19th April 2017

Tribute to Mrdanga Vidwan Kuttalam Siva Vadivel Pillai 

By Sangeeta Kalanidhi T. N. Swaminatha Pillai, Professor of Music, Central Carnatic Music College, Chennai

T.N Swaminatha Pillai-Flute

“ When I was young I had a sweet voice. Between 12 ad 17 I had given many vocal concerts. In the beginning, considering the promise I had in the career of music one of the famed mrdangam maestros , respected Kuppusamy Pillai, encouraged me, joining me in many of my concerts. To have contributed to making me come to the front ranking artistes, I cannot deny that Kuppusamy Pillai had a greater share. When I reached 17, my voice became bad and I could not sing any more. At that point I began to practice flute. By 20 I began giving concerts on the flute. Even then, because of his love for me, respected Kuppusamy brought me accolades by continuing to play for me.

At that time our Vidwan Sivavadivel Pillai must have been 12 years old. In the small town called Ilaiyanar Velore, Close to Kanchipuram, there was one, Srimathi Saradambal ammaiyar, an exponent of Katha Kalakshepam, conducted the Navarathri festival. I have performed concert. Only there, for the first time, Kuttalam Sivavadivel Pillai had been arranged to perform for me. After that he had played for me in many concerts. I had great respect for his musicianship. He possessed a firm and precise performing style. From the beginning to the end, without disrupting the concert, playing with utmost attention he had the skill and capacity to make the concert memorable, embellished and special.

Many maestros had assembled at Arimalam Ramanathan Chettiyar’s home concert of mine. It is still ringing in my ears the superb supportive performance of Kuttalam Sivavadivel pillai. When we played together once in Pudukkottai, the great artiste Dakshinamurthy Pillai, sat at a close distance listening to the concert with heart felt joy and finally praised and blessed us too.

The greatest music maestro who earned a special niche among the greatest, Kanchipuram Nayinappillai had praised Kuttalam Sivavadivel Pillai captivated by his superb sound and laya mastery in his playing.

From his guru, the great laya exponent, Kuttalam Kuppusamy Pillai, Sivavadivel Pillai from his very young age learned the intricacies of laya with its finer emotive and expressive qualities. He had learned with clarity the dynamics of sound, the intricate differences in productions. As a great exponent of both mrdangam and Kanjira, Sivavadivel Pillai skillfully accompanying many great music maestros, was a source of strength. Many famed artistes invited him to their functions and had praised his mastery over the art of music.

On the concert stage, Sri Siva Vadivel Pillai without only showing his skill on his instrument, he appropriately enriched the main artiste’s performance according to their individual strengths and thus contributing to the overall gestalt making the audience enjoy. Even though the main artistes were not equal to his status, he accompanied them with understanding and projected the main artiste as one of the best in the perception of the audience.

Later in his years he had ailing health. Although he could not go beyond what he was really capable as a maestro, everyone accepted him as one of the greats in laya.

He had not hesitated in giving his best in his art of mrdangam to his disciples without distinction, without hiding and without any partiality. He had contributed to grooming up many young players. He earned enough wealth through his skill in his art. He used his wealth purposefully. He spent for the promotion of arts and for the worship of God.

He had great devotion to the Lord Muruga. He commissioned a statue for Arunagirinathar and conducted a festival on his birth star. He arranged concerts for many young performers, promoted them and praised them bringing great honor to them.

Sivavadivel Pillai lived his life lovingly and happily. Great pleasure lover. Great rasika. He enjoyed wearing beautiful dress and ornaments. When it came to food he was a gourmet. He loved a life of celebration. He had a dispassionate mind. He had a quality of moving with ease with everyone. He had the rare quality of being full of love and humility.

Some get their fame from where they were born. Others bring fame to the place where they were born. Although Kutralam is a well known place because of Sivavadivel Pillai the place is still more famed. I have no doubt that his service to arts and philanthropic work would reverberate the whole of Tamil Nadu and more especially Kutralam.

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