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Born on March 2, 1919 to Damal Krishnaswamy Dikshitar and Rajammal, in the temple town of Kancheepuram, the young Patta was considered a uniquely gifted child. Her career is unique in that her foundations were not structured by any formal music classes, or by learning the Sarala Varisai, Janata Varisai, Geetham and Varnam, one after the other.   

Her talent flowered even as she learned to sing slokas at home from her music- loving father and she avidly listened to the musicians who came and performed at Kancheepuram. She received tuition from a Telugu vadhyar who volunteered to give her music lessons.

It was the recognition and support from her school headmistress Ammakutti Ammal that enabled Pattammal to appear for a government examination in music conducted at Madras even before she reached her teens. Stalwarts in music like Prof. Sambamurthy, Tiger Varadachariar and Sri Ambi Dikshitar were her examiners but it is learnt that Pattammal was not in the least nervous to sing Sri Subramanyaya Namaste in Kambhoji and Naa Jeeva Dhara in Bilahari. Her performance resulted in one of the examiners, Sri Ambi Dikshitar, a scion of the Muthuswamy Dikshitar family, offering to give her instructions in music.   

However after some initial lessons, she had to return to Kancheepuram. Pattammal also attended the summer school for music run by Prof. Sambamurthy and she participated in a few variety programmes given at the summer school. When she was 14, she gave her first public performance at the Mahila Samaj in Egmore and won acclaim. She moved to Madras in 1933 to become a regular performer in the concert circuits of the day in the city.

Her father not only encouraged her but also instilled in her a sense of discipline and diligence as well as a respect for purity in diction. Even as she matured as a performing artiste, Pattammal was diligence and dedication personified, she often reached out to different sources to enrich her repertoire.

She took lessons from V.C. Vaidyanathan, a disciple of Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, N. S. Krishnaswamy, Kanchi Kamakshiammal and Prof. P.Sambamurthy. She learnt the Dikshithar krithis from Ambi Dikshitar and Justice T. L. Venkatarama Aiyar. She sought Velur Appadorai Achari for Thevaram and the Tiruppugazh verses and to learn padams , she went to Rajalakshmi Ammal, daughter of Veenai Dhanammal. She approached Papanasam Sivan to learn his compositions.

She lost her father in 1940, but within a few months gained another guiding spirit, Sri Iswaran, an engineer known to the family. Sri Iswaran gave up his career to provide moral support and to manage Pattammal's career. Happily, he is still around.  

Pattammal’s long career as a musician has been a quiet revolution in the sedate world of Carnatic music.

Not only did Pattammal manage to shed the binding coils of orthodoxy in taking to concert recitals, but she even dared venture into a musical areas to sing pallavi, hitherto considered a male preserve. Her mastery enabled her to command the respect of senior artistes and she came to be known as Pallavi Pattammal

Strongly adhering to tradition of the art and a chastity of expression in rendering the Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit compositions, her music has the beauty and grace of Kancheepuram silk woven on the warp of classical tradition interspersed with the woof of disciplined innovation, in exposition. Her concerts are as much an aural treat to the connoisseurs as object lessons to the young students of music.

In her earlier years, Pattammal through constant practice and concentration earned her a reputation for her emphasis on laya. She handled very unusual and intricate rhythmic cycles, with consummate ease and command. But as she herself stated “When I was 50, I lost interest in the excitements of laya. I began to feel that bhava was more important. As I sang more and more, I felt the power of the content, deep within me. Entraiku Varumo Sivakripai was not a string of words; it expressed my devotion through the melody. I wanted to communicate its melting quality to the listeners.'' Her music in later years have accorded due place to bhava .

Pattammal has a unique place of honour and prestige in the world of Indian Classical music. Known not to sacrifice her virtuosity and chastity of expression, at the altar of popularity, Pattammal stands even today as an outstanding example of a music tradition that has not given in to vocal gymnastics to cater to popular tastes. She has pursued music as an art and as a science, and not as a means to acquire fame, honour and wealth.
 

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