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Vidwan Palghat K V Narayanaswamy – Sangita Pitamaha of contemporary Carnatic music

  “A good-looking man, his hair slicked down in the traditional way, sang like an angel with a delightful voice, husky at times, but never heavy throated or loud” – exclaimed Lakshmi Viswanathan, the Vice President of Music Academy  Madras in her tribute to KVN when he passed away in 2002. Kollengode Viswanatha Narayanaswamy a Carnatic musician par excellence, often referred to as KVN, was born on 15 November 1923 in Palghat in a family of musicians to fiddle Viswanatha Bhagavatar,…

Bangalore Nagarathnamma – The Songster Activist

“I was Nagarathna (precious jewel on the snake’s head) by birth, then became bhogarathna (jewel of pleasure) and now I am rogarathna (jewel of disease)” – this was how Bangalore Nagarathnamma jovially described herself during her last days. She may also be called ragarathna (jewel of musical ragas) and tyagarathna (jewel of sacrifice). This is an excerpt from D. V. Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale translated from the original Kannada text. Bangalore Nagarathnamma was alive when he wrote these words. Hailing from Nanjangud,…

Srimad Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar

An illustrious and devoted disciple of a saint poet Thyagaraja, a prolific composer, a hatha yogi, – these should best describe Srimad Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar.                                                               Venkataramana Bhagavatar was born on February 18, 1781 in Ayyampettai of Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu to Nannuswamy. He was born as an answer to…

Mandolin U Srinivas – Mozart of Indian Classical Music

“Music is a divine gift. Whatever you play, it should touch the soul. How does it come? If you enjoy what you play, then you can make others enjoy”. Career in the classical arts is not often remembered for courage. Too many other elements tend to intrude into the discussion, and to be prized heavily by purists: a stickler to tradition, for example, or the flourishes of genius, or capacious knowledge. But it is courage that most plainly marks out…

Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar: The Trailblazer

“I was greatly influenced by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. I do not want another life. But if there is one, I want to be able to sing like Ramanuja Iyengar” exclaimed the doyen of Carnatic Music, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar popularly known as Ariyakudi, was born in  Ariyakudi, a town in Karaikudi district near Tamil Nadu, in 1890, to Tiruvenkatacharya, who was a famous astrologer and veda exponent. Music Initiation Ariyakudi started learning under Pudukoti Malayappa Iyer at the…

Music beyond boundaries: The story of Jon B. Higgins

“It was a grey chilly morning on December 7th, 1984. Jon Higgins rushed to my house carrying his cassette recorder and folders containing sheets of swara-notated music and his electronic shruti box. We sat together cross-legged on the rug preparing to begin our music lesson, but first turned to a discussion of our forthcoming trip to South Africa and to the political problems there that warranted some concern. Jon expressed his feelings as to why he thought we should take…

Purandara Dasa: The father we lest forget

I was introduced to Carnatic music tradition at the age of six. In the class, my Guru would write the lessons for all the students. The customary Shri, OM , Shri Saraswatiye Namaha and Dasacharana samarpitham were the first page salutations in the music book. To my curiosity, I asked my teacher what the last word, Dasacharana samarpitham, meant. She narrated the story of Shri Purandara Dasa. He is the legendary composer honoured by the community as the Karnataka Sangeetha Pitamaha,…

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