Lec- Dem by : Sri S. Krishnamurthy ( Grandson of Mysore Vasudevachar )
Vocal : Bangalore S Shankar
Violin : Achyuta Rao
Mrudangam : Balakrishna
Sri S Krishnamurthy , grandson of Mysore Vasudevachar, presented a Lec-Dem on the life and Music of Mysore Vasudevachar at Essae Music Foundation today. This was the first of the Lec-Dem series by Essae Music Foundation, adding to their quarterly Music Program. As it is always, the session was tremendous, received with great enthusiasm.
Sri Krishnamurthy, divided his lecture in two parts. The first on the biographical details and his early life. The second, which was dealt with greater detail was on the music of Mysore Vasudevachar.
01 brOchEvA ravarurA – khamAs ( started at O chaturA nanAdi vandita)
Mysore Vasudevachar’s family was originally from Chevur, near Coimbatore. His father Subramanyachar, left Coimbatore over a family dispute over propertywith his brother, and moved to Mysore. Subramanyachar, himself a musician, soon joined the circle of musicians in the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar. As a three year old boy Vasu was blessed by the Maharaja as ” you will bring keerti for Mysore”. Young Vasu, not only brought fame to Mysore, but also served 4 generations of Maharaja’s during his tenure.
Subramanyachar, had an untimely death, leaving the 3 yr old child and his mother orphaned. Vasu’s maternal grand father, took the charge of supporting them and enrolled young Vasu for Sanskrit and Vedic studies as was the custom. But Vasu’s mind was in music , but it was forbidden as the society did not looked upon musicians with great respect. However, Vasu’s plea to learn music, to rhyme the ‘slokams’ in tunes was granted and he started his music sessions under the court musician Subbaraya Shasthri ( who used to be their neighbour). The story says, the Subbaraya Shashtri asked the young boy to sing ‘sa pa sa’ and impressed with his rendering, and asked him to come over for sessions. A change of residence, by his grand father did bring a break to the session, which was later continued under Padmanabha Iyer.
Mysore used to be a centre of arts and music, with royal patronage. Eminent musicians used to frequent Mysore and perform. On one occasion, Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan came to Mysore to attend a wedding reception and perform. It’s then young Vasu realised that what he had learnt until now is incomplete and he lack one of the basic ingredient of music, the bhava. Sri Krishnamurty demonstrated this with singing vAtApi in hamsadhwani. Vasu, approached Patnam Subramanya Iyer and requested his help. Subramanya Iyer replied, “we are at two different places, god willing we will meet again” and left. As his nature, Vasu was determined to get his dream fulfilled. For almost six months, he waited and saluted the Maharaja during his weekly visit to Chamundi hills. Curious, the Maharaja sought the reason and his wish was granted. With the Scholarship from the Mysore Palace, the recently married Vasu, now 16, moved to Thiruvayyar, to the house of Patnam Subramanya Iyer.
As in the case of ‘gurukula’ tradition, he was tending to his guru from early morning. Fetching water from Kaveri, helping the guru in his daily pooja, doing the errands for the house was the daily routine. There was no music sessions for him, and the only learning was by listening to Parameswara Iyer (the prime disciple of Subramanya Iyer ) teaching the students. It was much later, Patnam Subramanya Iyer relented , saying now the foundation is laid, you are ready to learn. The first kriti was the bEgaDa varnam, composed by Patnam Subramanya Iyer himself ( Patnam Subramanya Iyer was a master in Begada, often called Begada Subramanya Iyer ). The varnam was learnt in 3-4 days, but there was no other varnam or kriti for almost 6 months. Vasu was asked to repeat the same varnam over and over again, once only the swaras, once only the sahitya, once only in ‘akAra’, in various speeds etc etc. The tutelage under Patnam Subramanya Iyer continued for 6 years, before he retuned to Mysore.
He also talked about two incidents during the time at Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s house. Thirukkodikovil Krishna Iyer ( Thanks Ram for the correct name) a senior violinist, used to accompany both Patnam Subramanya Iyer as well as Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer. He used to master the art of playing for both the style of singing with ease. He used to stay at the Patnam’s house. He had a habit of practicing in silence, late into the night, not to disturb the rest of the people . On one evening while he was practising kAmbOji, Vasu decided to listen. Hiding behind the window, listening to the slow progression of rAga through the scale ; the music stopped abruptly. Iyer, came over to the window and spat the betel chew, on the boys head. The other incident involved Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer. Vasu, though staying and learning under Patnam Subramanya Iyer, was keen to listen to Maha Vaidyanatha Iyers music. Knowing his Guru’s disapproval, he kept the desire under check for long. However on one evening, he decided to sneak out and listen, only to be caught by his Guru. Well, the boy was pardoned, but the Guru made it clear to him that while he is learning under one Guru, other style of music should not influence, until he masters the style of his Guru.
He returned back to Mysore after six years of learning, and gave a concert in the presence of eminent personalities, including Veena Seshanna.
