Chembai - Quotes

Chembai with young Ravishankar at Shanmukhananda Fine Arts, Bombay

On Vyavaharam

Chembai did not favour what is called vyavaharam or the introduction of rhythmic intricacies. "I don't know anything abut vyavaharam", he told a critic once. "Sruti Mata, Layam Pita, this I know. And I believe, while singing, we should not deviate from the truth of this dictum"

He further explained: "The aim of music is to create peace of mind. Where is the necessity for vyavaharam? The inner meaning of vyavaharam is the destruction of peace. Those who have learnt music properly, who havegnana and a good voice, should sing soulfully. When a performer sings with a sense of devotion to art and god, the music would create rasa in the listener. Vyavaharam should be restricted to a gathering of experts...." The duty of musicians is to provide fare that pleases the lay listener.

On encouraging young musicians

Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar included the following advice in his presidential address at the annual conference of the Music Academy, Madras in 1951: All musicians who have achieved a measure of fame should, whenever convenient, attend the performances of youngsters in their profession. They should sit at the front and give encouragement, avoiding gestures which might upset or create apprehension in the  minds of the young performers. Music flourished in the past only because the older musicians had given encouragement to youthful performers in this manner.

Chembai's Suggestion to AIR (Reported in The Hindu Newspaper on August 29, 1953)

Noted Carnatic singer Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar said in a letter to the Editor: "I heard from two of my disciples who had their audition recently before a panel of All India Radio. They were asked to sing in the ragas Kanada and Sahana respectively. They were able to render these without difficulty. However, my suggestion to AIR is that an artist coming for audition should be allowed his or her own choice of raga, and asked to render alapana, keerthanam and swaram in it. The panel must judge the artist's ability in his or her own choice of raga. As ragas are innumerable, every artist(e) may not be able to render well a particular raga indicated by the panel."

Music Academy conference opens (Reported in Hindu Newspaper on December 22, 1951)

The 25th Annual Conference of the Music Academy opened in the Sundareswarar Hall in Mylapore, Madras, on Friday the 21st. Declaring the conference open, Mr. T. R. Venkatarama Sastri, recalled, "My introduction to music was in the Tiruvavaduthurai mutt and temple, the patrons of music then. Hearing first-rate nagaswaram players was my first instruction. We heard the divine music of Maha Vaidyanatha Aiyar, accompanied by Tirukodikkaval Krishna Aiyar's violin. My impression is that such music was never heard again. Coming to Madras in 1894, I listened to Patnam Subramania Iyer, and found him not so satisfying. But I learnt that while Maha Vaidyanatha Aiyar beguiled his listeners with sweetness of voice, Patnam was the truer artist. Later, after coming into contact with Tiger Varadachariar, I learnt to appreciate the ideas rendered by an artist, even if not rendered very satisfyingly... No musician who does not appreciate and enjoy his own music is likely to impress others. Maha Vaidyanatha Aiyar did enjoy himself - in a subdued key. But Krishna Aiyar's enjoyment of his own playing was visible in every movement of his eyes and smiling face.''

Vidwan Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar said in his presidential address, "Music has an individual, innate beauty, different from other fine arts. Originating in the air, it dissolves into the air, giving `Nirgunabrahmam' - which fills all space - the form of `Nadabrahmam'. Practice of music is, therefore, worship of `Nirgunabrahmam', and sangita is a yoga by itself. ... I have no doubt that the art and practice of Carnatic music will flourish and grow with good cooperation between vidwans and rasikas".

On GNB's Music

Once in the hall of hundred pillars in Srirangam, GNB kept an enlightened audience like Chembai and others spellbound with his masterly alapana of Jaganmohini. When the kirthana, "Sobillu" was finished, Chembai is said to have exclaimed "Oh, Indha Pillayandan kshemama irukkanum" ("Long live this young man")...