I-Day to Dashami: Line-up of Huge Losses
I-Day to Dashami: Line-up of Huge Losses
M Balasubramaniom
I-Day to Dashami: Line-up of Huge Losses

I-Day to Dashami: Line-up of Huge Losses

From Pt Jasraj to P S Narayanaswamy, top figures have exited the
cultural scene since August 15

Navaratri this time, however muted owing to Covid-19, looked poised for a positive
note with acclaimed classical musician Vinayak Torvi being honoured by the
Karnataka government. Hours before the septuagenarian Hindustani vocalist was
conferred with Sangeetha Vidwan at the inaugural ceremony of nine-day Dasara
programmes in Mysore Palace, an equally renowned Carnatic exponent died in
another heritage city.
P S Narayanaswamy, 86, breathed his last in Chennai on October 16, marking the
exit of yet another frontline disciple of a school that has effectively functioned as the
haloed mainstream of south Indian classical since the last century. Essentially
trained by legendary Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (1908-2003), PSN Mama groomed
a legion of disciples. And quite a few of them did go on to make it big today.

If Narayanaswamy was renowned in equal measure as a performer, scholar and
teacher, so was T S Rama, another Carnatic vocalist. She died on October 20 in
Bangalore, the city she grew up and gained reputation as an artiste (though not
hailing from a musicians’ family). Rama performed at All India Radio for five
decades, having been a pupil of Bangarpet Krishnamurthy and L S Narayanaswamy
Bhagavatar. With two post-graduate degrees, she served in a couple of music
colleges in the state.
Four days prior to Rama’s end, another female artiste bade farewell—this time from
the world of classical dance. Kuchipudi star Shobha Naidu, 64, passed away on
October 16 at a Hyderabad hospital. Naidu, who has performed in various Indian
cities and abroad, was born in Visakhapatnam. She later became a disciple of
maestro Vempati Chinna Satyam and helmed a Kuchipudi Art Academy where she
choreographed 80 solo numbers and conceived 15 ballets in the art-form of Andhra
Pradesh.
Sharing an umbilical relation with Kuchipudi is Bhagavatha Mela. This dance-drama,
which was born in Caurvery belt’s Melattur village, lost S Natarajan, hours before
Naidu died. The maestro, 77, is credited with reviving the traditional spirit of
Bhagavatha Mela as a musical theatre that flourished in the 16th century around
Thanjavur.

Bang in Thanjavur, mridangam exponent M Balasubramaniom died unexpectedly on
September 6, much to the grief of the art world. Subramaniom, 63, was serving as
the director of the South Zone Cultural Centre established by the Government of
India. Balasubramaniom was a native of Thiruvananthapuram, where he learned

under Mavelikkara Velukutty Nair. Balasubramaniom had served as the principal of a
couple of vintage music colleges in his native state.
One of those institutions was RLV Music College, which lost another percussionist
recently. Chenda master Kalamandalam Kesava Poduval served the academy’s
Kathakali section for 22 years from 1964. He was months short of turning 90 when
he died on October 10. Adept in both the solo chenda tayambaka concert and in
Kathakali percussion, Poduval was a native of Kudal village near Pattambi (not far
from Palakkad, where (Chembai Music College) Balasubramaniom had served as a
teacher).
Covid-19 claimed both the lives, just as it did in with S P Balasubramaniam. A
Chennaiite much of his life (like was PSN), SPB was a popular singer who shone in
film numbers even as his Carnatic recordings for a few movies did win appreciation
from purists as well. SPB, 74, died on September 25.

Unlike SPB, fellow Telugu I V L Sastry trod just the Carnatic path. Aged 93, he died
(in Visakhaptnam), gaining name in not just vocal, but classical instruments such as
the mridangam, flute, kanjira and the harmonium. As the founder of Sangeeta
Janakulam that subsequently opened branches in other states, he groomed several
students. The famous among them include his daughters Saraswati Vidyarthi and
Sarada Subramaniam, besides flautist son Kali Prasad.
If Sastry was a doyen of 20th-century Carnatic music in Andhra, Kapila Vatsyayan
was a cultural doyenne with a global view. Revered for her vision about the art-forms
of India and abroad, her thoughts a reflected a transcontinental take on music,
dance, fine arts, theatre and architecture. Vatsyayan, 91, died on September 16, a
good 35 years after associating with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in
her city of Delhi.
A month before that, on August 17, Hindustani music was bereaved of one of its
biggest icons. Pandit Jasraj, 89, whose role in taking the Mewati gharana of the
classical system to unprecedented heights, died in New Jersey of the United States.
Amid the celebratory occasion of Independence Day and Dussehra, India this year
saw the exits of a flurry of eminent cultural figures.

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