The Path-breaking Centenary of a Trendsetting Artist

DK Pattammal: a doyen in her own right and stead.

2018 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of a musician par excellence: D.K. Pattammal.

The first Brahmin woman to take the Carnatic stage, Pattammal brought a sense of novelty to the kutcheri platform. Not only did she break ground to create her own niche, but Pattammal is also known for standing up to and often surpassing her male contemporaries. Through her mastery of the ragam-tanam-pallavi (RTP), a concert entity that was, until then, reserved for males, Pattammal gained repute in her own industry as well as pan-India.

At her centenary celebrations at Narada Gana Sabha’s Sadguru Gnanananda Hall on the morning of Saturday, March 17th, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu paid tributes to the vocalist.

He hailed Pattammal’s uncompromising adherence to tradition when values were fast changing, her dedication to the art without aspiring for return and judicious selection of musical offerings in concerts.

He also took the occasion to remember Pattammal’s contribution to the Indian Independence movement through some of her early hits.

“In Nam Iruvar (1947), her renditions of ‘Vetri Ettu Dhikkum Etta’, and ‘Aaduvome Pallu Paduvome’, a remarkably prescient creation celebrating a free India, went on to be big hits. DK Pattammal’s name was announced in the film before the song-dance sequence began. It was the first time such a thing had been done in South Indian cinema. A rare honour indeed.”

Noted historian Sriram Venkatakrishnan took to his blog to pay tribute, unearthing the first-ever photo taken of Pattammal in 1931. He further delineated her relationship with composer Papanasam Sivan, of whose songs Pattammal popularized until his death.

Pattammal’s individual artistic lineage is well-documented, as is the musical family she left behind. The daughter and sister of two iconic musicians, generations after her have continued to contribute to the historical art form with vigour. Granddaughter Dr. Nithyashree Mahadevan is one of the family’s most noteworthy musicians, becoming a mainstay on the concert stage over the last three decades.

Granddaughter Nithyashree poses with grandmother D.K. Pattammal after the former’s Season kutcheri is 2002.
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Compiled by Lavanya Narayanan