T. M. THIAGARAJAN or TMT as he was popularly known, was one the greatest vidwans of our times. His was an enviable lineage. His great grandfather was a famous Bharatanatyam dancer and his grandfather was a well-known mridangam vidwan. They were both Asthana Vidwans at the Royal court in Baroda and the members of the family living there today are still known as ?Tanjorekars?. Born was born on May 28, 1923, in Thanjavur to Mahalingam Pillai, a leading mridangam vidwan, and Seethalakshmi Ammal, it is an impressive musical legacy that TMT has inherited.
TMT gave his performance at the age of eight and the percussion Maestro Pudukottai Dakshinamurthi Pillai was so delighted at the rendering of Thiagarajan that he took him in his arms when the concert ended! TMT had his initial training under his father and later underwent ?Gurukula vasam? under the doyen Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer from the period 1941-43 when he was in Trivandrum..
T.M.T has given numerous concerts over the All India Radio, on Television and in Sabhas. His father and brother Thambuswamy had accompanied him on mridangam and his other brother Balasubramaniam had provided him violin accompaniment. Unfortunately, both the brothers ? Balasubramaniam and Thambuswamy ? died in the same month, depriving the family of the flowering of an excellent and rare combination of vocal, violin and mridangam artistes as a team.
T.M. Thyagarajan was Lecturer, Professor and Vice Principal at the Tamilnadu Government College of Music, Madras and retired as Principal in 1981. Later he was Principal, Teachers? College of Music run by the Music Academy, Madras.
He had a large repertoire of compositions and his rendering was rich with creative and imaginative music. His voice however, acted as a constraint in giving shape to his rich knowledge and improvisation now and then. He had been honoured with the following titles:
Kalaimamani by the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram.
Sangita Kalanidhi by the Music Academy, Madras ? 1982.
Sangita Nataka Academy Award in March 1983.
Sangita Kalanipuna by the Mysore Fine Arts ? 1988.
Sangita Choodamani by the Krishna Gana Sabha Chennai
Isai Selvan and Nadakanal by Nadakanal Trust.
His publications are:
Tiruppavai and Tiruvembavai with notation ? 1956.
Isai Malarkothu ? containing songs of erudite poets like Gopalakrishna Bharati, Ramaswamy
Sivan, Tiruvarur Ramaswamy Pillai ? 1975
Gita Malika, Gita Sangama, Gita Ratna, Muruga Ganam and Tiruvarutpa
In 2003, ?Isai Muthukkal? -- a book containing his own compositions along with a few others was published. There are 2 Swarajati Varnams, 27 Tana varnams, 10 kritis and 3 tillanas. Of the Varnams, six are his own. He has set music to the other varnams. The kritis and Tillanas are his own compositions as a Vaggeyakara. His varnams are in the following ragas?Kalyanavasantham ,Hindolam, Saraswati, Behag, Kanada and
The Swarajati Varnams are in Vasantha and Kalyani raga. It is an interesting concept where there are only swaras and Jatis, no sahitya. The Tillanas are in Revati, Nattaikurinji and Kapi ragas.
TMT is well known for setting to music many songs like the now popular Tevaram?Vaananai in raga Kiravani. He has also set to music the Arutpa ?tayagi tandaiyumai? in the raga Hamsadhwani. He is also very famous for his chittaiswarams. They follow many metric patterns and allow much room for various permutation and combination of swaras.
Though few in number, his compositions are emphatic statements of the ragas they have been composed in and are a welcome addition to the existing repertoire.
TMT was a man of principle and seldom approached any organizer for programmes. He was uncompromising in his strict adherence to classicism and was highly respected by all musicians. He was a much sought after teacher and established a ?bani? for himself. A number of famous performing musicians have been his disciples. Any kriti ?formatted? by him, would have a distinct and clearly identifiable TMT touch.
TMT passed away on 27th, June 2007 in Chennai after a prolonged illness. It was a life, dedicated to singing and more, to the teaching of music.