In the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were several books on music with notation, but most of them were in Telugu and needed to be transliterated. The Music Academy Madras, which has been bringing out books with music notation, has felt that there is a need to get these Telugu works to be available in Tamil and English.
In the 1960s the academy undertook the task of bringing out the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini ( SSP) in Tamil. This book carries valuable songs of the Dikshita parampara as well as compositions of other contemporary musicians. With detailed gamaka symbols, the work was a unique attempt at documentation and notation and needed to be preserved. Subsequently it was brought out as five volumes in English by the Music Academy.
The Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu of Subbarama Diksitar is an extremely valuable work in that it documents early lessons and practice methods in music apart from including several kritis of both Muttuswami Dikshitar and Sri Tyagaraja. The book also includes the nottu swara sahitya of Muthuswami Dikshitar. This was published CE 1905 with the support of the Raja Jagadvira Rama Venkatesvara Ettappa, the Raja of Ettayapuram and hence the book is dedicated to him by the author.
The reason why the Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu came about is interesting. The Raja felt that the SSP was too advanced for beginners to understand the music. To address this, a sort of ‘first step’, or a guide/primer was deemed necessary and this led Subbarama Dikshitar to author the Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu.
The preface to this work, has been written by the renowned Hindustani scholar, Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande. He came South from Bombay, and interacted with Subbarama Dikshitar and was greatly impressed by his scholarship.
The Samskrtandra dravida kirtanamulu is a collection of the kritis composed by A. Krishanswami Ayya of Tirunelveli, a leading member of the Bar Council. As the name suggests the songs are in Samskrita, Telugu and Tamil. Krishnasvami Ayya had great admiration for Subbarama Dikshitar and during the latter’s stay at Tirunelveli, 30 -35 years before the publication of this book Subbarama Dikshitar had set the music for these compositions. With the support of the Raja of Ettayapuram, this was published in CE1906.
Apart from a couple of popular songs like Amba Paradevate, most of the songs are relatively unknown. It is a real treasure as this is the first time an attempt has been made to transliterate this work. The original copy of the book was donated by the family of Harikatha exponent Sangita Kalanidhi Embar S Vijayaraghavachariar and is preserved in our library. The book becomes even more valuable because Subbarama Dikshitar who had set the tunes to Krishnasamayyas songs, notated them himself when the book was published.
With the completion of these two books being launched now, the works brought out by Subbarama Dikshitar in Telugu with the support of the Ettayapuram Samsthanam, early in the 20th century, would have been transliterated into English and made available to the world of music.