Terada Yoshitaka, Professor Emeritus at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan began his journey with South Indian music with a rather simple query. Why had Periya Melam (the traditional musical genre featuring the nagasvaram and the tavil), which is considered to be extremely important in the religious and social life of South Indian Hindus, been neglected by both Indian and non-Indian scholars? As he began his field research, Terada realized that the history of Periya Melam is inextricably linked with the life of the master of nagasvaram, T.N. Rajarattinam Pillai (1989-1956).
T.N. Rajarattinam Pillai: Charisma, Caste Rivalry and the Contested Past in South Indian Music focuses on the influential artist’s life and work, illuminating important aspects of caste-based relations in South Indian music. Backed by extensive field research and scholarship, this book is also a pioneering ethnographic account of Periya Melam, its practitioners and the significant changes in the genre that took place in the twentieth century.