Friday, September 18, 2009

Music Street

Madras of the 19th century was an attractive destination not only for traders and business-people, but also for many others. Among them were the musicians, several of who relocated to Madras. They were then influential in bringing in some of the musical greats, if not to stay in the city, to at least make their visits regular occurances, typically coinciding with one of the many festivals.

One such musician/composer was 'Veena' Kuppier. Although he moved only a short distance to reach George Town from Tiruvottiyur, his hometown, it must have been a significant decision in the early nineteenth century. His patron was Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliar, who made Kuppier the samasthana vidwan of Kovur, a village that Kuppier had probably never even visited earlier. Kuppier was not only an expert vainika (veena player), but also a violinist and singer - accomplishments which led him to be called gana chakravarti (emperor of music). It was Kuppier who, on behalf of Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliar, persuaded Thyagaraja to visit Madras in 1839. Though the great composer stayed at Sundaresa Mudaliar's town-house on Bunder Street, he did visit Kuppier's house and also sang in praise of the family deity.

All this information was gathered much later. This photo was taken more because the street sign is of a style that was used maybe 50 years or so ago; the name 'Kuppier' sounded odd; familiar, yet foreign. I guess I couldn't have been more mistaken about that!


Raj said...

Shantaram, that was very interesting. How do you go about collecting such information?

Shantaram said...

@ Raj: There are so many accounts out there, thanks to google! So I just read them up for a bit and then ask a few people... before I take a shot at creating my version! :)

Glad you enjoyed it!