Galaxy of Composers
An article on the eminent composer, Prof. N S Ramachandran by his son, Sri R Natarajan.
It gives me great pleasure to explore my family history. We belong to a small village called Nemam in Tanjavur district. My great-grandfather Sri Nemam Subramanya Iyer had the privilege of sitting at the feet of Sri Tyagaraja as one of his devoted disciples. The family inherited the art of music from him. There are many references to him in musical literature like Gayaka Siddhajanam, Part 2 published in 1905 by the renowned Tachur Brothers, and Karunamrita Sagaram, an outstanding work in the realm of Indian musicology published by Rao Sahib Abraham Panditar.

Nemam Subramanya Iyer toured extensively and he was honoured by several royal patrons including the ruler of Mysore and Travancore, the Zamorins of Kozhikode, the Raja of Nilambur, the Raja of Kollangode and the Princes of many other samasthanam-s of South India. Sri Manik Varma, Maharaja of Kozhikode (Calicut) has composed a sloka in Sanskrit, in praise of Nemam Subramanya Iyer. This sloka is now sung as a kriti in raga Kapi set to Adi tala. Valuable information about Nemam Subramanya Iyer is also given by Professor P Sambamoorthy in his book Great Composers, Volume II.

Nemam Nataraja Bhagavatar:

My grandfather Nemam Nataraja Bhagavatar seemed to commune with the living presence of Sadguru Sri Tyagaraja Swamy. Musicologists commented that it was thrilling to hear the pure and entrancing melodies as he rendered them in his magnificient voice. He had the bhagya (fortune) of obtaining the gracious blessings of the great Sankaracharyas of Sringeri Sarada Peetham and Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. He was appointed Asthana Vidwan of Sringeri samasthanam in 1900, and His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sachidananda Sivabhinava Narasimhabharati Swamigal bestowed his anugruha (blessings) on my grandfather through a sloka in Sanskrit. My grandfather was also honoured by His Highness Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar, Maharajah of Mysore. Several other rulers of South Indian states honored him.

Prof. N S Ramachandran:

My illustrious father, Sri N S Ramachandran, thus comes of a family distinguished in the field of Carnatic music. At the young age of 31, Prof. Ramachandran wrote the book, Ragas of Carnatic Music, a monumental work showing considerable research and erudition. Sir C V Raman, the eminent scientist and Nobel laureate, praised my father for the commendable research work in Carnatic music. This book is available in all the major libraries of the world.

After having served as the Station Director of All India Radio (AIR) in several stations, he became the Chief Producer of Carnatic music in the Directorate General of All India Radio, New Delhi. Later, he was also appointed as the Dean of the faculty of music in Delhi University.

During his stint in AIR, Trichy, he directed several music dramas which won great acclaim from the public like Nowka Charitram, Kaveri River and Laila Majnu. He also was deputed by the Union Government under the Colombo plan, to study the working of the Radio Ceylon, and advise the Ceylon Government on the planning and organisation of the Tamil programs on Ceylon Radio. He brought out revolutionary changes in the Ceylon Broadcasting system, dividing commercial broadcasts and general broadcasts seperately. The local Celonese people applauded and admired my father's work, and the Ceylonese Government also thanked my father for his expertise and valuable contribution.

My father was a leading Vina vidwan who gave many concerts in AIR. He was affectionately called ganalola (one who loves music), by music lovers of Tamilnadu. His admirers included great vainikas like Vina S Balachander and Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer. As a musicologist and composer, he composed more than 200 songs in 3 language, namely, Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. These were rendered by top-notch musicians like Dr. M L Vasantakumari, M S Subbalakshmi, Maharajapuram Santanam, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer etc. They have also been brought out in book format, in a volume called Sangeeta Pushpanjali and was acclaimed as one of the best works by musicologists, musicians and critics. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam has adopted his Abhogi kriti Sri Mahaganapate (Khanda Chapu), played by Namagiripettai Krishnan, during the temple's Garuda Vahana Utsavam Bhavani.

