The third couple to be featured in Parivadini’s Navaratri Nava Shakti series is KS Senthil Murugan and S Shanthi of Tiruvannamalai. Vidushi Shanthi has been learning nagaswaram from six years. She learned the basics from her grandfather Raman and later from her father Kalaimamani TR Pichandi. She learned vocal music from Vidushi Kalyani of Tiruvannamalai in addition. Shanthi performed with her father at concerts for 20 years.
Vidwan Senthil first learned nagaswaram from his father Shanmugam. He continued his training at Tiruvaiyaru Music College for four years. During that time, he got a chance to learn the nuances of nagaswaram playing from stalwarts such as Tiruvidaimaruthur PSV Raja, Sikkil K Umapathy, Tiruppulivanam Uthirakumar.
The couple has been playing together for nearly 25 years. The son of Senthil-Shanthi, themselves representing the third and fourth generation of musicians in their families, is keen on nagaswaram though he is a qualified engineer.
“We have a healthy competition when playing together. We try to emulate each other when it comes to play sangathis. We first played together after marriage at Bangaru Adigalar’s eldest son’s wedding. He blessed us saying we played very well. In 2010, we went to Mount Kailasa with 136 Sivacharyas. Each day we played for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. The Sivacharyas were surprised that we were able to play for so long in an oxygen-depleted environment. They praised us saying they had trouble chanting mantras but we had played the nagaswaram. We still cherish that praise,”
Senthil and Shanthi have been the Asthana Vidwans at the Tiruvannamalai Shankara Mutt for 15 years. In 2019, the state government gave them the Kalaimamani award.
“Women should learn the instrument properly instead of randomly as a hobby. The nagaswaram can be a strenuous instrument to play especially for young women and those with children since it requires physical exertion and breath control. But if they take it as a challenge they can succeed. Many women have successfully played nagaswaram before us and they stand worthy of emulation by aspiring musicians. My idol is Kalishabi,” says Shanthi.
In the upcoming Navaratri Nava Shakthi concert, Senthil-Shanthi will be accompanied by K Manohar and EV Ganapathy on the thavil.