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Thread: dr.t k murthy-mrudangist

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    dr.t k murthy-mrudangist

    The mother while cooking was surprised to find a gold medal in the mustard box. The father patiently waited for the arrival his seven year old son. After lunch he asked his son “When did you start learning mrudangam?” The child stared for a while and said, “I just played, and the Maharaja Chithira Tirunal gave me this medal.”
    “Oh I see. Can you play for me now?” The child nodded. The father sang and the child played. The father was convinced and said, “You better learn mrudangam.” After the Scout rally cultural program was organized at the Model High School. I and Chellamani (father of play back singer Hariharan) were classmates, at the Fort High School. Our Head Master Shri Unni, knew our talents and asked to represent our school. I was afraid to inform my parents as I was learning vocal music under my father Thanu Bhagavathar. So I promptly dropped the medal in the mustard box-laughs Sangitakalanidhi Dr. T K Murthy the doyen in mrudangam. He was in the capital city for a couple of performances. In an interview he talks about his ancestors, his relationship with the Melody Queen M S Subbalekshmi, the great maestros he has accompanied, and the need to create awareness about the less known great musicians of the past.
    Murthy belongs to a family of Mullamudu musicians. For generations they were court musicians of Travancore. “My father Thanu Bhagavathar, grand father Subramanya Bhagavathar, great grand father Thanu Bhagavathar and his father were court musicians. This is my 75th year of performance.” He said.

    As a child it was his long desire to learn mrudangam under Thanjavur Vaidyanatha Iyer. “I disclosed it to the Maharaja and he provided the financial support” remembers the maestro. “I continued there for 35 long years. The master treated me and Palakkad Mani Iyer as his children.
    Thnjavur Vaidyanatha Iyer was an undisputed master of caliber and could produce equally talented disciples, namely Mani Iyer and Murthy. He presented Murthy a pair of diamond studs. It was Paakkad Mani Iyer who christened me T K Murthy.

    At the age of 17 I accompanied my master (2nd mrudangam) for Musiri Subramania Iyer. The occasion was the wedding ceremony of the daughter of Shanmughan chetti the Dewan of Kochi. In 1934 I accompanied Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer at the Mysore Palace. Chaudiah the great was on the violin. We were all conferred with the Killathu maryadai. We were presented Rs.1000 besides a pair of silk mundu and a richly brocaded coat.
    Since then there was no looking back. There are no senior musicians for whom I have not accompanied. I played for M S for 55 years. That was a different experience. She calls me suttu. We stayed at the residence of Jawaharlal Nehru, for 10 days, and the Rashtrapathi Bahavan for another 10 days when Rajaji was the Governor General. I am lucky. I could accompany M S all over the world. We performed at the UN Head Quarters. In those days she paid me 400/ performance. One day while chatting at her residence, she paid the amount for four concerts. She said “Suttu count and check.” I refused. When she insisted I gave the money back. There were 2000 rupees. Immediately she said “from now onwards we have enhanced your payment to Rs 500 per concert” That was her magnanimity.
    “We also stayed at the Birla’s residence for 10 days. We were served food in silver plates which resembled plantain leaves. After lunch we were offered cold sweet drink. I consumed it. After some time I started yelling at Sadasivam the husband of M S. The drink contained Baang an intoxicating agent, and I never knew that” recollected T K Murthy.
    Vikku Vinayakram’s father and I were friends. When Vikku was born I went to see the child. I prophesied that he would become a Ghatom master. The father asked “You are a mrudangist. How come you advice like that?” It could be a slip of the tongue. But today Vikku is the one of the greatest Ghatom artistes. He has accompanied M S for many years. “
    Murthy has performed jugalbandi with Allarekka.
    “Recently Zakkir Hussien invited Murthy for a concert on his father’s day. Murthy has plenty of disciples in India and abroad. Regarding the Swati Puraskaram he said “the Govt should select the musicians who have really propagated the compositions of Maharaja Swati Tirunal. There are many award winners who do not know who the Swati Tirunal was. It is my humble request to organize programs to revive the memories of the legendary musicians like Shadkala Govinda Marar, Anantharama Bhagavathar and Vaikkom Krishnan. The present generation must know about them, and the organizers should promote the musicians of Kearala.”
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