Kalpakam Swaminathan, who dedicated over eight decades to veena playing and teaching, passed away here on Wednesday. She was 89.
Ms. Swaminathan, who began learning to play the veena when she was six, was a passionate exponent of the ‘Thanjavur style' of playing. Her vocalised style of playing was marked by its rich feel and was steeped in classicism. In the decades she dedicated to mastering the instrument, learning, engaging with theoretical aspects and aesthetics of veena playing, sharing and teaching, she emerged a unique vidwan and a revered guru.
With her initial tutelage under Kallidaikurichi A. Ananthakrishna Iyer and association with the much-regarded scholar P. Sambamurthy, Ms. Swaminathan cultivated a nuanced understanding of raga playing and particularly, gamakas (oscillation of notes in a manner appropriate to the raga being played.)
Learning compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar from T.L. Venkatarama Iyer, considered an authority on the subject, enriched her repertoire.
Much of her understanding came from her deep engagement with the instrument and introspection.
Her research-oriented approach to music helped her make significant contributions during her stints at the Kalakshetra and the Central College of Carnatic Music, now known as the Government Music College.
Her scholarship and expertise won her several accolades, including The Music Academy's ‘Sangita Kala Acharya' and the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha's ‘Aacharya Choodamani' titles.
Her relatives and admirers remember her as a modest, humble and accessible artist who believed that the art was always bigger than the artist. She is survived by her daughter-in-law, grandson and his family.
Published by The Hindu, dated 07/04/2011