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Sastry Hall!

Srinivasa Sastri Hall, located on the first floor of the Ranade Library in Luz in Chennai is one of the most hallowed Carnatic music venues. My memories of this place goes back to the late seventies. My first memory of course was a concert by MDR. I was sitting on the ground and people had just begun making requests. I was about 10 years old and sheepishly asked for Samajavaragamana. He just gave me a naughty look and nodded as if to say “Not now not now!”

Early eighties I was a regular at Sastry Hall. Another memory was just after the release of Todi ragam Starring Madurai TN Seshagopalan. It was Papanasam Sivan day and TNS was singing with Lalgudi Jayaraman & Karaikkudi Mani. Definitely remember Kaa vaa being sung when I squeezed myself in through the crowd that was thronging the staircase! Among the very many memorable concerts from that time period was another Papanasam Sivan Day concert by TM Thiagarajan with MS Gopalakrishnan on the violin and an outstanding Charukesi alapana. Many concerts of padhams, javalis and other gems of the Dhanammal bhani that were highlighted regularly by the Hindu critic Shri NM Narayanan who conducted the programmes under the auspices of Boochi Ammal Music Academy (BAMA). One particular GNB day concert which had a felicitation speech by violinist V Sethuramiah and TK Moorthy who sang lovely snatches of a Yadukulakambhoji during his speech.

1988 was my first concert at the Sastry Hall. The biggest surprise for me was as the tani avartanam began in walked Pandit Chaurasia & Anindo Chatterjee!! He had just finished a Spic macay programme in the city and my cousin, who had organised the same, brought him in. Another important concert for me personally must have been 1990 when I sang for the Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer Golden Jubilee Trust. In the audience was the indomitable T Brinda. As I finished up a nervous rendition of Amba Neelambari, she gave me a warm clap and walked out, something I have cherished so much. During another programme for the same trust, I was accompanying my Guru Shri Calcutta Krishnamurthy as vocal support. In the audience was an unbelievable galaxy – Semmangudi, TN Krishnan, TM Thiagarajan, TN Seshagopalan!!! My Guru started with Inta paraka in Nadanamakriya and sang neraval making me also sing each turn. He just kept singing for so long with so much variety and kalpana, that after the first couple of rounds I was just repeating what I had sung earlier!

After nearly 8 years I sang a concert at the Sastry Hall yesterday for the S Balachander trust. The place still retains an aura and the proximity of the audience can be so intimidating and in your face! Singing there is such a joy for any artiste.


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