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Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer

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Thirukkodikaval, Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu, India (July 25, 1908 – October 31, 2003)

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (Tamil: ஸெம்மங்குடி ஸ்ரீனிவாச ஐயர்) (July 25, 1908 - October 31, 2003) was considered to be one of the greatest Carnatic vocalists of the twentieth century. He was the youngest recipient of the Sangeetha Kalanidhi, which was awarded to him by the Music Academy in 1947. He has received many other awards including Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, from the government of India. He was affectionately addressed as “Semmangudi Maama” (Semmangudi Uncle) by his disciples. He was also considered the “Pitamaha” or the grand sire of modern Carnatic Music.

He was born in Thirukkodikaval, Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu, India, as the third son of Radhakrishna Iyer and Dharmasamvardhini Ammal. He lived with his maternal uncle Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer, a legendary violin maestro, until the age of four and, after his death, moved to his parents’ home in Semmangudi, Thanjavur District. At the age of eight he started learning music from his cousin Semmangudi Narayanaswamy Iyer and underwent musical apprenticeship with Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer. In 1926, he performed his first music recital at Kumbakonam. He was known for producing soulful music, highly creative and yet very orthodox, despite a recalcitrant voice.

He was instrumental, along with Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, for work on the krithis of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma. After attending one of his concerts in 1934, Maharani Sethu Parvati Bai of Travancore was so impressed by his talent and scholarship that she invited him to come to Thiruvananthapuram to edit and popularise the compositions of Swati Tirunal.

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