PALAKKAD: Mridangam maestro Palghat Raghu, 81, passed away at a private hospital at Mylapore in Chennai on Tuesday morning.
He was born on January 9, 1928 in Rangoon, Burma, to R Ramaswamy Iyer who was from Thrissur and Ananthalakshmi Ammal who was from Noorani in Palakkad. He had a fruitful association with Palakkad town after he became a disciple of Palghat Mani Iyer.
He was inducted into mridangam in his early life. His first mridangam lessons were from Tinniam Venkatarama Iyer and Trichy Raghava Iyer who used to visit Rangoon seasonally. His family later moved to Noorani in Palakkad from Burma after the outbreak of World War-II.
In 1938, Palghat Raghu was attracted to carnatic music after hearing Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, Mysore Sri Chowdiah and Palghat Mani Iyer. He officially became the disciple of Palakkad Mani Iyer in 1942. “The last time Palghat Raghu, who had settled in Chennai, came to Palakkad was for the Swaralaya concert in 2007. He had played the mridangam for the performance of his grandson Abhishek Raghuram”, says Swaralaya Palakkad chapter secretary T R Ajayan.
“After arriving from Rangoon, Palghat Raghu had stayed at Noorani for nearly two decades and learnt lessons from Palghat Mani Iyer”, says the secretary of the Palakkad Fine Arts Society Subbaraman.
It was during his tutelage with Palakkad Mani Iyer that he met his future collaborator K V Narayanaswamy. Between 1940 and 1960, he had performed with the Alathur brothers and M S Gopalakrishnan. “Though settled in Chennai, he had a fascination towards Palakkad and loved to perform here”, says mridangam artiste Kuzhalmannam Ramakrishnan.
At the age of 20, Raghu got married to Mani Iyer’s niece, Swaranambal.
He had travelled worldwide and performed with sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, flute maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia and santoor artiste Shivkumar Sharma. He was also involved in creating East- West fusion music. Palghat Raghu had received the Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award in 1983, the Padmasri, Kalai Mamani award and the Sangeetha Kalanidhi award. His wife had deceased earlier.
He is survived by son, Ramkumar and daughters Padma and Rajeswari.