I wrote this when the great man died but never updated it on the blog. When it was published, I got a message from a lady saying I had insulted BMK’s memory by this piece. I however beg to differ.
The Man from Madras Musings is saddened. Brilliant Musical King (BMK) passed away last week after a lifetime of glorious music. His was perhaps the best voice that South Indian classical music ever was blessed with. And, added to that, this man had loads of talent, did plenty of hard work and came up tops. He will be sorely missed.
There was a lot of sorrow expressed but what happened thereafter can best be described as bathos. A number of colleagues in the musical world decided that this was their moment in the sun and made the most of it. The way they transformed a moment of sadness into a celebration of themselves had MMM and several others reeling. And after a brief time in reeling they got onto rocking, with laughter.
Thus it was that an aged but persistent drummer said that BMK was great because he, BMK, recognised his, the drummer’s, greatness. A once-upon-a-time prodigy wrote fairly well on the greatness of BMK but spoilt it all by slipping in a couple of paragraphs about how he, BMK, praised the prodigy for being prodigious. The Numero Uno of the terpsichorean world declared that she was the only one who had ever danced to compositions of BMK, thereby hinting that others could not even attempt her feat. If these were the top-rankers, there were plenty of others down the ladder who paid tributes to themselves under the guise of condoling the death of the musician. One drummer, not the aged one referred to above, had it that the late lamented had once told him that he, the musician, considered himself to be privileged to have been accompanied by him, the drummer. This, in MMM’s view, speaks volumes about BMK’s humility and lack of side but as to what it says about young drummer, MMM leaves it to you, dear reader, to quote from Charlotte Bronte, to imagine.
If that was not enough, there were the others who claimed to be BMK’s disciples. Suddenly, just about anyone and everyone in the telephone directory appeared to have moved into one section under Yellow Pages – namely disciples of BMK. In MMM’s view this included a sizeable number that learnt his songs from his discs, cassettes and other recordings and so claimed discipleship. You also had a couple of VIPs from a not-unrelated field who suddenly declared that they had been students. One of these, better known to his huge fan following as World Hero, said that he was paying tribute along with his ‘fellow musicians’. As to when he joined that category MMM does not know. All MMM can say is that immediately after the maestro’s death there has been a marked increased in the number of disciples he ever had. MMM fully expects this number to increase as the December music season starts gathering steam.
Those on social media decided that this was when they could put up pictures of themselves with the maestro and thereby claim extreme closeness with him. MMM is not doubting the veracity of these images, but he does feel somewhere deep down that many of them smacked of rank opportunism – to get some cheap publicity on a dead man. It brought to mind, for no rhyme or reason the lines: Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. For that matter even those lines don’t have any rhyme or reason and so there.
It was perhaps to distinguish himself from many of these so-called claims to tutelage that one of the real disciples put up an obituary advertisement for the dear departed, with a line underneath claiming that he was a ‘disciple for the past thirty years’. That may be so, but it cannot be denied that none of these, real or otherwise, achieved even an iota of the fame or adulation that old BMK did.