The second lec dem today was on the above topic. In fact the days proceedings were dedicated to the memory of Desigar whose birth centenary is being observed this year. R Vedavalli spoke briefly on Desigar. P Muthukumaraswami, a disciple of Desigar gave a very good lec dem. He was assisted by two disciples.

Muthukumaraswami, though suffering a little from chest congestion, sang really well, bringing out all the sangatis of the songs and enunciating every word, both hallmarks of Desigars.

The presentation was structured as a walk through Desigar’s life, interespersed with some of his own compositions and also songs of others that he tuned.

The presentation began with Sambandar’s Tevaram Angamum Vedamum, composed in praise of Lord Ganapatheesar, the presiding deity at Tiruchengattankudi, which was Desigar’s birth place.

Other songs presented were:

1. Anai Mugattone (Desigar, Devamanohari with a lovely chittaswaram at the end of both anupallavi and charanam). This song was composed by Desigar on Ganesa and he invariably commenced his concerts with it. Prior to his composing this, he used to sing Sidhi Vinayakane of Kavi Kunjara Bharati. He selected that song because of the Siddhi Vinayaka shrine at the Potramarai Kulam in Madurai’s Meenakshi temple, which he used to visit everyday during his stay of nine years in Madurai (1929-1937). He began his concert at the Tiruvayyaru Tyagaraja Aradhana with this composition and it caused a furore!

2. Andarulvai Endan Annaye (Desigar, Saveri)- Desigar attributed all his success in life to Goddess Meenakshi or Angayarkanni and composed nine songs on her. He used to say that Madurai was famous for Meenakshi and Ponnusami Pillai the nagaswaram artiste (d 1929) who identified Desigar as a potential success.

3. Anbu Kondennai Andarul (Desigar, Arabhi – the song has the raga name in the sahitya). Also on Meenakshi. This was composed by him as a thanksgiving when his first movie Pattinathar (1937, Vel Pictures) was a success.

4. Tirumagale (Desigar, Todi)- Only a part of this song was sung. Composed with many sangatis mainly to refute the then popular notion that Tamil songs did not lend themselves to sangatis, this song was made popular by AKC Natarajan, the Sangita Kalanidhi designate.

5. Ezhu Isai Agiya (Desigar, Shankarabharanam)- This song on Goddess Saraswathi, has the equivalent Tamil names of the seven notes in its charanam. What is interesting is that the names are tuned to their respective positions in the swara also. Only the charanam of this song was demonstrated.

6. Navukkarasanai (Desigar, Hemavati)-Desigar considered Tirunavukkarasar to be his idol. This song is in his praise. It has sangatis which are clearly influenced by and meant for performing on the nagaswaram.

7. Jagajjanani (Kundrakkudi Krishna Iyer, Ratipatipriya (tune by Desigar)- Desigar composed the songs of many. Bharatidasan who was notorious for his disapproval of his poems being set to music, wrote ten verses in praise of Desigar setting his Thunbam Nergayil (Desh) and Vennilavum Vanum (Jayantasena). Similarly, Desigar set to music songs of Ku Sa Krishnamurthy (Alli Undidalam Vareer, Pantuvarali), Tiruchi G Tyagarajan (Tamarai Pootha Tadagam, Hindustan Gandhari), Desya Vinayakam Pillai (Paatukkoru Pulavan, Desh). The last was sung by him to great applause at the Bharati Mani Mandapam in Ettayapuram in the 1940s.

General – Desigar owed his success in great measure to his second wife Devasena who moulded him and brought him to the forefront. She knew over six languages and he learnt several from her, once even taking a year to learn Kannada so that he could write a preface to a book of Prof. P Sambamoorthy’s in that language. Desigar was no language chauvinist for he could sing whole concerts in Telugu as well as he did in Vishakapatnam. He always began with a Tamil song, even at the Mysore Durbar! The Maharajah however, greatly appreciated this and honoured him.

Desigar was adamant on his principles and preferred to forego opportunities if he had to make compromises. Once at the AIR Delhi, he refused to perform until the station authorities agreed to include a song of Ramalinga Swamigal in his concert bill of fare!

To his students, he was a loving teacher and a father figure. Muthukumarswami brings out a magazine titled Isai Edu, on 26th August (Desigar’s birthday) each year. He has also written a book in Tamil on his interactions with Desigar.