"What he doesn't know about music, is not worth knowing" - Bruno
David Nelson on Dr
When I first arrived in Madurai in June, 1970, I was
taken to the Sri Sathguru Sangeetha Vidyalaya, the music college affiliated with Madurai
University and introduced to the Principal, Sri S. Ramanathan. I told Sri Ramanathan of my
interest in studying mrdangam, to which he genially replied, "Oh, yes, we have a
great mrdangam teacher here in Madurai; I will take you to him. But mrdangam is an
accompaniment instrument. You should also learn vocal music so that you know what you are
accompanying." I thanked him and agreed that this was a good idea. He then said,
"Fine. You can learn from me. You can come to my house."
The next day he took me to meet Sri Sankarasivam, and
then to his own house, where we began singing lessons. His house was always full of
students of all ages and levels of experience, and it seemed that he was always teaching.
In Middletown two years later, he opened his home to me again. I stayed with him and his
daughter Geetha while I worked on my Senior Thesis. Again, his home was always open to
students, including some who became well known. One day there was a knock on the door.
When I answered it, a man just a few years older than I was standing there. "Is Mr.
Ramanathan at home?" he asked, an English accent confirming my suspicions as to his
identity. I said that he was not, and the young man said, "Well, my group is
performing here tonight. I brought some tickets for you all." So we all went to hear
John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra.
The Hindu newspaper of
24June,2011 feature an article on Dr S.Ramanathan:
Sangita Kalanidhi, Isai Perarignar
Dr. S. Ramanathan (1917-1988), Guru and father of Mrs Banumathy Raghuraman
(of alapana), was a musician and musicologist of high calibre. Through oral
tradition he was the recipient of the masterpieces of the most famous 17th century
composers, Sri Tyagaraja, Sri Muthuswamy Dikshithar and Sri Syama Sastri. He was a
disciple of Tiger Varadachariar, Sabesa Iyer, Ponniah Pillai, and Sathur Krishna Iyengar.
Among his accomplishments are number of varnams and kritis, residencies at several
American universities and a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University, Middletown,
Connecticut. He had trained a number of students who achieved recognition in the carnatic
music field like S. Sowmya, P.UnniKrishnan, Sukanya Raghunathan (veena),
Geetha Bennett (veena), Vidya Hariharan (veena and vocal), R.Banumathy (veena and
vocal), Vanathy Raghuraman, Latha Radhakrishnan (violin and vocal), Padma Gadiyar (veena),
Thyagarajan/Raju, Vasumathi Nagarajan, Savithri Sathyamurthy, Seetha
Narayanan, Sucharithra and Lavanya to name a few. Acclaimed as a Vidwan of Vidwans by none
other than Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, his dedication to reach the masses also was
evident in the regular meetings he addressed at the Gandhi Peace Centre, called
"Music for Layman". His translation of Subbarama Dikshitars Sangeetha
Sampradaya Pradharshini as also numerous books on music & musicology serve as
authentic reference material on Indian music for all times to come. His PhD thesis, Music
in Silappathikaram' is a milestone reference material on the music of the tamils for
researchers in music/tamil literature.
Almost all the coveted awards, titles and honours that a Carnatic musician of his
times could dream of poured on him out of sheer merit.
His life's mission was to share knowledge with everyone without discrimination and
he himself was a huge storehouse of knowledge.
Dr S.Ramanathan, earned a PhD for his thesis on 'Music in
Silappathikaram' at Weslayan University, USA. He is the second Indian to obtain a PhD in
Indian Music on the merits of a thesis. (The first was Sri Harikesanallur Muthiah
Bhagavatar at Mysore University)
Dr S.Ramanathan receives an award from Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Day 10
Dr S.Ramanathan's Veena performance at the United Nations.