Curious case of Semmangudi, a Carnatic genius with a cacophony.


Most of us associate classical musicians especially singers with their voice. There have been proponents and geniuses who have had poor vocal skills, but their contributions is respected even till date, some even more than the prominent singers!Some of them even have gone and mentored world-class talent.
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To give you an example I can find no other person better than Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer: I have had the privilege of knowing this gentlemen as an important acquaintance of the family. Semmangudi was well-known for his uncharacteristically nasal voice in an era when practically every prominent Carnatic singer had an impeccable voice.

In his youth, famous kanjira performer, Dhakshinamurti Pillai commented to his brother and teacher, “His voice is as melodious as the noise created when a coconut shell is scraped on a rock. Don’t bother to give him vocal training. Let him learn to play the violin.”Despite such criticism, Semmangudi worked hard to improve his voice through practice and rigorous training. In the end, his natural talent for music emerged victorious over his deficient voice and he became a phenomenon in the Carnaticworld.

His prominent disciples include Padma Awardees like K.J. Yesudas , M.S. Subbulakshmi and scores more. Imagine the loss to the musical world had he decided to listen to people and not focus on musical training.

 

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