The National Poet’s great-grandson Rajkumar Bharati made a presentation on this subject on the last day of the Music Academy’s annual conference for 2010. He was assisted by his daughter and in the audience was his mother Lalitha, grand-daughter of the great poet and nationalist.

Rajkumar Bharati said that these were tunes in which the poet had sung his works to his wife and daughters and these had come down by way of family tradition. Some were substantiated by tunes indicated by the poet during publication in the papers of his times. Subramania Bharati knew music well and he made no bones about his opinion on how Carnatic music ought to be performed. Rajkumar read out a few extracts from Bharati’s commentaries in support of this. Bharati (sr) used simple tunes and catchy beats (tisra gati) so that everyone could sing these pieces and awaken nationalist fervour.

The pieces presented today were

vandE mAtaram enbOm
pArukuLLE nalla nADu (Hindustani Bhairavi as indicated by the poet)
vandE mAtaram jaya jaya
EngaL tAi (set as per the poet in the same tune as a kAvaDi chindu – Arumuga vaDivElanE – in a naTabhairavi based tune).
Enru taNiyum inda
vAzhga tilakar nAmam
murugA murugA (nATakuranji)
vENDum aDi eppOdum viDudalai (gambIra nATTa)

Bharati apparently spent some years in Kasi and later wrote that the Hindustani musicians had bell-like voices if men and golden voices if women. He was very fond of the Nandan Charittiram of Gopalakrishna Bharati. He was also very partial to yadukula kAmbOji and several of his songs were set in this raga.

Being an advaitin, his compositions brim with the concept of equality among all living beings and his ability to see the divine in anything and everything.

Rajkumar recited some of the poems before singing and the entire presentation was marked by a fervour that brought Subramania Bharati alive. There were repeated rounds of applause, the loudest being with Rajkumar’s mother, at the request of Dr N Ramanathan, sang a few lines in a clarion-like voice. How else could Subramania Bharati’s granddaughter sing?

Rajkumar mentioned that at the instance of Dr S Seetha, then the HOD of the Music Department, Madras University, his mother had in 1986 recorded a tape comprising the traditional tunes of Subramania Bharati. Dr N Ramanathan was also present then and had assisted in notating the pieces.

In the interactive session, Dr Ramanathan complimented the speaker and his daughter, in whose music he said he found traces of the fervour with which Lalitha Bharati had sung in 1986. He asked Rajkumar to comment on the differences found in his rendition and the way in which Dr S Ramanathan had notated the traditional tunes. Rajkumar said that both were based on the same, but Dr Ramanathan, like all classical musicians had attempted to give a more strong Carnatic flavour to the songs.

Sangita Kalanidhi-designate C Lalitha had an interesting anecdote to share. In the final years of his life, Bharati, while working for the Swadesamitran, lived in a one-room tenement on TP Koil Street and another room in the same building was occupied by Lalitha’s father-in-law, then a young man and a few of his friends. One evening Bharati came home in a rickshaw with his month’s pay-packet. On alighting he paid the rickshaw-puller the fare whereupon the latter, hoping for a little more said that he had many mouths to feed. Bharati immediately made over his entire pay!

Bharat’s wife was naturally upset over this and the young men in the next portion on coming to know, traced the rickshaw puller and managed to retrieve a substantial part of the money and returned it to Bharati so that his home-fires could burn. In later years, Lalitha’s father-in-law would often recall this and chuckle and say that even he had been of service to Bharati and therefore the nation!

I could not stay for the second lecture by Dr R Satyanarayana. The December malady (and not melody) postponed its descent on me till the end of the season. And so, as Pepys would have said, to bed. Tomorrow is Open House 