Paddhati – Papanasam Sivan kritis sung by DK Jayaraman

This is an album about two gentle and great musical souls. The first is Papanasam Sivan, the 20th century Carnatic music composer whose music and lifestyle mirrored that of great composers of the past, thereby earning him the title of Tamizh Tyagiah. The second is DK Jayaraman, a leading Carnatic star vocalist, who among his many musical talents, was known for his emotion laden renditions of several of Sivan songs. That was not surprising, for Jayaraman had been a student of Sivan’s and had witnessed the process of creation of several of those songs in the first person.

Sivan (born 1890) moved to Madras city in 1931 and settled in Mylapore in order to be close to Karpagam and Kapali, the presiding deities of the temple there and who had completely enveloped his being. A large corpus of his compositions was to be dedicated to them. Around the same time, Damal Krishnaswami Dikshitar, in order to further the promising musical career of his daughter DK Pattammal (b 1919) also shifted with family to Madras city. Pattammal began learning music from Sivan in 1933. A keen observer of the proceedings was Jayaraman (born 1928), Pattammal’s younger brother. Soon his own musical talents began to surface and he too became a student of Sivan’s in 1937. Both brother and sister were to remain Sivan’s students till his demise in 1973.

Sivan considered them to be his own children and often spoke of them in the same vein. He often expressed the view that the duo could not be excelled in the manner in which they captured the musical essence of his songs. They too responded and as Pattammal once recollected even prevailed on Sivan, who was by then a busy music composer for films as well, to set a song or two in the tunes of popular Hindi film hits! Pattammal soon became a busy concert and recording artiste and played a vital role in propagating several of Sivan’s compositions. There were occasions when she learnt a song from Sivan in the morning and recorded it the same evening for a 78 rpm disc. Later she was also encouraged in her playback career for films by Sivan and her songs for the film ‘Tyagabhoomi’ (1939) for which Sivan composed the music and in which he also acted, became great hits. Among these was the stirring patriotic number “dEsa sEvai sEyya vArIr”. With marriage and the consequent increase in domestic responsibilities, Pattammal could not come to Sivan as often as she wished. But the lessons for Jayaraman continued unimpeded.

Studying at the Muthiah Chettiar School, Jayaraman came into close contact with R Rangaramanuja Iyengar, the man who would later compile the Kritimanimalai, the series of books containing the works of the Carnatic Trinity and several other composers. Iyengar, who was teaching at the school had been one of the earliest to notice Sivan’s talents and had in 1934 organised the publication of Keertanamalai, the first compilation of Papanasam Sivan’s kritis. This teacher greatly encouraged DKJ in his tutelage under Sivan.

The Carnatic world took notice of DKJ even when he was a child for his singing talents were much appreciated in a radio play in which he acted the role of Prahlada with Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar acting as Vishnu. Over the years, he made it to the concert platform, first as an accompanist to his sister and later as an independent concert artiste. He chose to live in Kanchipuram for a while in the 1950s but returned to Madras in the 1960s whereupon the close association with Sivan resumed. In 1960, when Sivan turned seventy years of age, the celebrations witnessed a concert by DK Pattammal and Jayaraman, comprising Sivan’s kritis alone. Between 1962 and 73, Jayaraman was a regular at Sivan’s residence, often sharing a simple meal with the Guru’s family and discussing several musical matters. On one occasion Sivan enquired of DKJ the titles he had received and when the latter listed them, suggested that the title of “Nada Brahmam” ought to be his. He wrote the same in a copy of a book of his songs and gifted it to DKJ who cherished the same. DKJ later also joined the bhajanai ghoshti (devotional song group) that Sivan led around the four Mada Streets of Mylapore each year during the month of Margazhi (Dec/Jan). He continued to participate in it till his own passing in 1991.

Writing about his close association with Sivan in an article penned for the magazine Sruti in the 1990s, DKJ said, “All the songs of Sivan to which I helped bring fame were learnt by me directly from the composer himself. He would sing the lines and I would repeat them. Because of his respiratory ailment the words would come out in spurts, somewhat disjointedly, as he sang. Sometimes he would rest quite a while before completing a line. To me this handicap made no difference, for the beautiful sangatis he produced glittered like diamonds.” Among the songs of Sivan that DKJ made famous were gems such as Nekkurugi (AbhOgi), sAradE (dEvagAndhAri), sEnthilANDavan (kharaharapriya), enadu manam (harikAmbOji), unai allAl (kalyANi), mAta (sriranjani), bAlakriShNan (dhanyAsi), nambi kETTavar (hindOLam) and pAdamE tuNai (valaji). Besides, DKJ also gave fresh life to several of the classical songs that Sivan composed for films, by bringing them on to the concert platform. He sang the MS Subbulakshmi hit from the film Savitri (1942), ‘manamE kaNamum’ in several of his concerts.

The Gokulashtami concert at Sivan’s house was an annual feature. DKJ joined Sivan on most of these occasions and later was to recall a particular year in which he joined Sivan in rendering several of his songs on Krishna such as bAlakrShNan (dhanyAsi) and tEril ErinAn (kalyANi), besides the works of other composers.

In September 1973, DKJ had to leave for Calcutta for a concert and before departing requested Sivan to record a few songs on tape for him to learn from. Sivan obliged. By the time DKJ returned, Sivan had passed away. The tapes containing his voice became DKJ’s treasured possessions. Shortly after this, DKJ was slated to perform at the Navaratri series at the Ramakrishna Mission, Mylapore and he dedicated the concert to Sivan’s compositions. Most of the audience was moved to tears.

DKJ trail blazed a remarkable career in the field of Carnatic music in the years following Sivan’s death. It was a pity that the Guru was not around to witness the success of disciple. DKJ continued featuring several of Sivan’s songs in his concerts and despite a busy concert career and indifferent health, kept up the annual Margazhi bhajanai tradition at Mylapore along with Sivan’s daughter Rukmini Ramani. In December 1990 DKJ received the highest of Carnatic music’s awards, the Sangita Kalanidhi from the Music Academy. Sadly, he passed away a few days later to the lasting regret of his fans. Truly it could be said of him that like Sivan, he had no enemies, for such was his loving nature. He has left behind numerous concert recordings in which the songs of Sivan continue to shine and dazzle like the diamonds to which he had once compared them.

This write-up was the accompanying sleeve note for the Charsur album of a live concert of DKJ’s featuring Papanasam Sivan’s songs. The concert has DKJ speaking often, sometimes giving hilarious footnotes to some of the songs.