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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.