R.Pichumani Iyer one of the foremost veena vidwans in Carnatic music, was born on May 18, 1920. R.Pichumani hailed from a family of musicians. After profiting by early training at the age of 10 in vocal music from Jalar Gopala Aiyar, he later took to the Veena and underwent discipleship under Tiruchi Kupanna. He was 15 by the time and had already established his talents by winning the prestigious award of the National College, Trichy in a Carnatic Vocal music contest.
Studying upto the S.S.L.C. in the National College School he later joined the Annamalai University and became a Sangeeta Bhooshnam in Veena after completing the four-year course very successfully.
In no hurry for a concert career, he started performing only after he was convinced that he was mature enough and quite equipped for the stage. This phase of his life started from his 20th year after a period of intensive study in the University under stalwarts like Tiger Varadachariar, K.S.Narayanaswami and V.S.Gomathi Sankara Aiyar.
His pursuit of Veena music was dedicated to traditional values and for more than five decades he enjoyed a steady and dignified professional career during which, apart from conventional success, recognition of his merit and his services to music came in the form of honours and titles.
Embanking on a professional career in 1940, he gave over thousands of performances and these include public concert performances in various parts of India and abroad, Radio programmes (including the prestigious National programme and Sangeetha Sammelan Programmes), T.V. appearances etc. He was awarded Top Rank Artiste by All India Radio.
His participation in the Madras Music Academy festivals covered both performing assignments and lecture-demonstrations. He was the recipient of ‘Shanmuga Vaidvu’ award twice and T.T.K.Memorial award from the Music Academy.
Among the important awards are the ‘Kalaimaamani’ title and Gold Medal conferred on him by the Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nataka Manram in 1970-71, Veena Nada Mani in 1982 by his Holiness Sri Sankarachariar of Kanchi Kama Koti Peetam and the Central Sangeet Natak Award for veena in 1989. Mylapore Fine Arts conferred the Title ‘SANGEETHA KALANIPUNA’ in the year 1991, December. Other awards and titles he received were VEENA PRAVEENA by Santhome Arts Academy, VEENAI VITHAGAR by Nemili Ezel Pani Mandram, VEENAI ESAI VITHAGAR by Tamil Sangam, Thiruvaiyaru and NADHA KANAL by the Bharathiyar Festival.
He served as Secretary of the Thiruvaiyar Thyaga Brahmotsavam in 1980 and Trustee of the Sabha till his end.
The Tamil Nadu Government utilized his services to serve on the selection board for appointing staff to the State Music Colleges and as Chief Examiner for the final exams of the Vidwan Courses. Annamalai University appointed him as one of the members in the Faculty of Arts and the Board member of Practical Examination Committee.
In 1968, the Central Sangeet Natak Academy took a two-hour recording of his Veena music for preservation in the Central Archives. The Gramophone Company (Columbia) recorded many 78 R.P.M. Records and L.P.Records and Audio Cassette by A.V.M. and H.M.V.
Pichumani Iyer trained a number of disciples who are successful performing artists. These include P.Vasanthakumar, R.S. Jayalakshmi, B.Kannan, Vasantha Krishnamurthy, Iyer Brothers (Ramnath Iyer & Gopinath Iyer) and R.Raman. Iyer Brothers from Australia founded a veena school in Melbourne named ‘Pichumani School of Carnatic Music’ named after their Guru R.Pichumani.
R.Pichumani had a style of his own and his exposition of ragas was noted for its purity. He had composed Swara Jatis, Varnam, Thillanas and invented a new Raga Vasantha Kaisiki and a thillana in the same Raga Janya from the 18th Mela.