His creative endeavour started by accident. The year 1900 was cursed as plague broke out in the Mysore State. His friend Gopala Arasu, on a casual talk requested Vasudevachar to make a mark in this world before the time ends, as he was not sure how many will survive the epidemic. Vasudevachar was reluctant initially, but later agreed to compose one krithi. The krithi chintayEham jAnakI kAntha in mAyAmALavagauLa was the first to be composed.
02 chintayEham jAnaki kAntha – mAyAmALava gauLa
He composed another two more kritis in Mayamalavagaula , one of them was in the ‘divyanAma keertana’ style
03 dasaratha nandana – mAyAmALava gauLa
Mysore Vasudevachar has composed all forms of music – varNams, jAvaLi, jati swara, keertanas. Some of the dAtuswara usage was special to his krithis..
04 khamAs jati swara
He had composed as many as 15 varnams, including a pada varnam and a druta tALa varnam in kalyANi. VanajAksha in mandAri was the first varnam composed by him ( Interestingly, of the dozen odd concerts I have attended this year, 3 of them started with this varnam !)
05 vanajAksha ninne ( varNam) – mandAri
He had also composed a varnam in naLinakAnthi, and according to Krishnamurthy, this probably be the only varnam in naLinakAnthi. Sri Shankar corrected this saying there are few recent additions to this ( I cant re-collect any).
06 evarunnAru ( varNAm ) – naLinakAnthi
Some of his creations are purely circumstantial. Sri Krishnamurthy did explain few of them to the benefit of the listeners.
Nalwadi Krishnaraja was conducting free music sessions under the auspice of the Royal Palace. This place used to be the centre of discussions related to arts and music. In one of those sessions, one vidwan was discussing about kadanakutUhalam, a rAga created by Patnam Subramanya Iyer. He noted, this rAga is very difficult and there arent many compositions in this. He challenged Vasudevachar. Requesting a paper and pencil, Vasudevachar composed 3 krithis , the same evening ( sA, sa ni dha pa – jati swara ; nIvE rakshaku – a Varnam ; nI kELadaya – keertanam ).
07 nI vE rakshaku ( varNam) – kadana kuthUhalam
In another occasion, the same musician made another remark, saying Vasudevachar’s compositions are simple and they do not need much practice, and any one can sing them. Vasudevachar responded with composing some outstanding krithis ; mari mari vasunA in kAmbOji -which had some 20 sangatis in both pallavi as well as charanam , rA rA rAjIva lOchana in mOhanam , are some of them..
08 rA rA rAjIva lOchana – mOhanam
Sri Krishnamurthy recollected an incident where Vasudevachar asked him if he observed the chitta swaras in rA rA rAjIvalOchana. He said, “yes but what is special”. Vasudevachar asked him to sing those. When he reached the ‘sa ri ga rA’ he asked him to stop and said “see, sarige rA … ‘sariyAgi bara bEku’..
Mysore used to host a drama troupe called Chamundeswari Nataka Sabha. One Nagendra Rao and Kottur Basavayya were the lead actors of the group. They were playing ‘dAna shUra karNa’ and Nagendra Rao requested Vasudevachar’s presence for one of their shows. On returning from the show, Krishnamurthy asked his grand father, about the drama. Vasudevachar did not respond and went on to his room to and soon started scribbling in the paper. The next morning, he gave the answer, and said he was moved by the story which kept him thinking why Karna was the one doomed to fail. The answer to this was found and he was happy. He said, Arjun had the blessing of his guru, while Karna was cursed by his Guru. The importance of Guru was evident in the compositions of both Purandara Dasa ( guruvina gulAma) and Thyagaraja ( gurulEka yaduvanti). He composed a kriti to this effect that night in raga pushpalatha ( pushpalathika) , ‘guru kripA lEka srI sad-guru“.
Vasudevachar had another krithi in the same rAga, ‘dEvakI tanaya vAsudEva sadaya’
09 dEvakI tanaya – pushpalatha
Under the guidance of Muthaiah Bhagavathar, Mysore used to conduct Thyagaraja Aradhana every year. All the upcoming musicians, the royal Musicians and invited stalwarts, used to perform in the aradhana, concluding with Vasudevachar’s concert. One of the year, he wanted to pay homage to the great vaggeyakara by composing a krithi for the occasion. The krithi ‘srI pAdAdi tyAgarAja guruvaram’ in kalyANi was sang on that day. Muthaiah Bhagavathar was all praise for this krithi, especially mentioning the the charanam starting with ‘sakala lOka samsEvita..’
Vasudevachar did not differentiate between the deities. He had no ‘hari hara bhEda’ and sang in praise of all. One such kriti was composed in junjhuti ( chenchurutti) raga ‘ praNatArthi haram’, which does 100% adherence to the raga scale original.
10 praNatArthi haram – chenchurutti
He did not have any personal jealousy or professional rivalry with other musicians and vaggeyakaras. He had always encouraged the others. Once, Sri Krishnamurthy wanted to add a background score for the ‘vAdya vrinda’ team of Akashavani. On listening to his grandson’s modification (!) to his creation, he commented to retain the original for Pallavi, and include the new addition after charanam.
