Given below is a brief profile on each:
Sangita Kalanidhi – AKC Natarajan
Born in Tiruchirapalli on 30th May 1931 to AK Chinnikrishna Naidu and Rukmini Ammal, Vidwan AKC Natarajan comes from a family that has been devoted to wind instruments. His grandfather Kuppuswami Naidu was a nagaswaram artiste who took up the clarionet. Natarajan was taught the nuances of playing the clarionet by his father who was an accomplished performer on the instrument. From the age of ten he also learnt vocal music from Alathur Venkatesa Iyer and the nagaswaram from Iluppur Natesa Pillai.
Though proficient in vocal music, Natarajan preferred the clarionet in which he gave his first public performance in 1946 and was acclaimed by leading artistes of the day. He joined the All India Radio in 1949 and served at Calicut and New Delhi before resigning his job to become a full-fledged clarionet artiste in 1952. His performance that year in Madras was praised by Sangita Kalanidhi Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. He was also given encouragement by nagaswaram maestro TN Rajarathinam Pillai who conferred on him the title Clarionet Everest. Since then AKC Natarajan has performed widely in India and abroad.
Natarajan worked hard for the clarionet to be accepted as a Carnatic instrument by the layman and the connoisseur. He brought his profound vidwat and musical abilities to play and succeeded in bringing the vocal and nagaswaram banis to the instrument. His raga alapanas, his swara renditions and above all his special way of presenting kritis are unique and have ensured a wide fan-following.
Sangita Kala Acharya – Mavelikkara K Velukutty Nair
Born in Mavelikkara on 2nd October 1926 to Mridanga Vidwan Muthukulam S Kumara Pillai and Kathyayani Amma, Velukutty Nair had his initial training on the mridangam under his father. He later apprenticed with Sangita Kalanidhi Palghat TS Mani Iyer for eight years. Taking to the mridangam as a profession, he has accompanied most of the leading artistes of Carnatic Music. Velukutty Nair joined the Sri Swati Tirunal College of Music, Tiruvananthapuram in 1959 as a teacher and retired from there as Principal in 1982. While continuing as a concert artiste, he also trained numerous students on the instrument, many of whom are performing artistes today. He is an A-Top grade artiste at the All India Radio, Tiruvananthapuram. His teaching skills have ensured that he is the examiner of choice for various Universities and colleges teaching music, both in his home state and in the rest of the country.
Sangita Kala Acharya – Sarada Hoffman
Sarada Hoffman was trained in dance at Kalakshetra by Chokkalingam Pillai and gave her first performance in 1943 with Rukmini Devi herself doing the nattuvangam. Her dancing was known for its grace, showcasing nritta at its best along with refined abhinayam. To enhance her repertoire, Sarada took additional guidance in abhinayam from Gowri Ammal. In addition to Bharata Natyam, she also trained in Kathakali with Ambu Panikkar and Chandu Panikkar. Sarada played a key role in the creation of the original Kalakshetra style. She was Rukmini Devi’s primary assistant in creating dance dramas, learning all the roles and training other dancers. And for more than fifty years, Sarada has trained countless students, many now well known in the dance field, with individual care and constant dedication to the standards of the art form. Throughout her career she has remained steadfast in her devotion to her guru and her dedication to dance.
TTK Award – Annavarapu Ramaswamy
Born in 1926 at Somavarappadu in present day Andhra Pradesh to Peddaiah and Lakshmi Devi, Ramaswamy comes from a musical family, his father being a musician, his mother a talented singer and his brother Gopalam a well known percussion artiste. He had his initial training on the violin under Maganti Jagannatha Chowdari of his own native village. Later, he apprenticed under Parupallai Ramakrishnaiah Pantulu of the Tyagaraja sishya parampara and underwent rigorous training on the violin. He joined the All India Radio, Vijayawada in 1948 and retired from there in 1986. He has been an accompanist in which capacity he has performed with most stalwarts of yesteryears. He has also given numerous solo performances. Equally proficient on the viola as on the violin, he has also composed varnams and kritis. He has trained a number of students in the art and has been widely honoured and feted.
TTK Award – Palai CK Ramachandran
Born on 7th October 1943 to G Krishna Pillai and Kathyayani Amma, Palai CK Ramachandran began learning music at the age of eight from Kumarakom Bhaskara Menon. Later he completed his diploma in music at the Sri Swati Tirunal Music College, Tiruvananthapuram where he was taught by Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. From 1963, he underwent further training under Semmangudi in the traditional gurukulavasam style for ten more years. He had the privilege of providing vocal support to Semmangudi in several concerts. He also served as a vocalist for 28 years at the All India Radio (AIR) Calicut, where he conducted the popular programme “Learn to Sing”. Apart from performing frequently, Ramachandran has trained a number of students in the Semmangudi bani. He has also authored a book in Malayalam on Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. He is now an A-Top grade artiste at the All India Radio.
Dr SAK Durga
Born in 1940 at Kumbhakonam to noted music patron SA Venkatarama Iyer and Lalitha Bai, a Harikatha artiste and singer, Durga was taught music from the age of eight by her mother. She also learnt music from stalwarts such as Sangita Kalanidhis Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer, T Viswanathan and M Balamuralikrishna and also the well known vocalist Ramnad Krishnan. She also underwent training in Hindustani Music under Mohammed Munavar Ali. Developing as an ethnomusicologist, Durga holds two masters degrees and two PhDs in Indian Music and Ethnomusicology from the Madras and the Wesleyan Universities. She studied ethnomusicology under the guidance of Lord Yehudi Menuhin and is now the founder director of the Centre for Ethnomusicology and Centre for Voxology, Chennai. A Professor Emeritus of Madras University, she has been teaching World Music at several Universities around the world. She has a number of publications and papers to her credit. She is also a member of the Experts Committee, Music Academy, Chennai.