Others Impression of Vinjamuri:
It is with pleasure that I introduce Mr. V. Varadaraja Iyengar to the lovers and patrons of South Indian Music. He sings in an appreciable manner and makes the audience astonishingly moved. He also comes from a very very respectable and educated family and possesses a very good serviceable aptitude and straight forwardness. He has proved himself to be a good teaching capacity both in theory and practice.
…Varadaraja Iyengar, Yenga Guru avarAi koopuduvar, " yennappa, Personality Iyengar" appidi anipar. (Translation: my master, (Tiger Vardachariar) used to call him, "personality Iyengar").
…Tiger, Ivarai, ovvoru samayam "Kutti Iyengar, Kutti Tiger andru koopudradu enakku gnyapakam vandirikku. (Translation: I am reminded of Tiger some times calling him "Kutti Iyengar" or "Kutti Tiger").
…Naa jeevitham marchina mahaneeyudeena. (Translation: He was The great person who changed my life.).
…Look at his achievements, his associations, his titles, his singing in So many Samsthanam and the honours that he had been bestowed upon.
…It Was a Personality, It Was a Personality. No body can Miss it.
…Known for his delectable Swara exposition and Tana, he had also imbibed the innovative fresh approach of his Guru, the Tiger. A firm believer in Classical traditions, he was widely respected. Had given performances all over India and abroad, at Palaces and Sabhas. In rendition of songs and Alapana in 'Todi', he was in the distinguished company of Todi Sitaramayyar, Todi Koteswara Ayyar and Todi T. N. Rajarathinam.
…When Ariyakudi could not give the concert, he himself asked Varadaraja Iyengar in 1935 at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha to take his place, with Rajamanickam Pillai on Violin and Pudokkottai Dakshinamurti Pillai on Mridangam. That was the measure of his confidence in the musicianship of Varadaraja Iyengar.
…Talk to this young man (Vinjamuri) for an hour, you will get University Education.
The Seconderabad Karnataka Sangha arranged an exquisite Music concert on August 24, by Sri. Vinjamuri Varadaraja Ayyangar, Principal, Central School of Music and Dance. A leading deciple of the Late Tiger Vardachariar, he has completely assimilated the three cardinal features of his master, namely, rare Kalpana Swaras, Apoorva Sancharas and an inimitable technique of Tana singing. Vinjamuri has the gift of a powerful voice and in addition to imbibing Tiger’s matchless imagination and technique, he irrigates his Music with the emotion and devotion of Musiri and Semmangudi, regulates it with the steadiness and method of Ariyakudi and punctuates with the Tala sense of Chittoor with all its rigour and vigour. His Sahithya is flawless and he is equally at home with Telugu, Tamil and Kannada and Sanskrit. He rose to rare height and held the audience captivated for nearly three hours. He took them completely by surprise and one could hear them saying that it was the best performance of this place after Ariyakudi’s concert two years ago. Those who have watched with dismay the passing away one by one of the pillars of Karnatic Music heaved a sigh of relief when they found a repository of Sampradaya singing. For some years now, novices are masquerading as "exponents" of classical music in the twin cities and it is hoped that Sri. Vinjamuri will undo the mischief and set the proper standard. The Government of Hyderabad deserves to be congratulated on their bold choice and they will be promoting an art by making use of Vinjamuri's service to the maximum extent. Sri Nori Nagabhushanam and Lakshminarayan did well on the Violin and Mridangam respectively. Music by Srimati Bhagyalaxmi, Sitar playing by Sri Nagesh and dance by children were the other highlights of the Festival. Dr. Melkote, Jagannatha Rao, Shankar Dev, Anna Rao and Devi Singh Chauhan were graced. Mr. N.S. Raghavan, President of the Karnataka Sangha welcomed the quests.
During the last few years, death has made sad havoc among our great musicians to whom we are deeply indebted for the benificiable revolution in the system of classical karnatic music. To mention a few, Maharajapuram Viswanadha Iyer, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Palghat Ramabhagavatar, Musiri Subrahmanya Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer, GN Balasubramanyam, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Papa Venkatarama Iyer, Chowdiah, Professor Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu violinist, Phalghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subbudu, all of them Mridangam Players, TN Rajaratnam Pillai, Thiruvengadu Subramanya Pillai Nadaswarm, TR Mahalingam, Palaadam Sangiva rao Flute players, I have mentioned only a few, but so many have gone leaving delectable expositions of the great compositions of saints and great composers and their own creations in Music.
