My grand aunt and guru Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan had a particular liking for Dikshitar kritis. She had learnt several of those songs from Parur Sundaram Iyer. She had also picked up a few more Dikshitar kritis from T Brinda, GNB and B Rajam Iyer. She had taught me quite a few of those. I shall forever cherish my participation at a 24 hour Dikshitar akhandam that was organised by the Tyagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam. They had been doing such Tyagaraja akhandams (24 hour non stop renditions of Tyagaraja kritis) in the past. This was also my chance to show off my rich and varied repertoire and score brownie points with the senior vidwans. Impressing them was a short cut to getting chances to sing concerts at the Samajam. Sure enough, I was invited the next month. At my concert, during the vote of thanks, one of the then secretaries, Sirgazhi Jayaraman, (a disciple of Sathur Subramaniam, he was a genuinely warm and encouraging person) specially mentioned this participation of mine. That’s some subtle marketing early nineties style! Sometime in the mid nineties, VV Srivatsa (a Dikshitophile and Secretary of the Music Academy) started out promoting Dikshitar songs through his Guruguhanjali concerts exclusively dedicated to the composer’s memory. He would give me a list of songs every year in advance and ask me to learn them up if I didn’t know them. He even helped out with recordings which were quite valuable in those pre internet days. My Guru Shri KSK taught me some of the kritis the first few years, but the last couple of occasions I was left to do this on my own. It was fun, violinist RK Shriramkumar helped out with a few songs, especially where we had no recordings and had to go with whatever printed notations we had access to. I took liberties with the form and structure to make changes to the available versions. I liked singing these songs in other concerts as well. After all a varied repertoire is a huge plus for an ‘up and coming’ singer. A contemporary musician would snidely remark ‘Guruguhanjali song’ when I sang one or two of those ‘not oft sung’ pieces! Kumaraswaminam in Asaveri was one that I set up from scratch almost. The version I had access to was in Adi talam, and I was keen to set the whole structure in to 2 kalai to get the “Diskhitar grandeur’ going in a more vilamba tempo. After singing it at Guruguhanjali I had given up the song until I revisited it a few years back and started singing it again. I did make a few small changes to my original version, more to do with advancing age and changing  aesthetics that anything else!


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