The Dhanammal Legacy - with Family Photos

Carnatic Musicians
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kittappa
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#1 The Dhanammal Legacy - with Family Photos

Post by kittappa » 22 Sep 2011, 13:25

There is this beautiful group photo of the Veena Dhanammal family. I lost the 'Sruti' issue which had that photo. Can anyone access the photo and post it here please. It is such a treasure trove.
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RaviSri
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#2 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by RaviSri » 22 Sep 2011, 17:59

I'll post the photo here tomorrow. If you want to possess the photo, just buy the June 2007 issue of 'Sruti' where this and many rare photos of Brinda-Muktha are published as part of our article on them.
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RaviSri
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#3 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by RaviSri » 23 Sep 2011, 19:15

Image

Sitting left to right
T.Brinda
Kamakshi (Dhanammal’s 4th daughter and Brinda-Muktha’s mother)
Lakshmiratnam (Dhannammal’s 2nd daughter and T.Sankaran’s mother)
Dhanammal
Rajalakshmi (Dhanammal’s eldest daughter)
Jayammal (Dhanammal’s 3rd daughter and mother of T.Balasaraswati, T.Ranganathan and T.Viswanathan)
T.Muktha

Standing behind left to right
T.Kodandaraman (Brinda-Muktha’s younger brother)
T.Srinivasan (Balasaraswati’s elder brother)
T.Sundararajan (Rajalakshmi’s son)
Sundararajan’s wife
T.Balasaraswati
T.Abhiramasundari (violinist; Brinda-Muktha’s younger sister and disciple of Papa Venkataramiah)
T.Sankaran (Depy Director, All India Radio)
T.Vijayakrishnan (Brinda-Mukthas’ elder brother and All India Radio official)

Standing last row
T.Govardhan (youngest brother of Brinda-Muktha, Engineer)
T.S.Sivaraman (Sundararajan’s son)
T.Varadan (younger brother of Balasaraswati)
Squatting
T.Viswanathan (flautist, Professor, Wesleyan University)
Bhagyalakhmi (Sundararajan’s daughter)
T.Ranganathan (mridangist, Pazhani’s disciple)
Kalpakam (Sundararajan’s daughter)
T.S. Vasudevan (Sundararajan’s son)
Standing between Rajalakshmi and Jayammal is T.S.Dattadri(Sundararajan’s son)

The photograph was taken in 1936 by G.Kumaravel in the compound of the then Saraswati Stores opposite the L.I.C. Building on Mount Road, Madras. Kumaravel later set up his studio next to the LIC and the studio is now known as G.K.Vale.
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cmlover
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#4 Re: Dhanammak Group Photo

Post by cmlover » 23 Sep 2011, 19:27

Many thanks!
An unforgettable page from the past.....
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arasi
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#5 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by arasi » 23 Sep 2011, 19:38

What a family tree!
A precious picture, indeed.
Thanks, RaviSri.
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vasanthakokilam
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#6 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by vasanthakokilam » 23 Sep 2011, 19:48

My goodness, what a great picture! Thanks RaviSri.
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varsha
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#7 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by varsha » 23 Sep 2011, 20:09

Simply unbelievable photograph !!!! Thank you so much . My heart is still pumping with joy.
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Sreeni Rajarao
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#8 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by Sreeni Rajarao » 23 Sep 2011, 21:35

Beautiful picture of a special family!

Thanks for sharing!
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mahavishnu
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#9 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by mahavishnu » 23 Sep 2011, 23:56

Extraordinary picture! Still can't get over the image of the very young Viswa-sir sitting on the floor with a straw hat.
Interesting piece of trivia about GK Vale as well!

Thank you, Ravisri.
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Ramasubramanian M.K
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#10 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by Ramasubramanian M.K » 24 Sep 2011, 00:16

Thanks a million Ravisri!!! A pic is worth a thousand words-Each person in that pic over 3/4/5 generations have done the greatest service to preserving the CM tradition and it should be said despite apathy and indifference from the Society around them at that time--institutions and individuals alike --- kept their heads aloft proudly preserving the tradition without compromise. There was a notion that they zealously guarded the tradition and were unwilling to impart the same to other eager Vidyarthis of their times. NOTHING COULD BE FARTHEST FROM THE TRUTH--The family had the best of the Trinity's legacies--the Thygaraja tradition thro the Walajapet school,Conjeevaram Naina Pillai et al. the Dikshithar tradition thro Sathanur Panchanada Iyer, the Dance tradition thro the Tanjore quartet(the interactions may have been fewer but nonetheless productive). Ramnad Krishnan,KVN,Semmangudi and MSS have all immensely benefited from the family--SSI popularised several padams/javalis /thillanas--RK popularised lots of rare Thyagaraja Krithis like Parithapamu(manohari),Thulasidala(Mayamalavagowla),Sannithodi(Harikambodhi- version slightly different from the DKP/DKJ), besides Javalis like Modi Jese (Kamas), KVN the Nandanar songs(varuhalamo,VazhiMaraithirukkude) etc--ofcourse it should also be said---- not without a nice but no-less-biting "taunt" that finally these "learners" have found the true path to authentic music."--a remark that will "sting" the renowned learners-- and this remark will reverberate amongst the artistic community bringing the "ill-informed" canard that they were haughty!!!

