Saturday, August 18, 2007


It came as a shock to the music world when Veena Vidushi, Smt.Mangalam Muthuswamy, left for her heavenly abode on Saturday, the 9th of June, 2007.

Smt. Mangalam Muthuswamy needs no introduction in the field of Carnatic Music. A performer and teacher par excellence, Smt. Mangalam Muthuswamy was known for her passionate involvement with the Carnatic Veena, her strict adherence to the pure Tanjore style of playing the instrument and the sheer dexterity and depth displayed by her in the typical ‘gayaki’ style of Veena playing, involving the use of complicated gamakas, virtually making her Veena sing during her concerts! Her faithful observance to this tradition has won her acclaim from even great stalwarts of Carnatic music, such as Shri T.L.Venkatrama Iyer (ex-chairman of the Sangeeta Natak Academy), Smt. D.K.Pattammal, Shri Maharajapuram Santhanam, Shri Emani Shankar Shastry, Shri S.Balachander and Dr. V.V.Srivatsa. Smt. Muthuswamy was also well-versed on the Sitar and tutored under Pandit Shri Kartik Kumar for the same.

Trained in the Veena under the Gurukula system prevalent then, Smt. Mangalam Muthuswamy started her initial lessons from her own mother and famous artiste of her time, Smt. Lakshmibai Ammal. She then proceeded to continue her tutelage under Tanam expert, Smt. ‘Veena’ Visalakshi, a direct disciple of Shatkala Chakravarthi Veena Venkatramana Das of Vijayanagaram and the world-renowned Smt. Dhanammal.

Smt. Muthuswamy had been merely 11 years old when she gave her first performance in the All India Radio. She is one of the few Vainikas who have had the distinction of being an ‘A High’ grade artiste at the AIR and the Doordarshan as well.

Smt.Muthuswamy has had many performances, awards and titles to her credit. Most important performances included the Radio Sangeet Sammelan in 1994; a performance in the august presence of Shri R.V.Venkataraman, the then President of India; the NCPA, Mumbai; Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai and the Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer’s Trust at Chennai. A recipient of the ‘Sur Mani’ award, she also conducted lecture-demonstrations on music, wrote articles for the Times of India and Shanmukha, the quarterly music magazine of Shanmukhananda.

Smt. Mangalam Muthuswamy was a fine performer, whose deft fingering and ease while playing on her Veena could transport her audience to a totally different, higher level of being. Her mellifluous Veena could induce tears even in laymen who could not understand the finer nuances of classical music. Such was the sheer magic she held in her fingertips!

Smt. Mangalam Muthuswamy’s biggest asset, though, was her ability to impart training in Veena to her many students. She had been a Veena teacher in the Bharatiya Music and Fine Arts Society for 10 years, after which she also served as a teacher in the Shanmukhananda Sangeetha Vidyalaya since 1986. She devised her own unique system of teaching and also successfully produced disciples who won awards in competitions and even gave stage concerts.

I have had the great good fortune of being her disciple since the past one and half decades or so. It has indeed been a pleasure to learn the great art from such a great Guru and a wonderful human being.

Very humble by nature and extremely affectionate towards each of us, ‘Mami’, as we fondly addressed her, was no different to us from our own family. In spite of her huge standing and amazing persona in the music field, Mami would come down to our level, talk and laugh with us, console us in times of trouble and even offer us a shoulder to cry on! Never harsh with her words, Mami would gently chide us for the little (and not-so-little) errors we made while playing, make us realize the true value of music and the true attitude we had to develop in order to delve deeper into the ocean of music.

I recall the many times when she would have me at home for hours at a stretch, grooming me for a stage concert. I would practically live there with other students while preparing for a group programme. Mami never let us realize the strain it would cause her while she selflessly laboured away with us. We practically learnt Veena the play-way – class was always fun, even if it meant getting a good tongue-lashing from Mami once in a way!

Today, our beloved and most respected Mami is no more. We now yearn for her presence and wish we could get just one more moment with her, to thank her for the immense kindness and magnanimity she showed towards us. Words cannot express what she meant to us - the void left by her passing can indeed never be filled.

Of course, we students truly believe that Mami will be with us in spirit, to guide us through our onward musical journey and steady us whenever we falter. But it will never be the same again. We will sorely miss having all those conversations, laughter sessions, grooming sessions and what have you.

We will forever long for the touch of those loving hands on our fingers, guiding them along the frets, that mischievous smile playing on her lips when we struggled in vain with a difficult pidi, the tinkling laughter that broke out each time one of us won some acclaim ………….the memories are never-ending and shall live on forever within us.

It is never going to be possible for us to repay Mami for all that she had done for us. We can only pray that her soul rests in peace and that we are able to, in our own small, humble way, carry forward her luminous tradition of Veena playing.


Blogger Padma said...

Mami is a great loss not only to us but to the music you said i just want her to feel her once but cant....still unable to come to terms with the fact of life...

9/16/2007 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger manju said...

I have not had the privilege of knowing mami...but the article is so well written..not only does it bring out her greatness...but also tears in the eyes of those who read it...

6/24/2010 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Uma said...

Hi Sai just read this but able to feel every word you have written . She is really missed even today. It's had been 7 years now and still all memories are fresh

6/18/2014 07:48:00 PM  

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