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Famous Carnatic Composers - PP

Ponniah PiLLai - Born to Kannusaam PiLLai (a famous dance teacher at the BarODa court) in 1888 in Pandanainallur, he belongs to the family of the Tanjaavoor Quartet - Chinniah, Ponniah, Shivaananda and VaDivElu, disciples of Muttuswaamee Dikshitar. He learned music, dance and mridangam for 15 years from his uncle Pandanainallur dance teacher Meenaakshi Sundaram PiLLai. Another uncle Nallaiyappa PiLLai took him to Madras to sing before great musicians, and he became famous. For 6 months he learned some compositions from PaalghaaT Anantaraama Bhaagavatar.

He accompanied his uncle Meenaakshi Sundaram PiLLai whenever he went to dance concerts. When his father Kannusaami PiLLai returned to Tanjaavoor from BarODa, he also went to Tanjaavoor. There, his father taught many students music, dance and mridangam, and Ponniah PiLLai himself conducted some classes in his father's place and thus came into contact with many great musicians. When his father died, he became music profesor in the Music College started by Raajah Sir Annamalai CeTTiyaar in Cidambaram, and he taught vocal and mridangam. He also composed many swarajatis, varnams, keertanais, and tillaanaas and taught them to his students.

He then was called to be on the Music Board at the University of Madras and as an Expert of the Music Academy which conferred on him "Sangeeta Kalaanidhi" in 1932. He wrote a practical music course for which he was awarded Rs.750 and wrote a book on musicology called "Isai Iyal." After 5 years as a professor of music at Madras University, in 1941 he presided over the Tamil Isai Conference in Trichy. His compositions won some of the highest awards in the conference in Cidambaram held by Raajah Sir Annaamalai CeTTiyaar. His songs K.P. Krishnamoorthy PiLLai and K.P. Sivaanandam PiLLai published his songs with the title "Raajah Annaamalai Tamil Isai Karuvoolam" in 1949. He died in 1945 at 57.


Compositions: (*=Tanjore Quartette)

  1. maayaa ateeta - maayamaaLava gowLa
  2. murugan kavuttuvam-gowLa*
  3. ranganaathuDE - sowraashTram

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updated on 03/21/2009