In the fifties, when T Balasaraswathi danced under the Shanmukhananda auspices in Mumbai, there was a private mini dance recital in a private house in one of the connoisseurs house in Churchgate ( who happened to be a Top executive with the Tatas group) with Jayammal singing and TB dancing and singing(TB was equally a good singer as she was a dancer!!)-- I still recall the Bhairavi Padam, Rama Rama Prana Sakhi--Jayammal-- despite being in her seventies sang beautifully--and then Mother-Daughter sang Upamugana Padam(Yadukulakambodhi--one in the upper octave--TB and Jayammal in the lower octave--perfect blend). The reason I am narrating this anecdote is to demonstrate how much they loved their art and performed before audiences that respected their glorious tradition without trying to "enslave" or "exploit" for commercial motives.
Just to reinforce the above point, Viswa Sir during his entire stay in the USA was willing to teach any student genuinely interested in learning the Dhanammal tradition--every year under the CMANA auspices(Carnatic Music Association of North America ) he used to bring a group(about 20/25 students) to sing the Navarana krithis of Dikshitar and the Pancharathna kritis- the group performed flawlessly. He offered to teach me but given the distance(Wesleyan was 100 miles one way from NY) and my family commitments I could not avail myself of that opportunity--something I regret everyday even today. The several students who had learnt under him have told me that the last thing Viswa Sir would ever broach was remuneration--their Music was NEVER for sale and the generations have upheld that tradition.

Viswa Sir had high regard for my father and whenever my father visited the USA a "pilgrimage" to Wesleyan was a must for my father(In fact when Jon Higgins was alive my father interviewed him at the behest of Viswa Sir and the entire interview was published in the Shanmukha magazine).During these "meets" the talk will not be around any gossip or complaint against the Chennai establishments that did not give the family their due accord BUT only about the rigors of training in their household--how Naina Pillai,Dharmapuri Subbarayar, and a host of cognoscentis--TTK et al would visit during the Friday evening Bhajans in Thambu Chetty Street(in Georgetown Chennai).

Viswa Sir ,in one of my father's visits to the USA,invited my father to come with him to Washington D.C. where he was honored by the center for performing Arts for his contributions to Ethno Music at Wesleyan and introduced my Father to Senator Chris Dodd(as he was from Connecticut) as a family member and father figure for him.
Last but not least, in the late eighties when my daughter who is a dancer was preparing for a recital in Chennai we ran into a lyrics problem with the Padam Yarukkahilum Bhayama (Begada)--late in the evening-- I phoned Viswa Sir and requested the lyrics-not only did he sing over the phone the full version he wrote it down and "faxed it rightaway -- the next morning it was on my fax machine.

In short when it came to Vidhya Dhaanam, the Dhanammal Family was Non-pareil and were anything but "hoarders" as some ill-informed criticism that floated around the Chennai Music Scene in the forties and the fifties made it seem!! Personally I felt that the Chennai Musical establishments--the MA or Indian Fine Arts or Krishna Gana Sabha or Tamil Isai sangam- could have done more to acknowledge the Family's contribution,preservation and sustenance of CM and any grievances that the Family might have had were legitimate.
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Pratyaksham Bala
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#11 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by Pratyaksham Bala » 24 Sep 2011, 01:23

RaviSri:
Great photograph! Thanks a lot!
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cmlover
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#12 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by cmlover » 24 Sep 2011, 06:47

Interesting anecdotes MKR.
Glad for setting right the historical details on the DhanammaL pokkishams.
Of course both Brinda and Mukta have tirelessly shared their treasures and enriched CM as we know it today.
It will be nice if you share historical facts regarding the whole family which is not known to the CM world yet..
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kalyani_ragam
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#13 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by kalyani_ragam » 24 Sep 2011, 07:03

Ramasubramanian M.K wrote: --TTK et al would visit during the Friday evening Bhajans in Thambu Chetty Street(in Georgetown Chennai).

.
Two of the musicians who used to be regulars in the weekly private audience of Dhannammal were Sri Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar and Dr. Sreepada Pinakapani. Dr. Pani has imbibed a great deal of the Dhannammal style in his music which he has passed on to his illustrious disciples.

