Shyama Shastri (1762 -1827) was the oldest of the Trinity of Carnatic music. He was a contemporary of the other two, Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar, and was a personal friend of the former. Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri were good friends. They often met and spent hours together singing. Shyama Shastri had deep regard for Tyagaraja.
Venkata Subrahmanya, affectionately known as Shyama Shastri, was born to Visvanatha Iyer and Vengalakshmi on April 26, 1762 in a Tamil - speaking brahmin community known as auttara vadama. His parents though scholarly, had no particular interest in music. His forefathers were archakas in the temple of Goddess Bangaru Kamakshi.
At the age of seven, his Upanayanam was performed. Initially his father taught him devotional songs and has given sound education in Sanskrit and Telugu languages and attained scholarship in these languages at a very young age. Finding the aptitude for music, his mother requested her cousins to teach him the fundamentals of music. However this got no further than the elementary stage in music education.
When he was eighteen years old, his family moved to Tanjore. There, they got a chance to host a sanyasi (monk), Sangitaswami, a master of dance and music, who was spending some four months in Tanjore. The sanyasi was quick to discover Shyama Shastri's keen intellect, melodious voice and musical talent and foresaw greatness in him. He obtained the father's consent and taught Shyama Shastri all aspects of raga, tala and swara prastharaas. The teacher found that the student could absorb even the intricate details very quickly, all in a matter of four months or less. Sangitaswami presented Shyama Shastri with a few rare treatises on music and certified that the student had gained full knowledge on the theoretical aspects of music. He advised his student to seek the friendship of and listen to the music (but not learn anything from) one Paccimiriyam Adiyappayya, a composer of the famous bhairavi ata tala varnam, viriboni, and a court musician in Tanjore. Shyama Shastri duly did as he was advised. The influence of Adiyappayya is reflected in his svarajati kamakshi in Bhairavi raga.
Over the years, Shyama Shastri became a well-known and respected musician, scholar and a composer