I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the rare privilege of having direct tutelage under my most revered and beloved Guru, Dr. Semmangudi R. Srinivasa Iyer, hailed variously as the Sangita Pitamaha, the doyen and the legend of Carnatic music.
When I joined that Sangeetha Vidwan course at the Central College of Karnatic Music at Madras in 1966, Semmangudi mama as he was fondly called by the music fraternity, was the Honorary Director of the music college. That was when I met him for the first time. He used to take advanced classes for the senior students, and we, the juniors also could attend his classes. What attracted me most was his bhava-laden and gamaka-rich music, with raga bhava emerging as the foremost element in whatever he sang. After completing the Sangeetha Vidwan course, his senior disciple, Smt G. Seethalakshmi took me to him for further training. Thereafter, the seven precious years that I was exposed to his heavenly music are the most memorable period of my life as a student of music. He was a very patient and affectionate Guru, who opened up a whole new world of music filled with incredible vistas and myriad patterns rich in aesthetics and melody.
His notations are so immaculate with signs of jaru, single and double lines below phrases indicating the tempo of the sangatis, that it is easy to follow even when one has not directly learned from him. Even now, when I see his notation of composition, my memory goes back to the manner in which he taught us that composition in class.
In my own small way, I am doing my bit to pass on this rich musical legacy to more and more music aspirants and thus spread his inimitable baani.
Congratulations to Vivek for taking up the commendable initiative of preserving Mama’s rich music for posterity! – Radha Namboodiri.