Street singers

(Sweet, lilting music is no monopoly of professional singers and many a musical flower is born to blush unseen and waste its fragrance in unmusical air. Musical acumen is also no warranty or passport to eminence. Dame Luck should be there and smile too!)

  • The ruler of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar was a connoisseur and patron of music. He had indeed a galaxy to regale him with the best. Still, one day, the penetrating tune of a beggar-woman in the street enthralled him so much that requested Mysore Vasudevacharya (one of his court musicians, who was flowering into one of the finestof composer-musicians), to get the notation for it and render it! Vasudevacharya ran around the streets and ultimately located her in a slum nearly. He parted with his costly upper cloth (angavastram), got the song notated,hurried back and demonstrated the song. The pleased ruler, knowing that Vasudevacharya had bartered away his angavastram for the song, presented him with a costly shawl!

(The question that arises here is, "Has not that beggar been elevated to the status of his preceptor?")

  • The eminent violin maestro of yesteryears, Malaikkottai Govindaswami Pillai once found exhilarating music in a beggar and appreciated the hidden raga as Sindhubhairavi. He exchanged the satisfaction of hearing the song for a Rupee (then of much value) and a silk saree! Was the beggar aware of her potential?!!

    (The excellence in the native, virgin music of that beggar-woman failed to flower up for want of guidance from a guru. Suppose the violin maestro had dragged her to his study and started on her tuition instead of giving her the saree, what would have happened? The answer perhaps could be found in the case of the renowned K B Sundarambal.)
  • The lass of Kodumudi village, Sundarambal was born poor but was rich in musical tone and expression. Chill penury faced the child even on birth and quite soon, she had to earn bread for her mother too. Penury did not fortunately stifle her musical abilities and the girl went about trading her folk songs in delectable tone and tunes for a few coppers. (Cinderella, in the fairy tale, was rescued by her Godmother and then a Prince). For this talented girl, Prince Charming was none other than S G Kittappa, the finest star of theatre, of unparalleled popularity.

In the poem Milkmaid, when the boy queried, "What is your fortune", the girl answered, "My face is my fortune!". The asset of the lass of Kodumudi was neither the physical beauty of Cinderella nor her face as in the case of the milkmaid. Her forte was her thrilling, captivating and soulful voice. Kittappa with his keen ear for melody was passing by. He couldn't but stop to hear the arresting voice. It was love at first sound, so to speak! It was a marriage of hearts and melody. And Sundarambal soon became a millionaire!

Courtesy: "Garland" N Rajagopalan


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