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Good Bye Geetha Bennett

This obit first appeared in Inmathi.com

Sometime in the late 90s, I tuned in late on radio to a concert. The tanam had just begun. As Khamboji flowed I was trying to figure out who the player was. I was quite sure I hadn’t heard this musician before. The measured yet vibrant playing got me hooked onto the rest of the concert. At the end came the announcement and I had heard Vid. Geetha Bennett for the first time.

As I developed interest in Carnatic music, I was fascinated by the music and works of Dr. S. Ramanathan, Geetha Bennett’s father. There were a lot of mention about his work on Silapadikaram but it was not easy to locate the publication. In 2001, I was in the US to do my Masters degree and through internet I could locate Geetha Bennett. With a hope of finding Dr. SR’s book I drew courage to call her up. She must have been surprised to receive that call from a stranger. Internet bandwidth and ease of digitization were not great then. Geetha did mention she had his thesis but was hesitant to send me the only copy she had with her. That was the only conversation I had with her.

As years rolled over, my fascination to Dr. S. Ramanathan – the personality — only grew. I had the chance to discuss and learn more about him with his other family members, some students and many rasikas.

A few months before Dr. Ramanathan’s centenary year, I ran into an article by Geetha Bennett on her illustrious father. Her account was a fascinating read and left me longing for more. I wanted to meet her and get more insights from her. When I contacted her niece, I was shocked to know about her prolonged fight with cancer.

Despite ill health, she travelled to Chennai to be a part of her father’s centenary celebrations and played a wonderful tribute concert last year. The Senchurutti varnam (a composition of Dr. S.R on Tyagaraja and perhaps the only varnam composed in this raga) is still ringing in my ears.

Despite going over 50 chemo sessions, here she was, on a mission on YouTube to record and document at least 100 songs that she had learnt from Dr. S. Ramanthan. The videos that are available are a treasure trove bearing the undeliable stamp of Dr.SR. One can see that despite her frail state, the music had a rejuvenating effect on her. The way she glows along with the composition would be etched in my memory forever.

It is unfortunate and our loss that she could only partly realize her dream. Her students and other students of Dr. S.Ramanathan can perhaps fulfill her dream.

Goodbye Vid. Geetha. I wish I had met you once.

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இசைத் துறையில் பல ஆய்வுகள் செய்த திருமது வித்யா சங்கர் நேற்று இயற்கை எய்தினார்.

டாக்டர் சி.வி. ராமன், டாக்டர் சந்திரசேகர் என்று நோபல் பரிசு வாங்கியோர் குடும்பத்தைச் சேர்ந்தவர்.  இவர் குடும்பத்தில் பலர் வெவ்வேறு துறைகளில் உச்சங்களைத் தொட்டவர்கள். மியூசிக் அகாடமி தொடங்கப்பட்ட காலத்தில் பல வித்வான்களுக்கு சிம்ம சொப்பனமாக விளங்கிய சி.எஸ்.ஐயர் – வித்யா சங்கரின் தகப்பனார்.

எனக்கு வித்யா சங்கரைப் பற்றி அதிகம் தெரியாவிடினும் அவரது இரண்டு அற்புதமான புத்தகங்களைப் பல முறை படித்து பெரும் பயன் அடைந்திருக்கிறேன்.

Musicology-ல் ஆர்வம் ஏற்பட அவருடைய எளிமையான நடையில் எழுதப்பட்ட “Scientific and aesthetic values in carnatic music” முக்கிய காரணம்.

Art and Science of carnatic music என்ற மற்றொரு புத்தகமும் அனைவராலும் படிக்கப்ப்பட வேண்டிய ஒன்று.

இவ்விரு நூல்களைப் பற்றியும் விரைவில் தனிப்பதிவு ஒன்றைப் போடுகிறேன்.

அன்னாருக்கு அஞ்சலி செய்ய என்னால் இயன்ற ஏதோ ஒன்று.

Photo courtesy: http://homepage.mac.com/ludwigpesch/sampurna/index.html

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