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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 6, july 1-15, 2009

Historic Residences in Chennai - 21

(Sriram V.)

‘Jalatarangam’ Ramaniah Chetty’s House
50/30, Thatha Muthiappan Street, George Town

The community of Komati Chetties had many businessmen who’d had varying degrees of success, but almost all of them were lovers of Carnatic music. None more than ‘Jalatarangam’ Ramaniah Chetty (1887-1963), one of the founders of the Music Academy. The son of Suri Chetty, a chit fund manager of George Town, Ramaniah was known for his munificence to musicians who he thought had the potential to make it big. To help the musicians, he organised Rama Navami concerts on the terrace of his house and invited several of his friends to attend. That way, the musicians’ talents were appreciated and they got several concert opportunities.

He was very partial to the music of the ‘Veena’ Dhanammal family and bailed them out of several financial embarrassments. Dhanammal herself was a guest of honour at his house, spending several days there at a stretch. Others who took shelter under his roof included Palani Subramania Pillai, the mridang-ist, and Chittoor Subramania Pillai, the singer.

Sadly, his last days were a struggle, his generosity having eroded his fortune. He was declared insolvent and survived by teaching music. One of his last students was Mani Krishnaswami, the well-known singer. He himself had a weak voice and, therefore, specialised in the jalatarangam, its name becoming the proud prefix to his own.

The residence is of the town house variety, its simple façade hiding its enormous length, of which an idea may be formed by looking at the terrace, once the venue of so much music. (Courtesy: Kalam­Kriya.)

Sriram V.

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