- Past and the present:
It was during the reign of Sarabhoji
Maharaja in Tanjavur that Clarinet became a part of the music
orchestra in Bharatanatyam (then called Sadir) recitals. This
continued till even 60 years ago. Only in the last 20 years or so
the Clarinet is not seen with the Bharatanatyam music
Similarly, music groups rendering
Tevaram-s used to include the Clarinet, while almost every Radio
station had a Clarinet vidwan. I served the AIR, Calicut (1949) and
Delhi (1950-52) for sometime too. Clarinet has also always occupied
an important place in cine orchestras.
In fact, 60 years ago, this was one of
the primary reasons why I shifted from Nadaswaram to Clarinet. I
learnt vocal music under Alathur Venkatesa Iyer and held a B-high
grade in the AIR. I also have a pretty good command of the
Nadaswaram. By dint of hard and sincere work, and with the blessings
of God and my Gurus, I was able to gain recognition as a top-class
exponent of the Clarinet.
In the world of music, no instrument is
above or below any other instrument. Whatever may be the instrument,
as long as it is handled to produce pure notes, with laya and
sahitya suddha, raga and sahitya bhava, the practitioner can then be
considered superior. It is only on this basis that 60 years ago,
vidwans and the seers of many Mutts, and the public accepted the
Clarinet and enabled me to bring it to the top.
Clarinet is based on the button-system.
It has 13 keys, one key for each note. Gamakas and other nuances are
difficult to produce; specially, traversing a note covered by the
fingers of one hand to the other hand without a break will be
possible only after strenuous practice.
Nadaswaram, on the other hand, is natural
to our music and all the gamakas etc can be produced on it. Still,
Clarinet vidwans like Tanjavur Balakrishna Naidu, Trichy
Chinnakrishna Naidu, Chennai Balaraman, Radhakrishna Naidu, Tanjavur
P R Mani etc, were all well known and highly respected about 60
years ago. They were however mainly performing in temples and
It was only in my time that Clarinet
really started getting featured as a solo instruments. In fact, on
one very memorable but sad day, the Music Academy was faced with the
sudden demise of Nadaswaram vidwan T N Rajaratnam Pillai. It was a
tribute to Clarinet that they chose me to play in his place. On that
day I played from 9 pm to 1:30 am. That marked my first performance
in that august Academy.
Nowadays many talented people are
adapting western instruments to Carnatic music with ease. I am very
pleased with such efforts because before these people, I struggled
through many obstacles, difficulties and heartburn. But my efforts
have resulted in a smooth path for future vidwans. This is a fact
acknowledged by everyone. Therefore the success of Mandolin,
Saxophone etc on the Carnatic music stage gladdens me.
In conclusion, I would like to reaffirm
that in the world of music, rasikas should appreciate and support
all vidwans who produce chaste Carnatic music without looking at the
instrument used. Such daring vidwans also deserve the encouragement
of rasikas, more opportunities to perform in order to enrich
Carnatic music. This is my earnest and humble plea.