The DKP I Knew

My mother Alamelu Viswanathan knew vocal, veena, violin and harmonium. She was extremely musical and lived and breathed music. I was fortunate, not only to be her daughter, but also because she knew everyone important in the music field. Growing up in Kumbakonam , her neighbour was Maharajapuram Viswanatha iyer who trained her for some time. Through him she knew Semmangudi (Seenu) as he was known -when he came for lessons and did Gurukula vasam with Maharajapuram. In fact it was my thatha Vaidyanatha iyer who doted on the young lad Semmangudi and seeing his frail frame bought D’ John”s codliver oil from madras pattinam to improve his health. This fact was told to me by Semmangudi mama himself WHENEVER he met me. So full of gratitude was he till his 95th year..

My mother Ambulu , had five very good female singers as friends too. MS, MLV , DKP and Brinda-Muktha. Ambulu – as she was known -never missed any concerts of her friends. She hosted MS and Shanmugavdivu whenever they came to Madras by train for concerts. MS loved my mother’s ‘’vetha kozhambu’’. Ambulu doted on these Vidushis and presented them with lovely sarees , pearl necklaces and the like.

So it happened that in my 12th year in 1963 , I was accepted as a student by one of my mother’s close friends- Smt M L V asanthakumari. When she was a child her mother used to bring her to my parents’ house very often.

I trained under her for many years. I sang along with her in many sabha concerts, wedding concerts, radio, Tv programmes, foreign programmes , Cd recordings etc. Akka (MLV) encouraged me and gave me many an opportunity to sing raga, neraval, swaras and RTP in her concerts. I was extremely fortunate to be trained by her on stage itself- and I cherish her music and her generosity. I owe my stature in the music field as performer, pallavi expert and Guru , to her.

MLV akka was close to DKP and MSS. In fact MLV akka sang for weddings in DKP’s family. Being the youngest of the three she was the pet of DKP and MSS. She looked up to them and they loved her for her virtuosity. Her brilliance of voice and imagination was appreciated by them and by Brinda-Muktamma. In the early 70’s I was chosen by the Music Academy for a Dikshithar scholarship under DKP amma. I was very excited. So was my mother- , to renew old ties. I duly informed MLV akka who did not hesitate to give permission. She said that DKP was well-known for Dikshithar kritis. So, I along with my mother and husband Sri Ramachandran went to DKP amma’s house- a sprawling bungalow in Srinagar colony Saidapet. Gayatri and Nithya were kids. Lalitha as daughter-in –law and disciple of DKP , was all-in-all. Eswaran mama welcomed us and Krishnamurthy(thecook) brought out homemade murukku and mixture and gave us his best coffee.Dkp started with ‘’ sri nadhadhi”’ in mayamalavagoula- the first composition of Dikshithar. I still remember her ‘bhavam’ at the place-‘ mayamalava gouladhidesa ‘– in the last portion of the charana. Pattammal lowered her head and with eyes closed- brought out a rare feeling in the song- with her diamond nose ring and her diamond thodus glistening in the afternoon sunlight. She was dressed very well in traditional silks and combinations. When she sang it came from the heart.

She taught only pallavi and anupallavi in the first class and asked me to come again for the charanam. In those days we never recorded the songs- but I used to write the notation very fast. I used to pick up very fast- she used to watch me keenly- and asked’’will you learn the full song in a day ‘?—I replied”yes amma’. She laughed and from the next class she taught the whole song. She told everyone that I had a very sharp brain and assimilation capacity. “’romba churukka pudicchukaraye ma-‘’- she used to say. She told me that i should not change her padantharam- I agreed and I have not changed her padantharams till this day. DKP did not like long raga alapanas.

Pattammal told me that it was my mother who introduced her to a diamond merchant from whom she bought her diamonds- of high blue jaguar quality. She also recalled that my mother presented her with silk sarees and a pearl necklace. My mother recalled that the writer”’kalki” and his wife ’ used to bring DKP to our house.

She taught me Kamakshi in Bilahari, Pahimam Ratnachala- ii Mukhari , Sri krishnam bhaja and other kritis. She taught me a rare javali in kedara gaula- ‘kopametula’. She also taught me a padam in kapi- Vannegadu . She always sang with deep feeling. She liked to talk about her past concerts and RTP’s. She used to talk about one Telugu vadyar who taught her many songs. She recalled her time wth T L Venkatrama iyer and his prowess in Dikshithar kritis. She praised her brother and disciple Sri D K J ayaraman . She admired DKJ and shed tears when she spoke about him- out of her deep bond especially the music.

As a couple Pattammal and Eswaran were very friendly and gracious. When we did namaskaram they blessed us wholeheartedly and with kind words . Even after that I kept in touch and my daughter Shubasree carried on the tradition by training under her for five years.

Charumathi Ramachandran musician, musicologist,music Guru and writer