanur Panchanada Ayyar, Alasingarayya, Balakrishnayya and Dharmapuri Subbaraya Ayyar besides Baldas Naidu of Wallajahpet and Saidapet Tirumalachariar; sister of violinist Narayanaswmi and of Manickam and of another, a percussionist; mother of Jayammal, a vocalist and grandmother of Sangita Kalanidhi T.Balasaraswathi, the Bharatha Natyam exponent, Sangita Kalanidhi Brinda Mukta vocalists and Sangita Kalanidhi T.Viswanathan Flautist.

The volume, spread and continuity of praise drawn by Veena Dhanammal are phenomenal next only to those of Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri. Veena was heirloom of the family. She had a fine voice that blended with veena. Fine touches, tonal shades, rich raga bhava, gamakas and embellishments made her famous and popular. With her rich repertoire and her style, she kept her place as an eminent player to the last. Melody and all the fine graces - each in its place and in an appropriate measure - marked her concerts. She often sang as she played on the veena but
'She never had a tambura or a mridangam as accompaniment as she believed that the veena was a complete instrument in itself with in-built sruti and laya. She would not tolerate even a whisper and wanted the audience to be silent' - Savitri Rajan

Her forte was ragha bhava. Economy in choice and use of gamakas, softness and delicacy of touch were unique. Her residence was a beehive of musical activity for over two generations. In her concerts she would cover the master pieces of all prominent composers. Veena Dhanammal is, of course, no more. Her great attainments, her fame, her 'bani' (style) continue to inspire generations. In brief, 'Dhanammal tradition' is the beacon light in the world of Carnatic music.

GURUVAYUR DORAI - MRIDANGIST.............(b.July 12, 1935)
Dorai had his training in mridangam, under Plaghat Subba Ayyar and Palani Subramania Pillai, both renowned artistes and made his debut at the age of eight at the performance of Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, who had a life-long craving to bring up young lads and help them. Guruvayur Dorai has been having a busy programme accopanying top artistes at sabhas, radio and television. Plays on kanjira too. He has anticipation and vibrant action. Was visiting professor in the University of Washington, Seattle during 1977-78.

Titles received :
Laya Gnana Samrat from the Association of Musicians in 1965
Sundara Mridanga Visarada from the AG's Office Recreation club, Chennai
Nal Laya Mamani from the Tamil Nadu Nalvazhi Nilayam, Chennai
Tal Vilas from Sangeet Peeth, Sursinger Samsad, Mumbai in 1982
Nadakanal by Nadakanal

Son of Venkatesa Ayyangar and Sringaramma, Doreswamy Ayyangar had his initial training in music under his father, a vainika. Then he became a disciple of the veena maestro, Vainika Praveena Venkatagiriappa. Made his debut at twelve before the Maharajah of Mysore. Served the All-India Radio for 25 years as producer. His adherence to the traditional style of rendering and his captivating play on the veena brought him respect and popularity. His features on the All-India Radio like 'Vaaggeyakaras of Karnataka in the post-Tyagaraja period' and 'Gita Bharathi' were popular.

He was honoured with :
Award from the Karnataka Sangeetha & Nrithya Academy in 1971
Sangita Nataka Academy Award in 1971
Chowdiah Memorial All India Prize
Doctorate from Mysore University in 1976
Padma Bushan in 1983
Sangita Kalanidhi by the Music Academy, Madras in 1985

Dr.S.A.K. DURGA - MUSICOLOGIST.............(b. June 1, 1940)
Born at Kumbakonam of S.A.Venkatarama Ayyar and Lalitha, Dr.Durga earned her Masters and Doctorates in Indian Music and Ethnomusicology from Madras and Wesleyan Universities respectively. She did her post-post Doctoral research in Ethnomusicology at Yale University, USA. She says that she has been recognised as the 'highest qualified woman musicologist in the world'.

Dr.Durga has taught Indian music and Ethnomusicology at the Universities in India and USA. She learnt music from her mother, a disciple of Rajamanickam Pillai and had further training with Madurai Mani Ayyar, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Ayyar, Ramnad Krishnan and Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna and has given concerts in India and abroad. Proficient in Hindustani and folk music styles, she has acquired a knowledge of other foreign styles. 'Her exquisite concert which won repeated applause included songs in twelve languages', says the 'Indian Express'. Dr.Durga has several publications and articles to her credit, besides compositions. She has founded the Center for Ethnomusicology, Chennai. The International Music Club, New York has awarded the title 'Skylark of India' to her

Article, The Hindu