Doyens of Music – Instrumental

Master strokes from A K Palanivel

It is a privilege to live at the same time as he does, a thavil wizard of the century who strides the musical world like a colossus. Guess the name of the person? He is the one and only A K Palanivel.

Thanjavur delta reverberated with his electrifying playing when he was young. Hailing from Haridwaramangalam, in Thanjavur district, his father Kumaravel Pillai was his first guru.

As gurukula vasam was in vogue those days, he learnt the subtleties of the art from maestro T G Muthu Kumaraswamy Pillai.

The ethereal nadam which emanated from his thavil made him accompany senior nagaswara vidwans at a very young age. His adept handling of the raja vadiyam - thavil - has made him traverse the realm of rhythm with great élan. He became a crowd-puller as he is gifted with nimble fingers and ‘vallinam’ and ‘mellinam’ in playing.

He has accompanied players of varied instruments both wind and stringed. Palanivel is gifted with a keen mathematical acumen which is manifest in his commendable playing. The whole area resonates with the sound of thavil once he ascends the stage.

A good teacher, he is a visiting faculty in many universities in India and abroad. He has the rare honour of being the only thavil vidwan on whose musical career a dissertation was prepared by a student which fetched the author M.Phil. degree from Barathidasan University.

Not content with thavil, his brainwave is ‘Nada Laya Natyam’. He makes several dancers dance to his tunes. In this tough musical workout, he has incorporated rhythmic phrases which have raised many appreciative eyebrows. His troupe performs to the music of vocal, nagaswaram, violin, mridangam, and, of course, thavil.

A widely travelled person, he feels that to attract the audience, one has to give the best. He has hyptonised foreigners with his commendable style. Palanivel is worried about the decadence of nagaswaram and thavil. There are no takers in this field, quips Palanivel sadly. He feels that the government should nurture the art and encourage the artistes by providing suitable employment.

After being bestowed with innumerable awards, the Indian government’s Padma Shree became a crowning glory. The Almighty’s grace and guru kadaksham has made me climb the ladder of success, says a beaming Palanivel.

He has been the secretary of the Tyagaraja Sabha at Thiruvaiyaru for many years.

The thavil virtuoso is keen on preserving music and advises youngsters against delinking from the prescribed format.

He is hopeful of bringing the Cauvery tradition alive where people would willingly start learning the nagaswaram and thavil as they capture the quintessence of Indian heritage and culture.

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