P.S. Narayanaswamy

P.S. Narayanaswamy


Puliyur Subramaniam Narayanaswamy, had his initial training in music under Tiruppambaram Somasundaram Pillai, a Nagaswara vidwan, Mudicondan Mani Iyer and later under Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer. In 1953, he went to Trivandrum for a decade of gurukulavasa with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. A traditional vidwan of the Tanjavur style, he is noted for his chaste rendering and adherence to values. He has given a number of concerts all over the country with top accompanists. In recent times, he has won great acclaim as a guru par excellence. A recipient of the ‘Padma Bhushan’honour from the Govt. of India.

Cauvery produces another renowned musician…

The Thanjavur delta, which is synonymous with Carnatic music, has produced many sons of the soil who have excelled in the music field. One such ‘Cauveriyin Mainthan’ is P S Narayanaswamy, who, though did not belong to a musical parampara, yet has cast a spell on the audience for over five decades.

Narayanaswamy’s tryst with music started at the age of eight when he came under the tutelage of Tirupambaram Somasundaram Pillai. Music coursed through his veins which made his father discern the skill in the lad. Rigorous practice at dawn for about four hours laid a strong foundation for his future musical endeavours. An adolescent singing alapana, swaras with felicity is the hallmark of a true vidwan. Narayanaswamy started performing in marriage concerts at the age of 15, elaborating on a raga followed by swara exercises.

PSN, as he is affectionately called, was spotted by the ‘Pitamaha of Carnatic music’, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who bade him join his gurukula, enamoured with Narayanaswamy’s method of singing. At that time, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer was at Trivandrum and principal of the Music College. PSN’s musical odyssey started there. After a stint at Trivandrum, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer returned to Chennai. PSN also came back and joined All India Radio. From then on there was no looking back for him. He is blessed to have accompanied his guru in all his concerts.

“The rigorous regime of gurukulavasam honed my skills,” declares PSN who is obsessed with his guru! The patriarchal Pitamaha – Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer – chiselled PSN into a distinguished artiste.

PSN’s association with his guru is laced with many interesting episodes. Decades ago, when PSN was sharing the platform with his guru, to show the world the potential of the young lad (PSN), his guru signalled to him to continue a kirtana. He had just learnt it and had not memorised it. PSN had a paper in which the song was written and he referred to it occasionally. On seeing this, his guru at once snatched it from his hand and threw it away. He then asked him to continue the song. All this in the midst of a kutcheri!. PSN was visibly shaken and scared and learnt a lesson from his guru who always knew the sahityas by-heart before going for a concert.

PSN is a torch-bearer of a great tradition and reminiscences about it now and then. He feels that ‘kelvi gnanam’ (listening to music) is very important. Listening and practising the ‘sangatis’ is vital for a performer. Copying will only land an artiste in a pitiable condition. Creativity without detracting from the prescribed format should be practised by an artiste, declares PSN.

Performing with disciples is entirely different from performing alone, according to PSN. A veteran guru, he has a galaxy of students who emulate him.

Talking about the do’s and don’ts of singing in a kutcheri, he shares his thoughts with us. PSN feels that there should be two main ragas to elaborate. The composition of Tyagaraya should be featured and Tamil songs should also be included. Every artiste should start with a varnam as it moulds the voice and helps in mellowing the vocal chords. He advices artistes to use a wide range of talas to lend variety to the concert. Ragam-Talam-Pallavi exhibits the musical intellect of the artiste. Only at the age of 30, an artiste is full-fledged to ascend a platform, opines PSN.

PSN has been decorated with a slew of awards. His foreign sojourns have fetched him laurels as well. He is a simple man with clear ideals, whose strict adherence to tradition has made him follow in the footprints of his guru. A titan among ‘teachers’, he strides the musical world like a colossus radiating music.

Family Background

He was born on 24-2-1934 at konerirajapuram. His father was a doctor by Profession who was fond of Carnatic music.

Awards & Titles

A recipient of the Padma Bhushan honour from Govt.of India, Sangeetha Choodamani, Bala Gana Ratnam(age 12), Sangeetha Sigamani, Nadakkana, Sangeetha charya, Madhura gana mamani, Sangeetha kala Sagaram, Isai Selvam, Innisai chakravarthy Gana Kalanidhi, Sangeetha kala Acharya and Asthana vidwan of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. He worked in All India Radio.