T. R. Subramanyam
(b. 20 September 1929)

T. R. Subramanyam, or TRS as he is more popularly known amongst most music loving rasikas is a vidwan with uncommon traits. He is unconventional in the sense, that he is a daredevil willing to explore new avenues, regardless of whether his new ideas are accepted or not. He may not start his concert with a traditional varnam or a kriti on Ganesha. On one occasion, the opening item of his concert was a javali in Kapi ragam!

TRS is scholarly and original in his approach to learning new kritis. Though TRS is a multilinguist, until he is confident of the meaning of song- whether the kriti is in Telugu, Kannada, Sanskrit or Tamil, he will not attempt to sing it. Before presenting a new kriti at a concert he pays particular attention to learn the correct words of the sahitya and the correct pronunciation of each word. When TRS renders a kriti, each sangati is rendered with clarity allowing the listener to pick up the words of the song.

In his swaraprastharas, he uses swarams intelligently- he is skillful on the use of swaraksharams. If for instance, he is attempting swara prastharas for a sahitya like - Paramapavana - he will use swarams such as Pa, Ri and Ma to correspond with the sahitya.

TRS as a teacher is unmatched for his enormous patience and understanding. He quickly becomes aware of the limitations of each of his students. He modifies his teaching technique to each individual student in such a way that the student is easily able to comprehend the nuances of the raga bhavam and develop an understanding of the different sangatis in a particular sahityam. I have witnessed TRS encouraging his pupils with his everpresent smile and going through the sahityam with the student several times till the student completely grasps it and is comfortable singing the sahityam.

It is not unusual for TRS to have younger artistes with limited concert exposure to accompany him during his concerts. The ragam-tanam-pallavi is TRS's forte. He is likely to pick a rare raga like Hemavati with an uncommon tala and an unusual eduppu. He has mastery over 'kanakku', (rhythmic arithmetical calculations). Junior artistes enjoy accompanying TRS because he is never one to embarrass them, if for instance the accompanying artistes do not get a particular piece right the first time, he will skillfully assist them.

TRS's lecture demonstrations on rendering pallavis are widely appreciated by both rasikas and students of music. They are so popular that they attract sizeable audience. TRS's skill in rendering the ragam-tanam-pallavi is unrivaled.

TRS is a disciple of Musiri Subramania Iyer. Prior to learning from Musiri, he learnt music from other teachers. He has formally graduated from the University with college degrees. TRS has expressed his fascination for GNB's music and talks glowingly about GNB's skill as a musician.

TRS has also composed some varnams, kritis and tillanas. He occasionally renders his compositions in concerts. He has also tuned some Purandaradasa kritis. TRS has a wide repertoire of songs which he sings in concerts, many of which include compositions of modern composers.

TRS retired a few years ago from the University of Delhi, where he was a Professor in the Department of Music. He is highly respected by all his former students for his knowledge, skill as a concert artiste, his patience as a teacher and his charming demeanor. Anyone who has had the privilege of interacting with TRS will agree on this count.

Written by Ashok Madhav

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