Music in Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram before independence was
the capital of the kingdom of Travancore, ruled by kings who were God fearing
and kind to the people. Many of the rulers were scholars and artists such
as Swathi Thirunal Maharaja a composer himself, who wrote music in many
of the languages of India. He patronized dancers, poets and singers from
all over the country.
This tradition of music flourished long after
the kingdom was subsumed into India. Thiruvananthapuram had a great music
hall, the VJT Hall, where concerts and dances were held. I’ve been
to many concerts there of leading artists including M.S.Subbalakshmi, Semmangudi
Srinivasa Iyer, Musiri Subramaniya Iyer, and GN Balasubramanian. One thing
that struck me about the Thiruvananthapuram audiences was that unlike their
counterparts elsewhere, they were quiet when the artist performed. No talking
about their family matters and vacations or sarees. They listened to the
concerts attentively, something the performing artists always appreciated.
In addition, each year during the festival
of Gokulashtami, free concerts were held nightly on South Street, near the
temple. Under a big canopy outside, famous musicians would sing late into
the night after the day’s work was done. All the famous musicians
of that time, including MLV, Madurai Mani Iyer (who always performed for
free at any religious festival) and Semmangudi Iyer would sing there and
at other free concerts during festival nights across the city.