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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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S.G.Kittappa

Manisekeran, 1998

S.G.Kittappa died in 1933 and had no time to act in movies. As not many of us know about S.G Kittappa, I am taking the liberty of sharing with you whatever I have gathered about him. In the song "Aattukkutti Muttai Ittu" from 16 Vayathiniley, Kannadasan says "Kittappavin Paattai Ketten" but he himself has not seen nor heard the songs of Kittappa. I have not heard them either - but I take this opportunity to do some justice to his contribution. I am aware that not many of us may appreciate this old timer. But T.R.Mahalingam was born from the talent of SGK. Therefore is it alright if I provide the info? 


It was in 1937 that the Tamil Film industry started. Before that staged dramas were common in several parts of India especially Tamilnadu ... (It was during this period that)  S.G. Kittappa was called the "Isayulaga Mannan" by various quarters. 

SGK was born in Sengottai as the 10th child to Kangathara Aiyyer. Owing to poverty the father could not send him to school. SGK showed interest in music, and so he joined his two other brothers - Chellappa and Suppiah who were involved in dramas. It was most fortunate that the Nadaga Thanthai Sangaradas Swamikal was teaching those two brothers  basic music and the art of script writing for the dramas. S.G. Kittappa who was a young boy at that time sat around and listened very attentively, though the lessons were not directed to him. It was in the limelight of Sangaradas Swamikal that SGK picked up the inclination and involvement in music to an astonishing level. 

When yet a child SGK appeared on stage in Madurai and showed his singing talents. As his singing talent was truly inspiring,, fans threw rupee notes and even gold rings on the stage as a token of profound appreciation. He was only five (5) years old then! 

He was immediately booked for several stage dramas in several parts of Tamilnadu. At the age of 8 he went to Ceylon to act in stage dramas. The Ceylon Indian Chamber of Commerce awarded him a gold medal and certificate of appreciation for his artistic talents. 

In 1919 the famous Kannaiya Nadaga Kuzhu recruited SGK to be part of them. He served them for 6 years. As his brother, Kasi Aiyyer was a good harmonium player, he teamed up perfectly with Kittappa to produce the best of songs to the standard prevalent in those days. As SGK sang and acted very well in a drama called "Kandi Raja" Justice Abdul Rahim awarded a golden shawl and "Kuthu Vilakku" for SGK. 

Both SGK and his brother Kasi Aiyyer went to Ceylon to stage dramas. There K.B. Sundrambaal was staging her own dramas. SGK and KBS met there for the first time. They then teamed up to perform several dramas. From there they went to Rangoon to stage dramas. They returned with much wealth. Upon their return they continued to perform in Tamilnadu. At times KBS and SGK acted in dramas like Thookku Thookki, Nandanaar, Dasavatharam Aandaal etc staged by the Kannaiya Nadaga Company. 

Eventually, SGK and KBS were married. 

The north Indian Sangeetha Vidvan Pandit Vishnu Thigambarar did not think highly of SGK. When SGK was asked to sing a song in Begat Raga(?) SGK very fluently sang it only to shake up the Pandit. The Pandit who was scheduled to return by night mail stayed back to see SGK's drama, called "Krishna Vilasam". The Pandit was impressed and at the end of the drama he took off the garland from his own neck and placed it upon the neck of SGK and said "You are truly Krishna, no doubt" This Pandit had a great liking for the Tagore's(?) "Ragupathi Ragava Rajaram Patheetha Bavana Seetharam". Therefore SGK made it a point to sing this piece at the tail end of his dramas in remembrance of their historical meeting. 

At a another time another famous north Indian Sangeetha Vidvan by the name of Pyari Saheb came to perform his songs in the Victoria Public Hall of Madras. SGK also went to the show. At this show the Saheb sang the song "sabathi kilasa" in Kamas raga. At night SGK staged his drama for which the Saheb turned up. In this drama SGK sang the same song that the Saheb had sung earlier. As SGK was able to sing very well the Saheb went up the stage and offered him his own gold chain. 

When SGK was performing in Wijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, the famous Andhra vidvan Kabilavai Ramanatha Saastrikal sang the "Kori Bajanannu" keertana. In a few minutes SGK also sang the same Keertana. The sastrikal immediately embraced SGK to show his appreciation. 

SGK used to learn a few keertana from the Mayuram KV Rajarama Aiyer. Once SGK was on his way to Kumbakonam to perform a stage drama. On the way SGK saw the KV Rajarama Aiyer and asked him how to sing in Suddha Seemathini Raga. The Aiyer sang for him. At night SGK sang the same raga in his drama. The Malaikkottai Govindasamy Pillai appeared on stage and awarded him a gold medal and glorified him to a superlative level. A few more vidvans were also there to appreciate SGK. Kanjipuram Nayana Pillai appeared on stage and said "Had SGK taken up singing in kachery, people like me would have become unknown figures" Likewise Dachinamoorthy Pillai said the no other songs had stolen his heart as those of SGK. Mannarkudy Packirisamy Pillai also glorified him. 

Thiruvaaduthurai Rajaratnam Pillai who had recognised the talents of SGK said that it was only SGK whom he considered to be in the forefront in the field of singing, and no one else. Sowdaya who was fascinated by the talents of SGK played the "pidil" in his dramas for some time. 

Mr and Mrs Eechim(?) of Boston fame came to Trichy and happened to witness the kachery of Kittappa in the Rasiga Ranjani Saba. The couple were very much impressed and made sure articles appeared in the American papers. The Mysore Mannar, Thiruvangoor Mannar, and even Governors like Lord Livingston and Lord Curzon listened to the Sangeetham and awarded gold medals. 

SGK was a great devotee and a patriot. He gave a lot for the poor. He used to stage dramas to collect funds for temple and charitable causes. 

Before singing SGK used to drink hot water, at almost boiling point, according to T.M.Soundarajan. Although SGK was very fluent in singing suram, he never really supported it. He used to explain the ragas before starting his songs. He used to sing in Tamil. His pronunciation was said to be very clear. He is the first to have pulled the rural folks towards the kachery songs. 

SGK was very famous and popular. Unfortunately, his health started to fail him. As he was acting in a drama in Thiruvaaroor, he fainted and fell collapsed on stage. Thereafter he never regained his health. In 1933, at the age of 28 he died. 

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