Chrompet has been an active centre for promoting Carnatic among the many Chennai suburbs. In the eighties the prominent music promoting suburbs were Nanganallur, Chrompet and Tambaram. Several small organisations were running annual and monthly music programmes typically for the local population who found it difficult to make the trip to Mylapore and T Nagar. My personal attachment to Chrompet goes back to the mid eighties. Chrompet had a sizeable young musician community. Led by the dynamic mrudangist, laya aficionado and TNS fan, Venkatavaradan, the Vasanta mandapam in Radha Nagar had a Tyagaraja Aradhana every eyar. Mr Seshandri as well as the Chrompet Cultural Academy also did their bit in organising concerts on a regular basis. There was also a financial nidhi company owned by musician Dr MBK and an auditorium there where concerts were held.
Shri MA Venugopal, the younger brother of MA Kalyanakrishna Bhagavatar, was a big teacher who conducted music classes. Some of his disciples included CB Ramanarayanan (currently known as Shreyas Narayanan) and R Suryaprakash. There was another singer called Vasu, a disciple of TNS who later moved to the States. Of course there was violinist Kanchi Janardhanam, who has produced the outstanding S Varadarajan. Varadarajan’s brother Raghavan, another guy called Easwar (who later moved to Hong Kong) and several other mrudangists would join in the Aradhana proceedings. Venkatavaradhan also got several of us younger musicians from Mylapore. I was quite a regular, along with Arun Prakash and Sriram Gangadharan. Many times we would take my old and rusty Bajaj M 50 and ride all the way from Mylapore. Sometiems I would meet up with Arun at the Mambalam station adn take a train. The Aradhana was an all day affair with Pancharatnams in the morning. Tanjavur Sankara Iyer was a regular. So was Nanganallur Ramanathan, Karur Krishnamoorthy, Visalur Gurumoorthy and V Sundaresan (a disciple of DKJ) from Tambaram.
I will never forget an incident with Tanjavur Sankara Iyer there. We were sitting and listening to someone sing. The violinist finished the Kalyani alapana with the very popular phrase ‘g g r s ri , s’ with a slight extension on the ri at the end. Sankara Iyer leaned over to me and said ” This final sangati that he played is a Soundararajan sangati. Have you heard Sinthanai sei maname. He finishes with maname and the g g r s ri , s in akaram! Have you ever heard Ramanuja Iyengar or Madurai Mani Iyer sing this sangati??” Many years later I was at a concert in Coimbatore. That afternoon in the hotel room I narrated this incident to the violinist. That evening I sang Kalyani and the violinist finished his alapana with the exact same sangati! As I smiled he realised what he had done and sheepishly grinned and we had a good laugh later. On another occasion Shri VL Janakirama Iyer the younger brother of VL Vedagiri was singing. Easwar asked him to sing Marubalka and he sang a superb rendition with multiple kanakku versions of the word ‘ramana’ in different speeds to land on Marubalka.
Yesterday I sang on Chrompet after a few years and Varadarajan and me were talking about all this when he told me that the Vasanta Mandapam was under renovation and that was why the concert was held at the current venue. As I was singing the concert there were continuous disturbances with fire crackers. Seshadri who gave the vote of thanks said that he was reminded of the film Tillana Mohanambal where the Nadaswaram player walks out of a concert because of disturbances from the fireworks. Fortunately for me the Chrompet crowd stayed to listen to the music and I also am not as skilled or as sensitive as Sikkil Shanmughasundaram to get up and leave!!