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Growing up in a rasika household – (4) My first MS concert

It must have been December 1977-78, am not very sure. There was excitement at home that MS was singing in the Academy that weekend. My paternal grandparents usually came down from Calcutta for the music season and because my grandfather was away for a couple of days, I had used his ticket and listened toMDR and TMT the previous year. It was my first experience of an evening concert in the Academy. This year I was keen to go and attend the MS concert. Tickets were already sold out and it was impossible to get one. Meanwhile my mom decided to make things worse by imposing a condition. I could go to the concert if I sat down and played theSankarabharanam varnam a 100 times on the violin. I sat down and did it! I still cannot believe that I did it then but yes, I did play it a 100 times. Unfortunately there were just no tickets and I could not make it to the concert.

My great great grandfather was an employee of the famous Hoe & Co, makers of diaries. Emberumanar Chettiar, the President of the Indian Fine Arts Society and also owner of Hoe & Co used to send my grandfather a couple of complimentary tickets for their annual festival being held at theVani mahal . MS was singing there as well that year! So I was in luck. Though I never heard MS live at the Academy all my life I did get to listen to her in the Indian Fine Arts. I think Kandadevi Azhagiriswamy, Guruvayur Dorai and an upa pakkavadyam I forget, were the accompanists. The only song I remember from that concert was Manavyala in Nalinakanti because I had just learnt it then. Of course the other point of interest was when she brought out the jalra that she used to keep time when singing the lighter pieces.

Later we had gone to meet MS in her house and she recalled an incident that happened in our house in the early seventies. We were living in Calcutta at that time. MS had come for a concert and my grandfather had invited her home for lunch. My mom, the daughter in law of the house was asked to sing a song. As she was singing, she forgot a line and I helped her with words! This was after I had just won the AIR music competition in 1986. MS was the chief guest at the function in the AIR Chennai studios, where she distributed the prizes and heard me sing for the first time!

Interactions with some of the greatest of the greats in carnatic music is always most memorable and awe inspiring for me over the years. More on these soon.


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