In this brief talk I want to remember a superb musician whose third death anniversary will be observed by many sabhas on the 16th of August this year. His name, Vinjamuri Varadaraja Iyengar. He was a classmate of mine in the Music Diploma course of the Madras University in 1934. I remember, we had four professors, Professor Sambamurthy, Tiger Vardachariar, Parur Sundaram Iyer and Udayavarma Raja for Veena. All together there were only about twenty-five students for the entire Diploma course. Most of them were under Gayakasikhamani, Sangeetha Kalanidhi Tiger K Vardachariar and a few for Violin and Veena. Among the students for vocal music was the young, handsome Iyengar, Varadarajan. He was a soft-spoken charming conversationalist with a delightful voice. The master, Tiger was particularly fond of his young student because Vinjamuri, as we called him, excelled all other students in rendering his master's lessons. Vardaraja Iyengar, in course of time became an outstanding musician very knowledgeable, musicologist, a composer and like his guru, a loved and respected teacher.
For those who have not had the privilege of knowing about Varadaraja Iyengar, let me go back to his childhood days. Vardaraja Iyengar was born in Guntur town of Andhra Pradesh on July 15, 1915. His father was the late Sri. Bhavanachariar, and mother Smt. Kanakavalli. He was the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters, a talented musical family. One of his elder brothers V. Sreenivasa Chari was an advocate, a well-known flutist and founder secretary of Thyagaraja Gana Sabha at Guntur. Another brother, V. Anantha Chari was a fine Veena player. He stayed with Gandhiji at Wardha and often played for the Father of the Nation. I was told that our classmate Varadaraja Iyengar started singing at the age of three, a very attentive student while his sister was being tutored by Sri. Sankara Sastri, a deciple of Tiruvattiyur Thyagaraja, a deciple of Veena Kuppaiar and a sisya of Saint Thyagaraja. I mentioned about his family because his was a gifted family, all devoted to Music which is undoubtedly the greatest boon that God Almighty bestows on some selected devotees. No wonder that Varadaraja Iyengar became what he was, a well-known musician not only in India but also in south Asian countries and America. After his Diploma course, Vinjamuri continued his training under Tiger. The student used to accompany his master for all public concerts and he acquired the techniques Tiger Vardachariar, the master, and earned the title Kutty Tiger.
In 1940, I was pleasantly surprised to meet my old classmate again when he came for a broadcast at All India Radio, Madras. I was in-charge of Indian Music at that time along with the Late NS Ramachandran, an outstanding Veena Player. Varadaraja Iyengar became a frequent broadcaster and became very popular with the Music world. Varadaraja Iyengar considered Ariyakudi as his Manasa Guru. The Andhra public and media named him as Andhra Ariyakudi. Vinjamuri, like his Gurus was a pure classicist. His rendering of Ragam Tanam Pallavi was a model to promising musicians. AIR often invited him for this type of program. He was a master in Pallavi in Rakthi Ragas like Bhairavi, Thodi, Shankarabharanam, Kambhoji and ragas like Bhavapriya, Varali, Saveri, Begada etc. Varadaraja Iyengar wrote about Pallavi singing in an article. To quote Iyengar, I quote, "Pallavi singing is the yard stick to gauge the depth of knowledge one possesses in the Ocean of Music. Be it vocal or stringed instrument, it is by itself a separate art in the whole". When Vinjamuri sang, he was accompanied by some of the greatest artists like Kumbakkonam Rajamanikyam Pillai, Mysore T Chowdiah, Parur Sundaram Iyer and on the Mridangam Phalghat Mani Iyer, Dakshinamurti Pilllai and on the Ghatam like Bilvadri Iyer and others. I remember, once Vinjamuri was to give a concert at Madras; Chowdiah was to be his Violinist. Unfortunately, the Violinist could not reach Madras in time. The audience was getting impatient. Present in the hall was TR Mahalingam. He asked Iyengar whether he would sing to the accompaniment of Flute. Iyengar nodded. Mali played on the Flute, Iyengar sang and the audience had a three-hour glorious music recital, a fine concert. Perhaps that was the first time that Mali provided accompaniment to a vocal recital. Way back in 1939, Vinjmauri recorded two compositions to the Odeon recording company, "O Jagadamba" in Anandabhairavi and "Sri Subrahmanyaya" in Kambhodi. His master Tiger was not very happy about recording Music, especially for commercial purposes. Iyengar, although little disappointed, stopped the company from selling the records and according to the wishes of his Guru, Iyengar never made any more commercial disks. The Andhra government made him the principal of the college of Carnatic Music in Hyderabad. He was the founder but worked as a principal only for 2 years. In 1956, he took up the producership of All India Radio, Hyderabad. He worked in AIR from 1956 to 1964. I was then the director in Hyderabad and I knew the devotion with which he looked after his responsibilities. He was a composer. Some of his creations in Tana Varnams, in Ghanaragamalika, Sindhuramakriya, Mararanjani, he composed kritis, like, in Hemavathi, Bhilahari, Karaharapriya, Sankarabharanam etc.. His Tillanas are delightful and popular with dances. He could write well, he could talk well and he was a graduate and could explain the intricacies in music even to the western audiences. He considered Music as universal, easiest way to approach God. He was well versed in Hindustani Music. Bade Gulam Ali Khan, Pandit Omkarnath Tagore were all his friends. But Iyengar maintained pure Carnatic style. No adulteration. He had broadcast from almost all AIR stations. He was invited to sing in Rajbhavans and Rastrabhavans also. Dr. Rajendraprasad, our former President liked his Music. Dr. Giri, they all enjoyed his Music. He sang for the coronation of Maharaja of Mysore, Jaya Chamarajendra Wodiar. He performed at the Kowdiar palace in the presence of the Maharaja of Travancore, the late Sri Chitra Tirunal and her highness Maharani Sethuparvathi Bai. His superb rendering of Thodi earned him the title, Thodi Varadaraja Iyengar. He was associated with almost all the Music Institutions in India. Dr. Varadaraja Iyengar was a happy family man. He had five sons and five daughters; most of them are musically inclined. 5 of his children are in USA and others in India. They are all doing very well and they appreciate Music. When Vinjamuri Passed away on August 16, 1991, he was a happy man, content that his life has been devoted to Music and that he has fulfilled his master’s wishes.