Awards and honours sought my father. The Tamilnadu Government recognized his achievements and awarded him the prestigious State Award, Kalaimamani in 1971. His name, along with my great-grandfather's has been included in America's popular Who is Who. Similarly, the Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi have released a Who is Who, including the names of my father and great-grandfather along with other illustrious musicians of India.

My mother, Smt. Rukmani Ammal, was endowed with a sweet and melodious voice and could sing very well. She was therefore my father's mouthpiece as he was only a vainika and not a vocalist. Mother expressed his feelings and ideas clearly. My elder sister, Smt. Lakshmi Balasubramaniam has rendered two of my father's songs on a HMV LP in 1950. Her grand-daughters are continuing the tradition and are concert-performers in the USA.

The tradition continues:

Last but not the least, I have to mention here few lines about my wife Smt. Tara Natrajan. A graduate in English literature, she doesn't really have much basic knowledge about music nor has had any formal training. However, she used to listen with rapt attention and observe my mother while she would teach students and other artistes. Like Ekalaviya, my wife learnt music unaided, and was also inspired to compose about 200 songs in Tamil and Sanskrit. The doyenne of music, Smt. D K Pattammal was full of praise for her composing abilities and this has given Tara a great boost. Several artistes render Tara's compositions in concerts, and Tara humbly feels that my father, her manaseeka guru, has blessed her with this faculty. Thus, the music in our family still continues.

Words of praise for the book, Sangeeta Pushpanjali from other musicians:

  • A notable publication. The songs are remarkable for the freshness and asthetic excellence of their melody - T L Venkatarama Iyer (Supreme Court Judge)
  • Prof. N S Ramachandran has been working for the past two years under me as a research scholar in Indian Music. He is a great composer - Tiger Varadachari
  • The compositions adhere to the pure traditions of Carnatic music and at the same time they are fresh and original - Tiruppambaram N Swaminatha Pillai
  • His compositions are full of raga bhava and give an insight into his scholarship in sangita and sahitya - Mysore K Vasudevacharya
  • The kritis are imposed in a variety of ragas attractively with laya-chitra ornamentation.
  • Noted for his deep sense of respect and regard for sampradaya in music, N S Ramachandran has introduced in these compositions certain new ragas, and they are really to my liking - Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar
  • These songs in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit are rich in sahitya bhava and are of a high standard of excellence - Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer
  • The words chosen are simple and yet full of value and significance. A few new ragas have been very successfully attempted in these compositions - Musiri Subramanya Iyer
  • The compositions possess an individuality of their own but reflect pure tradition. They evoke unbounded admiration - Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
  • The compositions by Prof. NSR are admirable for their melodic beauty and richness of sahitya - M M Dandapani Desikar
  • These compositions do not deviate in any manner from the old sampradaya. They are full of raga bhava and are pure from the aspect of laya. The lyrics and the melody are set in beautiful combination - Tiruvizhimalai Subramanya Pillai
  • The lyrical setting of the songs is admirably balanced by its rich and flowing sangita with a chaste and emotional sahitya - T K Jayarama Iyer
  • Professor N S Ramachandran has a genius for original creations in the realm of music - Professor P Sambamoorthy.
  • Listeners get the feeling that they are listening to the composition of Saint Tyagaraja Swamy - Dwaram Venkatasamy Naidu
  • The melodic arrangements again and again remind me of the influence of the musical Trinity - Gottuvadyam B S Krishnamurthy
  • The handling of the ragas is brilliant and the style of the compositions is strongly reminiscent of the styles of the musical Trinity - Mudikodan Venkatarama Iyer
  • The structure of the compositions, the melodic elaboration and the sahitya are all attractive - Madurai Mani Iyer

Posted on March 11, 2002


Post-trinity composers home

Galaxy of composers home

Pre-trinity composers

Trinity and contemporaries

Living composers