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Home > Discover Coimbatore > Art and Culture > Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
     
AN ENCOUNTER WITH SEMMANGUDI SRINIVASA IYER  

It 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 of music.

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 magazine.

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 IyerDr 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 in 1963.

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.

Semmangudi Srinivasa IyerBut as we thank him and leave, he asks that we pray that God may call him soon.

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 Fernandez
Photographs: V Ganesan

Sikkil Sisters
Kunnakudi R Vaidyanthan
Divyodhaya
Dr Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
Bharatanatyam
Kathak
Odissi
 
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