The family members and deciples of Dr. Vinjamuri have created a Vinjamuri Varadaraja Iyengar Memorial Charitable Society to promote classical Music in it’s purest form. The Music Academy of Madras has accepted to present annually a Gold Medal for a senior Karnatic Musician for Pallavi singing. A Gold Medal had been endowed to be given to the best vocal student in M.A Music of the Telugu University. Varadaraja Iyengar will be remembered not only as a great Musician but also as a great promoter of classical Music. I remember him as a friend and as a gentleman and may his soul rest in peace.
IMPERIAL BANK OF INDIA.
13th Dec. 1941
My Dear Varadaraja Iyengar,
You will be surprised to get a letter from me. I heard you on the Radio last night. I have never missed any of your broadcasts. Let me congratulate you. You are improving day by day and your broadcast yesterday was superb. I do hope you will maintain the correct Carnatic style and that very soon you will shine in the front rank of musicians. You have my blessings.
2. I should like to get you over to Kumbakonam to give a performance in the local Vani Vilas Sabha. This Sabha is recognized by all musicians as very conservative and I want Tamilian Musicians to hear you and realize that in Andhra Country you have people of your type who can beat the Tamil Vidwans at their own game. If I succeed in getting you a fixture say next month, what will be your date? What payment do you expect?
3. Are you performing in the Music Academy or anywhere else? It is time that you got included in all the major musical events at Madras. I have made up my mind to see that you get your desert. This is not for your sake, but for the sake of the art that you represent. It's correct style that appeals to me. Let me have reply immediately,
Even in 1938, when Vinjamuri was 22, he established himself to be a Musician of great calibre and also, with his charming personality and manners, he commanded respect and affection from the young and the old.
Here is an example:
Sri. T. Lakshmana Pillai was a well-known composer in Tamil, a Musicologist and also a Musician. He was the Principal of Swatitirunal Music College, Trivandrum, prior to Sri. Muthiah Bhagavatar. He was known as "Tamil Thyagaraja" even prior to Papanasam Sivan. (Late M.S. Ramaswami Iyer advocated this!) He was associated with Madras Music Academy from its inception. He had great admiration for Vinjamuri.
Ananthavilas, Sastan Koil Rd.
Thycand, Trivandrum, 22-3-38
My dear friend,
Thank you very much for your kind card of 2-2-38. You have not sent me your address at Madras as you promised in your card and you said there that you would be going to Madras within 4 or 5 days. This omission of yours furnishes me with a good excuse for not sending you a prompt reply, though in the matter of tardiness in correspondence, I am more than a match for you. You need not feel sorry that you did not take leave of me, as your brother has made-up for it by taking your leave of me.
I am very glad to know that you are giving many performances in those parts. As I have already told you, you are bound to become a famous singer, for nature has endowed you with necessary fertility of imagination and you have cultivated it under the guidance of that Great Master of Carnatic Music Mr. Tiger Varadachariar. Continue to sing in the same strain, absorbing and assimilating what ever is good in others, and you are sure to attain the desired goal. You should occasionally take Fellow's Syrup or Angeers' Syrup, according to the directions therein given, in order to strengthen your voice. And never sing when your throat is hoarse, because, by doing so you will be impairing your voice permanently.
I am continuing to teach songs to pupils who have now swelled to the number 18, and I am keeping good health.
Sharma is quite well and is helping me with the organization of vegetarian society with much earnestness. My compliments to your brother. Hoping to hear from you occasionally, and with every good wish,
P.S. I am invited to Tanjore to give a lecture with Musical demonstrations, in connection with the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Karanthai Tamil Sanga there, on 15th, 16th and 17th of April 38. I delivered a similar lecture at Pallavaram, near Madras, last Christmas.
(VVI - Replied 25/3/38)