The Raga Sudha Hall has become the most popular concert venue in Mylapore today. Its strategic location, excellent acoustics and homely atmosphere make it a pleasure to listen to music. The two photos on either side of the stage seem to portray the two facets of Sri S.V.Krishnan, the founder of Naada Inbam, the man who built the Raga Sudha Hall just to showcase music in its pristine form.
As an architect by profession, SVK as he was called, had plenty of experience in building and acoustics.
His passion for music is what prompted him to build a venue exclusively for the concerts he arranged. Prior to that, he had been organizing concerts at various halls and even Chamber Music Concerts at his house in Bhimasena Gardens. Of course, SVK was well known for Raga Sudha, the sabha he had founded in Coimbatore and which he ran for two decades before moving it to Chennai.
Could a man be so passionate about music? Yes, when he was guided by strict values regarding true music. A champion of the twin qualities of weight and depth, his was a staunch orientation towards gamaka laden music, prompting him to adore the likes of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Veena K.S.NarayanaswamyDK Pattammal, D.K.Jayaraman, K.V.Narayanaswamy, T.M.Thyagarajan, T.K.Govinda Rao, T.N.Krishnan, Dr.R.Vedavalli,.. . So strong were his convictions about what music should be that he did not mince words when an artiste performed something that went against his musical sensitivities.
His policies were simple. Music he did not approve of included ‘frivolous ragas’, excess swara prasthara, RTP and gimmicks. Such artistes were simply given the go-by. But when he did find a young singer who appealed to him, the sky was the limit. Numerous are the stars of today who started at his drawing room, his chamber concerts, his sabha and then went on to rule the world. Yes, SVK would actually ‘adopt’ such a promising artiste. He would find a good guru. If the promising youngster was based out of Chennai, he would host the star-to-be at his own residence. Innumerable were the sessions he would have with these artistes, giving suggestions and actually correcting them. One may ask how SVK, a non-musician was able to give musical suggestions… but then, have we not heard about ‘Kelvi Gnanam’ the most powerful way to acquire a sense of what is good music and what isn’t? With his scores of years of experience in organizing sabhas, and his hundreds of TDK tapes packed into his shelves, SVK could surely rank among the most knowledgeable rasikas.
As for the artistes he promoted, he would go out of his way to find a platform for them. The invitation part would be taken care of by him too… SVK was a great phone communicator and never lost an opportunity to share his ideas with his numerous acquaintances over the phone. He would invite his friends, the fellow rasikas, and then those with musical clout- the vidwans with a voice (figuratively), the organizers and the critics.
When it came to music and musicians, nothing was too much for this visionary. An artiste in need only had to approach SVK, a generous purse would change hands (in strict anonymity). A young seeker only had to ask for a specific song, SVK would rummage among his copious collection and out would come the required song. The car radio that broadcast a promising unknown artiste would have SVK in action immediately, hunting out the identity of the new comer and finding ways and means to promote him or her.
The Raga Sudha Hall came into being as the fructification of a long standing dream. Concert organizing was SVK’s passion. It was not the best situation to have to hunt for halls and check availability, more so when the acoustics were less than perfect. Being a man who walked the talk, SVK used his technical expertise to fulfil the dream of his life and in 1997, the first concerts were held at this friendly yet perfect venue. One of his specialities was to give a small talk about the concert after the thani. SVK was basically a people’s person who just loved to communicate his thoughts. His little speeches would cover not just the concert, but bring many a reminiscence of music, musicians and situations. At the end of the speech, he would step down and slowly walk the length of the hall with a twinkle in his eye. It is said that one rasika had a toffee ready for him if he was pleased with the speech of that day!
SVK was not just a builder and organizer. He was a thinker on all aspects of life. He detested mediocrity and shallowness. He always prompted the people he cared for to soar and never failed to hand over a copy of Jonathan Livingstones’ Seagull to them. With a never say die attitude, he crushed down all the challenging circumstances in his life including indifferent health and went about his passion with the zest of a 20 year old.
Raga Sudha slowly became the favourite hall for many an organization. Be it a concert of Nada Inbam or otherwise, SVK was present, visibly impressed by a good prayoga , nodding and waving his hands. He enjoyed animated discussions on the concert with the people he cared for and very often would carry out a running commentary on the song or the sancharas being produced! The hall was always in immaculate condition, SVK himself saw to the cleaning, yes even of the toilets.
The way he spent money towards music and good musicians only proved his driving force. State of the art music systems made the acoustics at the RS one of the best and he was the mike man, adjusting here, testing there. Every concert was recorded, yes the speech too. In fact SVK would go out of his way to make sure his mike was well positioned during his speech!
His end caught the music fraternity unawares. In a fraction of a second, he had moved on. It would have been unthinkable that a man so dynamic, so energetic and so charged with purpose could go any other way. Yet, it left the music fraternity in a state of shock. Many of the musicians he nurtured have become stars today. Some were in the fledgling stage of his grooming and have now turned out well. Many others, after his time could probably have made it, if only he were there to guide them.
Be that as it may, the concerts of the Raga Sudha have not just the artiste singing, not just the walls but the spirit of the man whose photos adorn the two sides of the stage. For people who had the fortune of interacting with SVK, his ideas and plans were an eye opener, leaving them with much food for thought. They would come out enriched. Today, almost a decade after his time, SVK remains fresh in the memories of those who had the opportunity of moving with this architect whose building has sung a different tune.