Padma mami aka Padma Chandilyan, daughter of the writer Chandilyan and disciple of Palghat KV Narayanaswamy, has produced many musicians of the upcoming generation. The entire family is also musical with mridangist Srimushnam Raja Rao mama and their son Raghavendra Rao who is none other than music composer Sean Roldan.
Let me start off with the first time I met mami. I had auditioned for a TV show, where I met an old music friend of mine, who was learning from mami then. She offered to introduce me to mami and took me to her house. It was 2 PM and mami had just finished her house chores and was lying down. She said, “paduthunde kekaren… oru paatu paaduma…” (sing something, I will lie down and listen). I started singing Dikshitar’s Ranganayakam in Nayaki raga, and she was up and sitting straight by the time I started singing Anupallavi. She said that is the respect one needs to give to music. Whether I sang that well or not, it did give me a good feel and a nice lesson. She used to refer even a younger musician as ‘avar’ stating the same reason. In a world where musicians spoke ill of their contemporaries, this was a value to learn and adopt.
We have learnt quite a few songs in detail – to the extent that whenever I’m singing that phrase / line of song, I would unconsciously recollect all the mistakes, corrections and advices she gave and a faint smile would creep up my face, every time. One such best memory is with Bhairavi ata thaala varnam, viriboni.
Usually as a warm up during the start of the class, we sing a varnam. That fateful day it was viriboni in bhairavi. Maami came running from the kitchen when we were in Anupallavi, and asked us to stop our shoddy singing. Then she went ahead to re-teach the same, and explaining how and when to use the two dhaivathams – when the next swaram is ni use the second, if its pa use the first. I then realised how wrongly I had been singing the same song for years together! Simply singing at the right note does add to the song’s beauty 🙂
We used to sing kalpana swaram, neraval and aalapana (these are extempore ways of expressing the raga while a song is being rendered), like a relay. Ten plus students sitting in a semi-circle and singing when their turn comes, secretly plotting how to excel than the others (while waiting for your turn). A mere aha from Maami was all needed; a healthy competition it was.
Raja Rao mama used to take a few classes instead of Maami. During one such class when I learnt the only Harikamboji song I know till date – “Muruga Thirumaal Maruga”. There was a second sangathi for the Anupallavi – “Thiru ulaavum Then Pazhani Deivame”. Maama used to say how the sangathi should be sung if the ones carrying the Lord in veedhi ula were singing it – not on the landing of the beat, but in a whimsical way, matching their footsteps. He used the tamizh phrase kaalara ulaathara maadhiri. And then guffaw at his own imagination!
There are many more songs and great moments to talk about… “Meenakshi memudham dehi”, “Ninne nammithi nayya”, “Bala gopala”, “Aazhi mazhai kanna” – each of it worth a post’s length. But I sign off here with a smile in my face, reminiscing…
P.S: This is the second post in the Guru Vandanam series.