Interesting Anecdotes from the World of Music

Ari Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer

Compiled by London Swaminathan
Post no. 1072; Dated 29th May 2014.

Our musicians are very interesting people; they are intensely human and will do anything for the sake of friendship. They have a lively sense of humour too. At a performance by one of top ranking musicians two friends in front of him, were counting the number of times the artist was using snuff. The musician noticed and bided his time. When he was about to use the snuff again he turned to the gentlemen in front and said (in a loud voice so that all could her), “Sirs, this is the ninth time using snuff; take note and check with your previous counting and verify”. The whole house burst into boisterous laughter.

King who ate the chaff leaving the grain

There was a Zomorin in Calicut ( Zomorin is the hereditary royal title of Hindu rulers of Kozhikode in Kerala) who was fond of music and had also a good knowledge of the art. He used to patronise deserving musicians and give them rich presents. Once a great Pallavi vidwan (singer) happened to go to Calicut; the private secretary to the Zomorin arranged for a concert by the singer at the palace.
(Pallavi is the thematic line of a song. It is repeated a few times to help the percussionist to get an idea of Tala/beat)

The Zomorin had one weakness; he would ask the artist to give beforehand the wording of the song the singer proposed to sing. When he asked the singer he got wild. The Zomorin also got angry and the singer went away from the palace. The private secretary, who himself a fan of music, was a tactful man; he pacified the two and arranged a concert the next day. Zomorin also told him that he would not insist for the wording of the song. The musician sang beautifully well and got extra presents.

Zomorin of Calicut

When the artist was about to leave, the Zomorin asked him to give the wording of the pallavi. The singer said to him, “ I am ready to give you the pallavi of the song on condition that you will not get angry”.
The Zomorin agreed to the condition and the singer gave him the song and ran away from the palace. When the Zomorin looked at the paper where he wrote the song, it was written in Malayalam , “Zomorin ate the chaff”, the implication being that instead of enjoying the pure art of music, the Zomorin was after the words which especially in a pallavi was as insignificant as compared to the grain!

Morning Raga Bhupala
Certain ragas are considered appropriate to certain hours: for example, Bhupalam in the early morning, Saveri and Dhanyasi in the early afternoon, Poorva Kalyani in the evening, Kamboji and Nilambari in the night are considered suitable.
zomorin coin
Portugese meeting Zomorin

Pachampetta Nataraja Iyer was a great patron of music in Trichy District of Tamil Nadu. Whenever musicians passed that way they used to stay with him for a while and spend musically fruitful time in his company. Once the famous musician Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer (1844- 1893) happened to stay for a night with Nataraja Iyer. After supper Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer started singing. Nataraja Iyer wanted him to sing Bhupala, which ought to be sung only in the early morning hours. For a moment Vaidyanatha Iyer hesitated, and then said,”Certainly, I shall sing a Sloka as Ragamalika and include Bhupala also in the string of Ragas”.

He then started singing the Sloka and kept the listeners spell bound so that they lost count of time. Then he sang Bhupala raga also. When he sang that part of the song it was just dawn. In those days musicians used to sing a Raga for hours, and for even days without repetition. They were capable of such originality and creative expression.
Source : Facets of Indian Culture by R Srinivasan

Previous posts related to Music:–
True Art is Never Made to Order, post No.1066, 26-5-14
Acoustic Marvel of Madurai Temple 13-5-13
Superstition in the World of Music 12-4-14 (Post No.975)
Musical Pillars in Hindu Temples
இசைத் தமிழ் அதிசயங்கள் 31-1-2013
சங்கீதம் தோன்றிய வரலாறு- ஒரு புராணக் கதை 13-4-14 (976)
சப்தம் கேட்டால் இறந்துவிடும் அசுணமா? 15-4-14 (980)
கையில் புல்லாங்குழலுடன் சுவர்க்கத்துக்குப் போன மனிதர் 16-4-14 (982)
ஸ்ரீராமர் மீது முத்துசுவாமி தீட்சிதர் கிருதிகள் 8-4-14 (963)