Madurai Somasundaram – Legend 1 – Compiled by Sashi Kulkarni & T.V. Ramprasadh

Madurai Somasundaram:

Resource Person: Sashi Kulkarni
Audio Clips: Courtesy Raju Asokan, Atlanta, USA


Born in the year 1919, Madurai S. Somasundaram was a great torch bearer of the Chittoor School. Popularly called Madurai Somu, he had his training from Sesha Bhagavatar, Abhirama Sastri and Chittoor Subramanyam Pillai. His maiden concert was held in Tiruchendur in the year 1934.

He was known to get totally immersed in his rendering and was known for outbursts like “Raama” on the stage.

His repertoire was outstanding.

A popular singer among masses, his concerts could go on sometimes for 5-6 hours, well into the early morning hours.

Mridangists used to tire playing for his long concerts, which sometimes had more than one thani avarthanam (mridangam solo)His rendition of Tamil compositions were very special.

His Swara outpourings would sometimes go on and on, without a finish in sight. The swara parleys were more inspired, than technically appropriate.

Awards and Recognition

The Government of India felicitated this master with the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1978. Annamalai University conferred the Doctor of Law on him Honoris Causa.

He passed away in the year 1989 leaving behind a trail blazing contribution.

Some more Somu……..
My first visit to Somu’s house brought to me to realities with a thud. I got a firsthand experience of what any artist can expect in terms of the ways in which society will remember him / her.

Since then my work has been towards probing into these matters deeper and deeper and patch up an image closest to what “might have been”

Somu’s widow welcomed the group of us who had gone visiting, by hugging me, clutching the tapes of Somu’s concerts I had taken as gifts.

Wailing – “I thought Somu was dead. But he lives in your hearts.

No one ever came visiting after his passing away and I would wait. Occasionally the radio would broadcast his songs and I would be comforted. But for all practical purposes, he was forgotten…. Or known for his thukkadas and film songs.”

Years later when I played these tracks for Lalgudi (who features in most of the 100 odd recorded concerts available)

The Maestro winked and remarked:

“And I kept thinking of guys who had been recording concerts as some sort of thieves all these years.

Looking back, I was mistaken. They have rendered a great service in fact……”
(Is this the earliest Lalgudi Recording?)

This collection of Somu memorabilia is critical for several reasons:

E Dari Joochitivo – Mohanam –
Rarely heard krithi – Somu sings this in a very Hindusthani mode – along with MSG – at one point he gets stuck with a sweet set of phrases in the aalapana and pays a tribute to Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer by saying “Iyeravaal….” something not clearly audible
(E Dari Joochitivo – Mohanam)


Somu is generally talkative and exuberant in most concerts. In one track which cannot be located now, he is heard saying – “there is a guy in Hindusthani called Paluskar. I am trying to sing Hindolam like him…”
Here in this track – 10 seconds – we can see that someone in the front row is planning to leave. Somu’s concerts were of four hours – plus- duration and so the gentleman must have had enough.
Somu is heard stopping him by saying

“Hey, are you not the guy who asked me which pallavi? I would be singing that shortly. So don’t go away.” and launches into a big Ra nidhi . It must have been a long night for that guy who got up.

SangItagnyanamu – Dhanyasi – Thyagaraja

This is a classic example of Somu – Lalgudi collaboration. Wait until the songs moves to the point ofnyaayaanyayamu……
SangitaJnanamu – Dhanyasi
A clutch of rarely heard krithis, typical of the Chittoor School.
Amadinitalatu – gambhIravANi – tyAgarAja–
Varadarajaninnu – Svarabhushani – Thyagaraja–
E Ramuninammitino – Vakulabharanam – Thyagaraja.mp3
Anathudanu – Jingla – Thyagaraja–Somu
Kadalevadugade – Narayanagowla – Thyagaraja–
Upacaramucese – Bhairavi- Thyagaraja
An example where he can be extremely soft and soothing.
Manasuranjilla – Arabhi
Some tracks where his raw power is on show in the middle of the concerts.
Pakkalanilabadi – Kharaharapriya – Thyagaraja.mp3
BhajanaChesithi – Dhanyasi.mp3 Uploaded: 2012-05-15
Gurulekayetuvanti – Gaurimanohari – Thyagaraja.mp3
In most concerts Somu can been seen to be trying to groom disciples.
Two classic examples
BhavayamiRaghuramam – Ragamalika – SwathiThirunal – Somu.mp3
Todi with disciple – Kazhugumalai – Thodi.mp3
A rare and short interview
Tracks to show his mastery in the Thukkada section.
One song has a theme on a less heard hero – Bharatha – in Hindolam
O Rama Ninnamam – PoorviKalyani – Bhadrachala Ramdas
Innum Chiru Pillai – Hindholam
Tirupathi Venkatesa – Durga
Don’t miss these for anything – pure nectar!
If Ramayana can be complete only with the story of Bharatha, then the story of Carnatic Music can be complete only with stories of the likes of Somu.

One Response to “ “Madurai Somasundaram – Legend 1 – Compiled by Sashi Kulkarni & T.V. Ramprasadh”

  1. govinda lal baba says:

    Your collection &comment on Madurai Somu is happy.I like very much interest of Somu.I have nearly 15 audio cassets of Somu.but my desire is not fulfill.I want to collect more old concerts of somu.I request you to please give me the details ofSomu’srecordings availale at u.

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