This book, a centenary tribute, attempts to analyse what went into the making of Semmangudi, the man
and the musician. The biography covers the key events in his life – his tutelage under various gurus, his
struggles to tame a recalcitrant voice and his ultimate success in this endeavour, his tenure in
Travancore where he worked on the resuscitation of the songs of Swati Tirunal, his career at the AIR, his
years as a top-ranking musician and the colourful controversies and events that marked his life.
In many ways, semmangudi’s life was a mirror to the progress of Carnatic music through the 20th
century. And he was gamely involved in every aspect of it – be it the initial patronage by royalty which
gave way to the egalitarian Sabhas after 1947, the explosion of technology which began with the
gramophones and the radio and marched on to cassettes, CDs and DVDs and the he encouraged by
teaching many lady artistes including MS Subbulakshmi.
The music section analyses Semmangudi’s art which made him the star that he was. His emphasis on
perfection when it came to music, be it his own or that of his disciples ensured that each concert of his
was an outstanding success, a phenomenon that was vouched for by none less than Palghat Mani Iyer, the
The Free CD enclosed carries selections from Semmangudi’s concerts over the years, to enhance the
experience of journeying back in time with one of the greatest artistes of India.
Born on 6th November 1934 at Trivandrum, V Subrahmaniam began training in music under S Sankara
Iyer in 1951 and gave his first performance in 1953. in June 1956 he became a student of Sangita
Kalanidhi Semmangudi R Srinivasa Iyer and remained one till the maestro’s passing in 2003. An MA in
Economics from the Annamalai University, Subramaniam opted for a corporate career but retained an
active interest in Carnatic music. A graded artiste of the AIR since 1958 he has set to tune the
compositions of the Experts Committee of the Music, Academy, he is a respected teacher today. His
work on the lakshanas of 30 ragas of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer were later released as a commercial
CD. The Music Academy conferred the title of Sangita Kala Acharya on him in 2007.
Born on 22nd June 1966 at Landon, Sriram studied in Madras, Calcutta and Delhi qualifying with a BE
and an MBA. After stints in advertising ad marketing, Sriram turned entrepreneur in the fields of
hydraulics and software. Since 1999, Sriram has emerged as a chronicler of Madras city (Chennai) and
Carnatic music. He writes frequently on these subjects in the city’s dailies and also several magazines.
Sriram is Associate Editor of Madras Musings, a fortnightly from the city, dedicated to history and
heritage. He is also Contributing Editor to Sruti, the magazine devoted to the classical arts, Sriram’s
heritage walks in the city of Madaras are well-known events which are much looked forward to. He has
authored two books, Carnatic Summer, (204) on the lives of twenty two exponents of Carnatic Music
and The Devadasai and the Saint, (2007) the biography of Bangalore Nagarathnamma, a well-known
exponent of the arts.
One of the greatest appeals in his persona was his simplicity. I recall the time I had invited him to New
Delhi to receive the Hafiz Ali Khan Award in 1988. he was staying at Rashtapati Bhawan as he was very
close to the then President of India, Shri R. Venkatraman. The award was presented to him by Dr.
Shankar Dayal Sharma, the Vice President of India at Kamini Auditorium. We once again invited him in
Chennai at Rani Seethai Hall in 1989 to present the Haafiz Ali Khan Award to his star disciple, Smt. M.
Not many might know this but Semmangudiji had a tremendous sense of humor. I don’t follow Tamil but
my wife, Subhalaksmi would translate what he was saying to me. I often had the opportunity to discuss
music with him. One of the major points that I had discussed with him was that for a better tomorrow
and a bright future for our ancient musical systems, it was high time we addressed Hindustani and
Carnatic music as Classical music of South India and Classical music of North India. He would so
happily agree to this point which spoke so much about his open mindedness.
Historically it is seen that the son or the daughter of a great master remember their guru through music
festivals or awards. But in the case of Semmangudiji, it is very heartening to see his legacy being carried
forward by his dedicated dispels like Shri. V. Subrahmaniam and many other in India and abroad.
I would like to congratulate Shri. V. Sriram for putting together a book on a monumental icon who in the
true sense was Sangeet Pitamaha (Father of Music).
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