DKP 100 – The eclectic traditionalist

The eclectic traditionalist by V. Ramnarayan

DKP 100 - The eclectic traditionalist
An exciting slew of events has been planned to celebrate the centenary of one of Carnatic music’s enduring icons starting on Saturday 17 March and culminating in her 100th birth anniversary on 19th March 2019. Sruti’s inaugural issue proved an instant success as it had Sangita Kalanidhi D.K. Pattammal on the cover. She was in many ways a pioneer among Carnatic vocalists, and we called her a trailblazing traditionalist. It is no secret that in the conservative south Indian milieu of the first half of the twentieth century, women were expected to take care of home and hearth, not venturing out even to practise the arts. The performing arts, not considered very respectable in Victorian India, had just about emerged from the shadow of social stigma, and were now dominated by men. In a remarkable turn of events that so often surprise us in the melting pot that is India, it was the intervention of the headmistress of the convent school she went to in the temple town of Kanchipuram that prevented young Pattammal from going the way of many upper caste Tamil girls.

Pattammal was a fortunate exception to the social norms that kept women at home. Once her father Krishnaswamy Dikshitar became convinced that her musical talent should be displayed on the concert stage, there was no stopping her. She not only became the equal of men in areas the few women already performing had hitherto been allowed to enter, but stormed the exclusive male bastion of ragam-tanam-pallavi singing and complex swaraprastara.

Born in Kanchipuram on 28 March 1919, Damal Krishnaswamy Dikshitar Pattammal was over 90 when she breathed her last on 16 July 2009, her death bemoaned by the lifelong admirers of her sonorous rendering of unadulterated traditional Carnatic music, austere in intent and execution, crystal clear in enunciation, faithful to its creators in word and spirit, soaring in its adventurous exploration of the most complex… read more