In the year 1905, he lost his wife. The krithi bhavayEham in behAg was composed in sorrow, wailing in front of the god. As mentioned earlier, Mysore was the meeting point of many great musicians of both carnatic and hindustani tradition. Needless to say, his music had a lot of influence by hindustani musicians, which is evident in his compositions of junjhuti, behAg , mAND. He used to say that the music should have the ‘laya gAmbhIram’ of carnatic music and ‘shruti shuddham’ of hindustani music.
11 bhAvayEham raghuvIram – behAg
He used to listen to every kind of music , including film music on radio. Once he happened to listen to a song from the popular movie meena madhura (??) and was so impressed, he wanted to listen to the song again. Since, this was on radio and not a Gramaphone record, that was not possible. That loss, gave us two great compositions in the same raga, ‘gOkula nilaya’ and ‘bhajarE mAnasa’ in AbhEri.
12 gOkula nilaya – AbhEri
13 bhajarE mAnasa – AbhEri
Use of chitta swara was very prominent in his krithis. The vaggeyakaras came after him gave no importance to chittaswaras. He gave examples from srI chAmunDEshwari ( bilahari), palukavadEmira ( dEvamanOhari), brOchevA ravarurA ( khamAs) and vandEnishamaham (hamsadhwani).
Once, Ponnuswamy a famous nAdaswara vidwan visited Mysore. While on discussion he made a remark that though there are 72 melakarta ragas, half of them are of no use and there is no compositions in those worthy of mention. Maharaja wasn’t pleased and wanted this to be addressed on priority. Bidaram Krishnappa, a senior musician confirmed to the Maharaja that there is no need for a new creation, as Vasudevachar has already done the same. Impressed, the king made arrangement to get the ‘Vasudeva keertana Manjari“, a collection of Mysore Vasudevachar’s compositions to be printed and published.
Vasudevachar used to teach the Maharaja while in Mysore. Maharaja once asked him why hasn’t he composed any in Kannada, while all his compositions were either in Sanskrit or Telugu. Vasudevachar said, he had no formal learning of Kannada and all his education was in Sanskrit and later in Telugu at Thiruvayyar. But, that does not lessen his respect to Kannada Language, but he was not an expert of this language. But this prompted him composing a kriti in Kannada ‘ karuNai saudaya mAyE’ in saraswathi manOhari.
14 karuṇisau dayāmayé – saraswathi manOhari
Sri Krishnamurthy joked that this krithi too was full of Sanskrit words and Kannada was only towards the end. He composed one more krithi in saraswathi manOhari as ‘ srI purandara guruvaram bhAvayEham’
Last days of his life was spend in Madras. While in Madras, he composed many thillAnas and javaLi’s for the students of Kalakshetra. tha khamas javaLi ‘yErana sAmi’ was very popular. Sri Krishnamurthy was also talked about a ‘zamindar’ in Chamarajpet who had a fancy for javaLi’s. He would come in for concerts only to listen to Javali’s. He used to pay lavishly to the singers if they sing a javali early in the concert, for he was bored of lengthy alapana and huge krithis. Some of the singers used to sing many javalis as possible for monetary benefit, in his presence.
15 yErana sAmi pagavaru – khamAs
The last day of his life was also a regular affair. He taught the daughter of Marthur Krishnamurthy( a gottuvadyam vidwan) , the viribONi varNam, requested for milk instead of the usual dinner. Post which, he requested his grandson to sing ‘intha prabhuva’ in ‘mOhanam’ – one of his favourite . As he was not able to get the shruthi, requested tambura to be brought near. Lifted his head to get the shruthi, went back and closed his eyes – forever.
Sri Shankar , summed up the morning and concluded the session with a slokam in praise of Mysore Vasudevachar ( I am not sure if it was written by Sri Krishnamurthy or Shankar himself – I missed the point ) , srI vAsudEvam guruvaram bhajEham’ set to KalyaNi.
16 srI vAsudEvam guruvaram bhajEham – kalyANi
*PS : It was confirmed that the sloka was written by Sri Krishnamurthy himself.
In two hours, sri Krishnamurthy gave us a fantastic insight to the music and life of one of the greatest 20th century Vaggeyakara. It was a privilage to listen to the anecdotes from none other than the grandson of a great man. Sri Shankar and team gave the musical support as appropriate. The lecture was very engaging, albeit being in Kannada ( he is as proficient in English), filled with good humour and timely musical interlude. Once he made a joke on himself saying, having served Akashavani for 33 years, he still do not know how to adjust the mike. He also remarked that Shankar is a clever man ( and a great musician), but wanted to make a contrast by asking him to sing at this age of 88 (referring to the course voice of his to the pleasing voice of Shankar). while the major part of singing was done by Shankar and team, Sri Krishnamurthy sang many of the swara patterns while explaining the krithis.
A very informative and entertaining session, to start the lec-dem series at Essae Music Foundation.