The sixth couple to be featured in the Navaratri Nava Shakti series of Parivadini is Soundararajan-Santhanalakshmi of Chettikulam.
A third generation nagaswaram artiste in her family, Vidushi Santhanalakshmi, however, had to coax her father Thammapatti KS Ponnusamy to teach her. “At that time, it wasn’t common for women to venture out of their houses and learn from men. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn from anyone outside my family,” she says.
A fifth generation musician Vidwan Soundararajan started his gurukula-type learning from Poovalur Ramalingam brothers when he was 13 years old. His father, Chettikulam Singaram was a well known musician. After three years with Ramalingam brothers, he continued his learning with their son Kalaimamani Poovalur Nagarajan. Another three years of learning in gurukula mode happened with stalwart Swamimalai Kotisundaranar during which time he learned the intricacies. He married Santhanalakshmi, a relative.
The couple has been playing for 37 years all over India at various places. They hold sacred the blessings they got from Thirumuruga Kirupananda Variyar before whom they played as a couple three days after marriage. Their son, a practicing physiotherapist, also tours and performs nagaswaram at various places including abroad.
Unlike how it was during her childhood, Santhanalakshmi says women are studying in music colleges across all districts. More parents should come forward to teach their daughters nagaswaram, she says. The couple expresses the hope that just as women are in the forefront in all fields, they should also shine as frontranking nagaswaram artistes.
In the Navaratri, Nava Shakti concert, they will be accompanied by KN Manikandan and KS Shankar on the thavil.