Beginning from tomorrow, every Friday, India Art Review will be republishing VSN’s articles on yesteryear music stalwarts
It is a given that compared to the English media, the vernacular media has been myopic towards Art Journalism. But the scenario was different decades ago when Mathrubhumi newspaper used to carry reviews of music concerts in their Sunday Supplement. This was a very popular column relished by ardent connoisseurs of music those days when Sangeetha Sabhas and concerts were very few and far between. But who wrote them?
Vadakkumkara Manakkal Sankaranarayanan Namboothiripad widely known as VSN in the music world was the first music critic of Kerala. He was a companion to most of the Carnatic music maestros of his days who always enjoyed discussions on music with him.
Clad generally in a blue half-sleeve shirt with an off-red shawl on the shoulders – the purpose of which was to clean the lips that had turned red thanks to the ever chewing pan – also with an ever-smiling face, VSN opened his mouth only for two purposes other than for taking food- one to chew pan and two to talk about Carnatic music. Among the musicians, his ‘weakness’ was Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer.
VSN would never miss any of Semmangudi’s concerts anywhere in south India. And the camaraderie between them was beyond description. Once in Chennai, unable to enter the hall in which Semmangudi was to sing, he pretended to be an electrician and managed to reach the stage!. T K Govinda Rao always invited him to stay with him during the Margazhi season. VSN was a regular face at Thiruvayyar and had profound knowledge about Thyagaraja compositions.
True, he used to contribute to many publications other than Mathrubhumi among which Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi’s organ Keli was one. VSN regularly wrote for the National English dailies too.
His writings were crisp and the words were catchy. A conversationalist par excellence, he had a sharp sense of humour.
Beginning from tomorrow, every Friday, India Art Review will be republishing VSN’s English articles, mainly on the stalwarts of yesteryear’s which he wrote in the early 1950s. It will be didactic to the music fans in general and the younger generation in particular.
Post his death in 1998, a collection of VSN’s articles in Malayalam has been brought out as a book titled “Siddhi Saadhana Sangeetham”. Seventy-seven select pieces have been included in this book that was published by Panchangam Pusthakasala, Kunnamkulam. (Phone: 04885 222810).