In his renderings of Karnatic music, especially ragas, Semmangudi R Srinivasa Iyer introduces the essence of Hindustani music wrote V. S. Namboothiripad, Kerala’s first music critic in 1954. 

Semmangudi R. Srinivasa Iyer is one of the pillars of the Karnatic music of today. A distinct style of music of his own which he presents in his voice with nascalism has many votaries and innumerable followers. Few amongst the musicians of the South have won such a high rank in so young an age as Semmangudi both as an authority and an executant.

Born in a family of musical tradition and brought up in an atmosphere of music, young Srinivasan was able to pick up profound knowledge in music in his early teens – its divergent schools and methods. He studied music first under his cousin Narayanaswamy Iyer and then under Sakka Rama Rayar. During his apprenticeship under the latter, he got the opportunity to come into contact with veterans in the music of those days. But it was while he accompanied Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer that he became acquainted with the technique of vocal performances.

Being not gifted with a natural resonant voice, and due to the unscrupulous method of voice cultivation prevalent in the South, Srinivasa Iyer had to suffer voice difficulties for a few years after his studies from his Gurus. In spite of those troubles, he was immersed in what may be called pure Nadopasana. That severe penance with his voice soon proved a success for him. His voice came under his control and his continuous efforts made him perfect with his voice to suit the intricacies of Karnatic music. Then afterwards he began to give vocal performances with the first-rate accompanists of the day.

Regulated voice cultivation is prime

Semmangudi dwells upon the academics of music. Even though he had to battle with his voice in picturising the high imageries of his mind, he dares to do it. In his renderings of Karnatic music, especially ragas, he introduces the essence of Hindustani music, without losing the former its Karnatic purity. Even though it is low, he is very particular about his basic Sruthi and his voice.

His presentation of classical Karnatic music is equally attractive to the experts as well as to the laymen. His alaap of Kharaharapriya and its derivative Ragas have won undying fame. 

Semmangudi may be called an orthodox musician. Yet he enjoys music irrespective of his affiliations in his own views, he likes to preserve Karnatic music, as it is, without losing its Karnatic purity and according to him the most urgent necessity for the Karnatic music of the South is nothing other than a regulated system of voice cultivation. Perhaps he may feel the want of such cultivating system from his own experiences.

The title Sangitha Kalanidhi — a distinction which is looked forward by every musician of the South by Music Academy of Madras was conferred upon him in the year 1948; also the Presidential award of Honour in the year 1953. For the last couple of years, he is working as the Principal of Swathi Thirunal Academy at Trivandrum. His service in bringing out to popularity the beautiful compositions of Swathi Tirunnal is most valuable.

Read VSN column on Papa Venkataramiah


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