BTW, where is Smt. Vegavahini Vijayaraghavan. Was she born at that time this picture was taken ?
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thanjavooran
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#14 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by thanjavooran » 24 Sep 2011, 07:58

Shri Ramasubramaniam M.K. Avl,
The ancecdotes are quite interesting. Expecting more such informations.
Thanjavooran 24 09 2011
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Ramasubramanian M.K
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#15 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by Ramasubramanian M.K » 24 Sep 2011, 08:03

Kalyani_Ragam: YES!! I forgot to mention Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar--he was the most steadfast, supporter of Dhanammal especially when the family went into hardships. He was really sore with the establishment in Chennai at that time for not
having recognized her greatness. In fact in his book "History of Carnatic Music" released in 1972,he quotes from one of the articles he had written about Dhanammal in 1936(Dhanammal was 69 years old @ that time--she died two years later):
:To sum up Dhanam is a unique figure in the world of Carnatic Music.
hers is no music that merely tickles the ear for the nonce. It haunts one like a pleasant dream long after the performance is over. It has an apparent simplicity that on a close scrutiny proves a luring mirage that plays hide and seek with the caravan.(What an expression--MKR)

He goes on :However it is sad that she languishes in poverty and oblivion today--a reflection on our own sense of values. I have often wondered at the paucity of enlightened professionals at her Friday performances in her residence all these years, whereas every item of her music--the rich repertoire, the ease and grace, the absence of uncouth mannerisms. the tense atmosphere etc may well be studied for a length of time by votaries of the art".

Unfortunately for Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar his own "tilts" at the establishment rendered him unpopular and as such the cause that he championed(namely Dhanam) suffered due to the "intransigence " of the advocate!!!

I had not heard of Dr. Pinakapani's attendance at the Fridays concerts. No wonder his style with emphasis on Bhavam bears Dhanammal's influence.

re: Vehavauhini--while I am not certain I am doubtful if she would have been born at that time-(remember the pic was taken in 1936 and I doubt if Vegavauhini is that old now!!).
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rajeshnat
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#16 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by rajeshnat » 24 Sep 2011, 09:58

ravisri
Thank u for the precious photo ,what a great one

MKR sir
Nice anecdotes, thank u
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kalyani_ragam
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#17 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by kalyani_ragam » 24 Sep 2011, 10:35

MKR,
It is said that Dr. Pani used to travel all the way to Chennai from his home town in AP State just to listen to the music of dhannammal. This was done week after week for many years. And walking back with Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar discussing her music late in the night.
Notating music being the strongest point of Dr. Pani, this has been done so meticulously and passed on to his disciples. If you listen to his padam and javali rendering you can appreciate the great influence of dhannammal style.
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RaviSri
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#18 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by RaviSri » 24 Sep 2011, 12:08

Vegavauhini was not born at that time. Only 10 or 12 years later. All the members of the family born before 1936 are there in the picture. Brinda was 24, Muktha was 22, Bala was 18, Abhiramasundari was 17, Ranga was 12 and Viswa was 10 at the time of the photograph.

Thanks MKR for the observations and your recollections of a Bala recital at Churchgate. Was it Tata Ramu's house?

It was not Thambu Chetty Street but Ramakrishnan Street nearby that the family lived in. Most of the members including Brinda, Muktha and Bala were born in the Ramakrishnan Street house.

As you rightly pointed out, the family were not actually stingy, excepting to a certain extent Dhanammal herself. Some of the songs she never taught even members of the family. She taught Balagopala of Dikshitar only to MLV's mother Lalitangi and to none else. Nannu Brochutaku, the Todi kriti of Subbaraya Sastri, she taught only Bala. Vachamagochara, the Atana masterpeice of Sadasiva Rao and Inkevarunnaru (Sahana) of Annasami Sastri, she taught only to Brinda-Muktha. In her last days she lived with Jayamma and Bala at their Egmore house. The Ramakrishnan Street house was sold due to debts and each daughter's family lived apart.

Brinda and Muktha taught the songs they knew to anyone who sought them out. Muktha was especially generous when it came to teaching. In her last years she would ask disciples what they wanted. She stopped teaching other disciples in 2003 but continued to teach me till October 2004 since I was coming from outside Madras especially to learn from her.

