(Last Updated on : 12/06/2012)
Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai was music composer of South India in 19th century. He was the son of Kamakshi Ammal, one of the popular Dhanakoti sisters, who were popular in the concert scene of that time. She used to call him as Subramaniam and one day his aunt Dhanakoti Ammal called out him endearingly by the name 'Nayana'. So, he had all these names.
Early Life of Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai
As the years passed, he grew up and attained fame in the world of music by the name Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai. Both his mother and aunt were direct disciples of Kanchi Sastri, a great grandson of Shyama Sastri. Nayana Pillai also followed their way and learnt music. He was very unruly, fond of pigeon racing, wrestling and boxing during childhood. All his family members tried to tame him and tried to get him into the music classes but failed.
Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai's First Taste of Music
It is believed that one day a sannyasi named 'Paripoornanada Swami' came to the Kailasanathar temple, near Nayana Pillai's house in Kanchipuram District
. He was an impressive music vidwan but he was not a professional singer. He asked Nayana to come closer to him and talked with him. The sannyasi
could realise the hidden musical talent in Nayana Pillai. And this very first meeting with the sannyasi changed him. It is said that Paripoornananda Swami himself initiated the music his classes. So, Nayana started taking keen interest in music and left his playfulness nature. He used to attend the classes secretly in the grounds of the Kailasanatha Temple
. One day, his mother and aunt were surprised when they heard their child singing in a melodious voice. Afterwards, he started practicing day in and out. His aunt Dhanakoti Ammal taught him Shyama Sastri's compositions.
Career In Music for Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai
The two concerts, which affected him a lot, were those of 'Ettayapuram Ramachandra Bhagavatar' and 'Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer'. After that Nayana Pillai took 'Lava vyavaharam' (rhythmic complexities) as his passion. He started expanding his range by leaps and bounds. He learnt about 400 kriti
s from the Jalatarangam Ramaniah Chetty of the Walajapet sishya parampara of Tyagaraja. In this field, he was helped by Plate Venkataramayya and C. Ramanujacharya of the Ramakrishna Math
. It is known from the appellation that he was the first Carnatic vocalist to cut a disc.
Another teacher of Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai includes the legendary Veena Dhanammal. She also learnt a few songs from him. He was very much fascinated by her 'Todi' raga that he learnt three songs in that raga from her. The two famous students of Nayana Pillai include Brinda and Mukta. But he did not teach the latter as he thought she was not talented enough. But in later period of his life, Nayana acknowledged Mukta's musical talents when he heard her sing with Brinda at the Tyagaraja festival organised by him.
Pallavi raga was his strong asset. He was a master of this particular raga. The 'full bench' concerts were introduced by him. He used to perform with percussionists of every type ranging from the mridangam to the luscious 'konakkol' as his accompanists. He would have never performed in a concert without 'Swaraprastharas' and this shows his love for rhythm. He sang several 'Tiruppujjazlis' of 'Arunagjrinatha', which were known for their complex tala in Carnatic music
Death of Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai
Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai died on May 2 in1934 leaving behind his legacy and a few sishyas.