Kalanidhi T Brinda (1912 - 1996)
|Brhannayaki - Andali
T Brinda is one of the most remarkable musicians
in the annals of Carnatic music. Grand-daughter of the legendary
vainika, Dhanammal, and daughter of Kamakshi Ammal, T Brinda
was bred in the evergreen nursery of vibrant classicism in
Carnatic music. She imbibed the Dhanam tradition of melody
from Dhannammal and her daughters. She was the most prominent
& eloquent inheritor of its grace and charm. She had absorbed
enough music at home to elaborate ragas at the age of nine
and at this time, she came into contact with Kanchipuram Naina
Brinda learnt directly from the maestro in the traditional
gurukulam system and, within a short span of three years,
she had mastered over 300 compositions of Tyagaraja, besides
various other musical forms like Tevaram-s and Tirupugazh-s.
She returned home and enriched her repertoire by learning
from her grandmother, the legendary Veena Dhanammal.Thus,
Brinda had the best of the graceful style of Dhanammal's music
that was soft, sweet and feminine as also the fireworks-filled
masculine style of Naina Pillai.
Brinda made her debut with her sister Mukta
as vocal support at the Tyagaraja Festival, Kanchipuram, which
was celebrated annually by Naina Pillai. Thenceforth, the
Brinda-Mukta combine was a prominent duo for four decades,
till Brinda's daughter and vocalist Vegavauhini joined to
sing with Brinda. Thus Brinda had, over seventy years, solid
credit as a performing artiste of merit. She enjoyed a vast
repertoire of krti-s, padam-s and javali-s.
Her music was full of microscopic nuances. She had a captivating
voice, almost ideal for Carnatic music. It had clarity, sweetness,
depth and majesty. She was in control whether she sang slow
or even super slow, plain notes, or notes with oscillations,
soft or loud.
She was probably the first vocalist to highlight
voice modulation as a major aspect of music and it made a
tremendous difference to the class of her music. Recordings
of many of her contemporaries - both male and female musicians
- testify to the fact that most believed in singing predominantly
in their natural voices. Brinda started modulating her voice
to make it sharper when she sang subtle, fast phrases in higher
regions which imparted a laser beam precision and intensity
to the phrases, and deeper, when she sang in the lower octaves
or sustained notes with karvai-s.
This was a marked contrast to many
artistes singing louder as they approached the high
notes. Brinda believed that singing loudly in the higher
octaves prevented clarity in the lower octaves, and
moreover, was ruinous to the vocal cords in the long
run. Her correct judgement and technique were evidenced
in her concerts in the early 1990-s when she performed
with no loss of either range or clarity even when she
One almost associated her with padam-s
of Kshetragna, Sarangapani, Ghanam Krishna Iyer and
others as she was undoubtedly peerless in this area.
Each rendition of pieces like Moratopu (Sahana), Ninnu
joochi (Punnagavarali), Rama rama (Bhairavi), Ososi
(Mukhari), Tamarasaksha (Yadukulakambodhi) and Yalapadare
(Begada) brought to light something one may have missed
earlier and never failed to astound or refresh the listener.
Her exquisite rendition of such demanding masterpieces was
due to her ability to highlight the long, plain notes with
her tranquil voice and intersperse them with gems of microscopic
phrases, which opened up a new world altogether. Most quality
musicians adored these nuances and were inspired to incorporate
them in one way or the other. Those who learnt directly from
her include Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Ramnad Krishnan and
M S Subbulakshmi.
But Brinda's comfort zone was not limited
to merely slow pieces such as padam-s. She could effortlessly
handle fast-paced pieces like Manasa etulo (Malayamarutam),
Nee muddu momu (Kamalamanohari), Vinave O Manasa (Vivardhini),
Janakiramana (Shuddhaseemantini), or Chinnanadena (Kalanidhi).
She sang even pieces like Pakkala nilabadi (Kharaharapriya)
or Epapamu (Atana) in speeds faster than what was conventional
and laced them with demanding variations.
She was was much more than a gifted artiste
to whom music was as natural as breathing. She was very analytical
and often discussed musical points intellectually. This enabled
her to successfully hold posts such as Professor, Central
College of Carnatic Music, Madras and was the Visiting Professor
in University of Washington, Seattle and University of California,
Her titles include Sangeet Natak Academy
Award - 1965, Sangeeta Kalanidhi from Music Academy, Madras
- 1977, Sangeeta Sikhamani from Indian Fine Arts Society and
Swaralaya Pushkaram by Swaralaya - 1992.
Above all, Brinda was a rare human being
who had the strength of character to never deviate from her
convictions and values for over 75 years. She represented
not merely a great style of music but a great way of life.