Another interesting anecdote: Muktha returned to Madras after her Cleveland concert in April 2002. She remarked to her disciples that at Cleveland there was this huge crowd at her concert and that she, Muktha, had got the biggest crowd any Dhanammal family member ever had for their concerts. Rama Ravi came to pay her respects after that. Muktha asked her whether she knew Thyagaraja's E pApamu (Atana). Rama said 'no'. Muktha then and there taught Rama that song. The guru was 88 and the disciple almost 60. Muktha had sung that song at the Cleveland concert.
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RaviSri
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#19 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by RaviSri » 24 Sep 2011, 12:10

Another thing. Dhanammal was totally blind by the time of the photograph.
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kittappa
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#20 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by kittappa » 24 Sep 2011, 13:54

Thanks a lot for posting this wonderful photo. Got to know who's who and their relationship with each other. Sruti magzine only published the names and not the relationships.

A couple of questions:
1) What was the Shyama Sastri-Dhanammal family connection?
2) Was Sattanur Panchanada Iyer, a guru of Dhanammal, a direct disciple of Dikshitar?
3) Where is the veena that Dhanammal was playing?
4) I have heard that Rangaramanuja Iyengar had a statue of Dhanammal sculpted. Would you be knowing where the statue is now?
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kittappa
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#21 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by kittappa » 24 Sep 2011, 13:57

Forgot one thing. I can neve forget the wonderful music I heard at your place along with my parents and Dileep. Especially mesmerising were Chetasri, Veenapustaka Dharini, Ekkalathilum, Tiruvotriyur Thyagarajan and the Begda padam. Now you might recall me. It was 8 years ago. My fondest regards to you and to your friend.
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RaviSri
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#22 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by RaviSri » 24 Sep 2011, 17:52

Kittappa, I remember you now.

Your questions:
1) Subbaraya Sastri taught his father Shyama Sastri's as well as his own compositions to Kamakshi and Sundara, grandmother and mother respectively of Dhanammal. After Subbaraya Sastri passed away, his son Annasami Sastri taught Sundara. That is the connection between Shyama Sastri and Dhanammal family.

2) Dr.V.Raghavan has written that Sathanur was a disciple of Dikshitar. But I don't know. One thing is sure. Sathanur was a disciple of Shuddha Maddhalam Tambiyappan who was a senior disciple of Dikshitar. Along with Dhanammal, Tiruppambaram Natarajasundaram Pillai, father of flautist Tiruppamburam Swaminatha Pillai (guru of Viswa) learnt from Sathanur. Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer, violinist and uncle of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer also learnt from Sathanur for sometime. An anecdote: Many decades later when Dhanammal and Natarajasundaram Pillai met, they talked about their guru Sathanur Panchu and sang a few Dikshitar compositions they had learnt from him. To their astonishment they found that none of them had changed even a sangati in a single song. Dhanammal said to Pillai: "Pillaival, we are both singing exactly like we learnt, after all these years. That is the blessing of our Sathanur Ayya".

3) The veena of Dhanammal was with Balasaraswati, since she died at their house in Egmore. It was in an enclosed case in Bala's home on Ramanathan Road, Kilpauk. Later Bala's daughter Lakshmi was preserving it. Now hopefully the veena is with Lakshmi's son Aniruddha.

4) The statue of Dhanammal was commissioned by Rangaramanuja Iyengar shortly after her death in 1938. Apparently Iyengar had promised Muktha that she could take the statue after he died. And so in 1980 the statue came to Muktha's house. And there it is. Enclosed in a glass case, it sits in the front balcony of Muktha's apartment in Gandhi Nagar, Adyar. A personal anecdote:

When Muktha's bungalow was demolished to make way for an aparment block in 1990, she had to move to another place a few housees away. Myself and my friend Sridhar were asked to help in the shifting. The statue made in plaster of paris was weightier than we expected. Six of us struggled to place it in the van and then take it out and place it in their shifted house. C.V.Narasimhan, Under Secretary General and a friend of the family playfully tried to lend a helping hand. We were exhausted and out of breath. An excellent meal was prepared by CVN's cousin Jayalakshmi (aka Rosy, disciple of Papa). In 'recognition' of our 'service' to Dhanammal, Muktha, Rosy and CVN served us the meal. Can never forget that incident and the weight of that statue still weighs on my mind and induces a shudder even now.
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RaviSri
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#23 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by RaviSri » 24 Sep 2011, 17:55

Sorry, C.V.Narasimhan Under Secretary General of the United Nations.
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cienu
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#24 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by cienu » 24 Sep 2011, 18:22

lovely memories
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kittappa
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#25 Re: Dhanammal Group Photo

Post by kittappa » 25 Sep 2011, 10:36

Excellent anecdotes Ravi. Keep going. BTW, will you be coming to Chennai during the season? I remember your telling me that the last season you attended fully was way back in 1991 and after that you attended for a couple of days in 2002. What about this year. We could have some good conversations, reminiscences and music too at some place. Interested people can join in.
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