October 28, 2015
Vidya Vanam, Anaikatti, recently released an album of Muttusvami Dhikshitar’s Nottusvara Sahityas by T.M. Krishna. Nottusvara Sahityas are a set of compositions that are a notable interaction between the East and the West. They are simple melodies inspired by Scottish and Irish tunes, composed with Sanskrit lyrics.
When living in Manali, near Madras, Dikshitar caught strains of bands marching past playing Scottish, Irish and English songs. He absorbed the pleasing tunes and embellished them with Sanskrit lyrics. The result was magical. T.M. Krishna hopes to recreate the same magic for a new generation of listeners. Excerpts from an interview with the singer.
When was the first time you listened to a nottuswara and how did you react to it?
I first learnt a few of the nottusvaras when I was at school, but did not know that they were nottusvaras of Muttusvami Dikshitar. I just loved the lilting tunes and the musical lyrics. They were among the preferred songs at the school assembly.
Why did you think of focussing exclusively on this example of the coming together of Indian and Western music? Was Diksitar’s the first such attempt?
This is a wonderful example of what we can call cross-cultural music. Nottusvarams cannot be categorised as any specific genre and that makes them special. It also demonstrates that artistes are inspired by all that exists around them, irrespective of their own cultural habituations. Nottusvaras were also composed by other musicians.
Recently, I came to know of a collection that was composed in Mysore. I am not sure whether Muttusvami Dikshitar was the first, but we can certainly say that he was probably the most prolific considering the sheer number that he has composed in this genre.
Whom do you hope to touch/appeal with your version of these nottuswaras?
I think these songs will appeal to people, across generations and cultural barriers, irrespective of their knowledge of any form of music. This is why they are so important. They must be taught to children, since they are so much fun. The interest to sing comes from the tunes that stay in our mind, the ones we hum! And nottusvaras for sure will draw people into music.
(The CDs, priced at Rs. 200, are available online at