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Friday, April 29, 2016

In the Memories of Smt. Nirmala Srinivasan

Notes from an 83-year-old
Nirmala Srinivasan accompanied M.L. Vasanthakumari for 17 years and says those were some of her most cherished memories
I walk into Nirmala Srinivasan’s house, and find her brewing coffee. She is humming to herself and it is not difficult to believe that she is a sought after musician in the kutcheri circuit. Eighty-three-year old Nirmala tells me she was lucky that she did not have to give up music when she got married or had her children. “Those days most of the husbands wanted wives who sang, but discouraged them from performing in public. Women learnt music only to create a good impression during ponnu paakra ritual or a religious occasion.” She says her husband was her greatest support but also her strongest critic. “But, he never interfered in my music, but, he was difficult to please. I waited for his reaction after every concert. He stayed mum if he felt I had not performed to my capability. That always urged me to excel in my art.”And may be that is why Nirmala dedicated the vocational excellence award she received from Rotary Coimbatore Central, for her significant contributions to classical music, to her husband. “I am happy that they decided to recognise a musician this time. Usually, this award is given to doctors and engineers. It is good they are giving importance to music.”

She was only eight when she eavesdropped on the music lessons her sister had at home and started learning music. Her father was an audit officer, and despite financial troubles, he ensured his daughters were well versed in music. “But he also feared that no one would marry us if we took up music professionally.” She cites the example of a relative who was well versed in Carnatic music but was ‘forbidden’ by her husband to pursue it.

At the age of 22, she started singing for All India Radio, and soon became an A-grade artist. “I am still singing,” she says. Among her most revered gurus is Sangeetha Kalanidhi M.L. Vasanthakumari, whose black-and-white photo hangs on the wall. “I was 40, when I first met her. She was visiting a student of mine and I could not stop myself from going there that day.” Vasanthakumari asked young Nirmala to sing and was so impressed that she asked her to accompany her for kutcheris. Vasanthakumari was very protective of her. Nirmala accompanied her to Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru and Nagpur. Nirmala performed with her guru from 1973 to 1990. Her son and mridangist Ragunath Srinivasan says, “We did not crib when amma travelled. We knew she had to be let free for music. We managed. We were so proud of her.” In the world of Carnatic music, the secondary artiste is always overshadowed by the star vocalist. But Nirmala made a mark during these performances. “It is not an easy job. When Vasantha akka wanted to rest, I pitched in. At times, I would get a chance to perform an entire swara manodharma and raga.” But singing with Vasanthakumari was good enough a recognition. “Many interviewed me after the concerts. Because of her, my music quality improved. During concert recordings, the sound engineers would say we sounded the same and that it was difficult to differentiate our voices.” Even at 83, Nirmala wakes up four in the morning to practise and continues to teach music. But, she is not a great fan of Skype classes. “Nothing can match the power of face-to-face interaction,” she declares. She says sticking to one guru and developing a unique style is the way to proceed. Before I leave, I ask her if she will sing something for me. She switches on her sruthi box, meditates for a moment and launches into ‘Muralidhara Gopala’. I record the performance and when she sees it she smiles, “Well, I am not young anymore,” she says and goes back to her cup of coffee. My camera rolls again.

Source and credit:- http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nirmalas-long-stint-in-the-world-of-music/article8528150.ece
Forwarded By:- Shri. Jainender Nigam, PB NewsDesk , prasarbharati.newsdeskgmail.com

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