takes some courage, to meet and chat up a legend.
We approach Dr Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer with great hesitation.
After all he is the most revered Carnatic music sage living. A man,
who has spent more than six decades of his life, in the service
We have chosen a not so sultry late afternoon to meet the nonagenarian.
He had just finished his siesta and was browsing through a Tamil
We touch his feet in respect. He blesses us, but as he hears of
our intention to interview him, he frowns. He gives us some printed
matter (the facts on his life and career) and requests us to save
him the ordeal of undergoing yet another interview. But, in the
next fifteen minutes, he relaxes. And the sweet, affable gentleman,
that he is, comes through so disarmingly in his conversation.
Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer was born in 1908 in Semmangudi in
the Tanjavur (Tanjore) district of Tamil Nadu. As is wont of any
Brahmin family of the region in those days, Srinivasa Iyer
was trained in Carnatic Music. His first vocal recital was in 1926.
As Principal of Sri Swati Tirunal College of Music in Kerala,
he worked with single-minded devotion in collating, editing and
reviving the music of Maharaja Swati Tirunal. He retired
Speaking without any trace of being wistful, he shares with us
his experiences with stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajagopalachari,
Satyamurthy, Bezawada Gopalareddy and Prakasam Pantulu.
A self-professed Gandhian, he still prefers using Khadi and Cotton.
There is little purpose in dwelling on his awards or his famous
students. The world knows it all.
He jovially declares that he is 29 (and not 92). And the twinkle
in his eye tells us that he is not averse to having some fun at
his own expense.
as we thank him and leave, he asks that we pray that God may call
We have no words in reply. This artist who has stood for all that
is pure and sacred in Carnatic music, is for all of us, an icon
of artistic excellence. We pause, thank him again but tell him that
our prayer is that we may see him touch 100.
We know we have walked holy ground.
|Text: Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy and Ivan
Photographs: V Ganesan