This article appeared today in The Hindu’s special music supplement. But as that does not have a web edition, I am reproducing the article below:
There was electricity in the air as the December Music Season of 1933 approached. For the first time, there were two Music Conferences, one by the Music Academy and the other, by the Indian Fine Arts Society. In many ways, 1933 really marks the beginning of the Music Season as we know it with more than one Sabha holding a music festival. The Music Academy’s series, titled the Madras Music Conference, began two days ahead of the usual Christmas Eve inauguration. At the specially erected pandal in People’s Park behind Ripon Buildings, with “all its approaches beautifully decorated with flags and festoons” ( as per The Hindu) the conference began on 22nd December, duly inaugurated by Sir CV Raman and with Vidwan Tanjore K Ponniah Pillai in the chair.
On the 24th, the Indian Fine Arts Society began its first “South Indian Music Conference” at the Gokhale Hall, Armenian Street with Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar inaugurating the proceedings. The Conference was presided over by W Doraiswami Iyengar, the manager of the publishing house Longmans Green. He was a great patron of Carnatic Music and was a respected musicologist.
The holding of two conferences no doubt created a spirit of rivalry, but as CR Srinivasan, Editor, Swadesamitran put it, “the public had now the opportunity of hearing great Vidwans twice in the course of the week” (The Hindu dated 24th December).
The conferences went on, with both venues discussing raga lakshanas, passing resolutions supporting the revival of classical South Indian dance, by then firmly rechristened Bharata Natya, by whom and when remaining a mystery though the Music Academy has always taken credit for it. The proceedings at both venues were widely reported in The Hindu. Amidst all the columns, two advertisements stand out. Both appeared in The Hindu dated 27th December.
The first was released by the Indian Fine Arts Society. It announced what was perhaps the first public concert of MS Subbulakshmi in Madras city and it is interesting to see that she sang to the accompaniment of the veena (played by her mother Shanmukhavadivu) and the violin. The concert, on 28th December was at the Soundarya Mahal on Govindappa Naicken Street, then a famed venue for the fine arts and now no longer in existence. The programme was sponsored by C Rajam, noted industrialist who is today remembered as the founder of and chief donor to the Madras Institute of Technology. Why was the concert held at Soundarya Mahal and not Gokhale Hall? Thereby hangs an interesting tale. Annie Besant, the builder of the Gokhale Hall had stipulated that it was available as a venue for performances by all except the women belonging to the traditional community for arts! In fact for long it was necessary for women artistes to furnish marriage certificates to enable them to perform at the Gokhale Hall. MS Subbulakshmi and her mother had arrived the previous year in Madras city and among the first concert opportunities was one at Llanstephan, the residence of the Chinni Yelamanda Chetty family. Members of this clan were patrons of the Indian Fine Arts Society and had arranged for her concert under its auspices.
The second advertisement was by the Music Academy. The upper half deals with a Hindustani Music performance by Pt. Ratanjankar. It is however the second half of the advertisement that merits attention for it is an invitation to “come and enjoy the true idiom of Bharata Natya” on 28th December. The performers were Varalakshmi and Saranayaki. This marked the culmination of a year long series of dance performances held by the Music Academy with a view to get the public to appreciate the art. It is also perhaps the first public announcement of a Bharata Natyam performance, for all earlier communiqués refer to it as classical South Indian dance. The public interest which had been tepid in the beginning had by December 1933 snowballed into immense curiosity and the performance was very warmly received. It was also one more indication of the Music Academy’s firm resolve in reviving the art. Not only was the Preisdent of that years conference, K Ponniah Pillai from a family of strong music and dance traditions, the agenda of the conference too had topics of dance dominating.