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P S Narayanaswami, popularly known as 'Pichai' to his friends and admirers, is one of the foremost disciples of the Semmangudi bani, a highly-respected musician himself, and arguably the most sought-after gurus in Carnatic music today. Hailing from the Cauvery belt of Tanjavur district, which is famed for producing some of the finest artistes in the field of classical music and dance, Sri. Narayanaswami carries on his shoulders, an experience of over five decades in the field.

On the eve of his being crowned with Sri Krishna Gana Sabha's coveted title, Sangeeta Choodamani, Sri. P S Narayanaswami shares some of his memories and experiences with the Carnatica team comprising Lalitha Ganesan and G Srividya . (Click here for Part 1 of the interview)


CT: Who were the other notable students of Sri Semmangudi studying with you?

PSN: I had along with me K R Kedaranathan, M A Venugopal, V R Krishnan, V Subramanian and Velayuthan.

CT: Was there any other person who supported you in your career?

PSN: None. I got all my support from my guru, Sri. Semmangudi only.

CT: Can you talk about your stint as a duo with T M Tyagarajan?

PSN: There is a lot of difference between TMT and Sri. Semmangudi's styles. TMT had his own bani, and his approach and mental attitude vastly different from that of my guru. TMT was also senior to me when we gave concerts together.


P S Narayanaswami in a concert

CT: Any funny incidents during your career as a musician?

PSN: Yes. Once I had accepted to give a concert in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh. When I reached there, I was received by some people at the station, and they people took me to my lodgings. After sometime, one of the organisers asked me where my harmonium box was. I was surprised at this, and told them that I did not have a harmonium box but only a sruti-box, which was enough for me. Due to language problems, it took me some time to understand the reason for this comedy of errors. It so happened that on the same day, another person who bore my name was to conduct a Harikatha kalakshepam (for which a Harmonium is a must). This person also travelled by the same train to reach Rajahmundry! And it so happened that both of us had ended up occupying the other's seat! Anyway, once we figured all this out, both of us joined our organisers!


CT: What is your opinion about the duration of the concerts these days? Earlier it used to last at least 4 hours, but now it seems to have shrunk to 1-2 hours.

PSN: In those days, people had plenty of time at their disposal. Besides, there was no other means of entertainment. Today we have a whole lot of things like the TV, radio, internet and so on. But in Kerala, even today longer duration concerts are in vogue.

CT: You have the reputation of being a wonderful teacher. How many students are learning from you currently?

PSN: Normally, I do not conduct classes in groups. I give lessons separately, in order to be able to give individual attention. Right now there are about 15 girls and 25 boys.

CT: Among your students, some may be learning to become professionals, while others just to learn the art. What methods do you adopt to teach these two different categories?

PSN: For those who would like to become professionals, I teach them around 40 ragas, and make them work on those for rendering in concerts.


CT: What was the method and style of teaching music adopted by Sri. Semmangudi. Do you follow the same method?

PSN: My guru normally sang in his style and left it to his disciples to develop their own style. If he found any of us singing in his style, he would get upset, since he felt that it amounted to simply copying him. I too do not encourage my students to follow my style. I leave it to their intelligence to develop their own style and maintain it.

CT: There are an interesting number of people who would like to learn Carnatic music. What is your advice and plans to popularise the same?

PSN: I am happy that large number of people are showing interest in learning Carnatic music. Unfortunately, not many of them are dedicated. I would advice them to first learn the art with devotion and dedication.

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, PSN's guru


CT: What is the minimum time you suggest a student should devote each day for practise?

PSN: Though not much time is available these days for sadhana, one should at least devote one or two hours in the morning. Each song should be sung at least 100 times before one becomes proficient.

CT: Apart from music, any other interest?

PSN: No, I am a full time musician.

CT: Has anybody in your family inherited your music?

PSN: None

CT: Can you tell us about some of the major awards and honours that you have received in your career?

PSN: I received the Bala Gana Ratnam in 1946 at the age of 12. Apart from that I have received titles like the Sangeeta Sikhamani (1972), Nadakkanal (1991), Sangeetaacharya (1992), Madhura Gana Mamani (1994), Sangeeta Kala Sagaram (1996), Isai Selvam (1997), Innisai Chakravarthy (1999), Gana Kalanidhi (1999) and Sangeeta Kala Acharya (2000). I was also made the Asthana Vidwan of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham in 1990. The Tambaram Music Club felicitated me in 1999 for 50 years of service to music.

CT: Thank you Sir, for sharing your valuable time and experiences with us.


Posted on July 19, 2002


Click here for Part 1 of the PSN interview


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