Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Carnatic Popular Vocalists - (1)


G N Balasubramaniam (1910 - 1965), popularly known as GNB, He became the first superstar of Carnatic music, innovating the art through emphasis on laya control & reducing the gamakas which eventually made Carnatic music appeal to the lay and the learned alike. Balasubramanian was born in Gudalur, a small village near Mayavaram in Tamil Nadu. He was the son of G V Narayanaswamy Iyer, who was a keen student of music. Often criticized for producing extremely fast gamakam-laden sangathis with strength and weight and with wide imagination, a voice as his, running at so fast a speed through the effects of brighas, twists and turns would come in quick succession that he became an instant hit with both the lay audience as well as those initiated to the arts and science of Carnatic music. He acted in films, including Bhama Vijayam ( Sathi Anusuya), Sakunthala, Udayanan Vasavadatta (with Vasundhara Devi, mother of Vijayanthimala), and Rukmangada. In "Sakunthalai", he appeared as Dushyantha, alongside M S Subbulakshmi. M S Subbulakshmi was fascinated by his music and embraced his style completely in her early years, as mentioned in the book "M S - A Life in Music" by TJS George.  He was also the first major Carnatic musician to moot the idea of Indian music as a single entity rather than separating it into Hindustani & Carnatic systems. He was very attentive in understanding why HIndustani music concerts is so well loved by south Indians. By emphasizing on the richness of the composition together with expansive improvisation passages, he forever changed the way, Carnatic music was sung. His grasp of tala was unprecedented for he understood the magic of singing in the 2nd & 3rd kala which had a mesmerizing effect on the audience that he performed. Sometimes, reaching the 4th kala in brisk succession would also arouse the ecstasy of his audience. GNB also composed kritis and invented new ragas. He taught a number of students during his active years. Most famous among them are M L Vasanthakumari, Radha Jayalakshmi, Thanjavur S Kalyanaraman, Trichur V Ramachandran, T R Balu, T S Balasubramanian, and Ragini. GNB worked as the Deputy Chief Producer of Carnatic Music, in A.I.R Chennai for a number of years alongside Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who was the Chief Producer for Carnatic Music and Dr M Balamuralikrishna who the Producer for Light Music, and joined the Swathi Thirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram as Principal in March, 1964.


Semmangudi Radhakrishna Srinivasa Iyer (1908 - 2003) was a Carnatic vocalist. He was the youngest recipient of the Sangeetha Kalanidhi awarded by the Music Academy in 1947 and has received many awards including Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan from the Government of India, Sangeet Natak Academy award (1953), Isai Perarignar from Government of Tamil Nadu and Kalidas Samman from Government of Madhya Pradesh. He was also considered the "Pitamaha" or the grand sire of modern Carnatic Music.He was conferred with an honorary doctorate by University of Kerala in 1979. He was born in Tirukkodikaval, Tanjore district as the third son of Radhakrishna Iyer and Dharmasamvardhini Ammal. At the age of eight he started learning music from his cousin Semmangudi Narayanaswamy Iyer. He was known for producing soulful music, highly creative and yet very orthodox, despite a recalcitrant voice.He gave public concerts even after the age of 90.
Semmangudi was widely renowned for his virtuosity as a concert performer. He was famous for the meticulous planning that he put into every concert, including the choice of krithis, raagas and duration. He was also widely acknowledged as a master of improvisation, particularly in the form of niravals.


Lalgudi Gopala Iyer Jayaraman (1930 – 2013) was an Indian Carnatic violinist, vocalist and composer. His awards included the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2001. Born in the lineage of a disciple of the saint musician Thyagaraja, Lalgudi Jayaraman inherited the essence of Carnatic music from his versatile father, V. R. Gopala Iyer, who trained him. At the age of 12, he started his musical career as an accompanying violinist to Carnatic musicians before rising as a prominent soloist. He expanded the style of violin playing by inventing a whole new technique that is designed to best suit the needs of Indian Classical Music and establishing a unique style that came to be known as Lalgudi Bani'. Jayaraman composed several 'kritis', 'tillanas' and 'varnams' and dance compositions, which are a blend of raga, bhava, rhythm and lyrical beauty. Lalgudi's instrumental talent comes to the fore in the form of lyrical excellence. After inviting him to play the Edinburgh Festival in 1965, Yehudi Menuhin, the renowned violinist, impressed by Lalgudi's technique and performance, presented him with his Italian violin. Lalgudi presented Menuhin with an ivory dancing Nataraja when Menuhin visited India. Most famous for his thillanas and varnams, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman is considered one of the most prolific composers of modern times. His compositions span four languages ( Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit), as well as a whole range of ragas not conventionally used for varnams or thillanas. Characteristic of his style, the melody of his compositions camouflages subtle rhythmic intricacies. His compositions are very popular with Bharathanatyam dancers, even as they have become a standard highlight of every leading Carnatic musician's repertoire. His disciples included his two children Lalgudi G. J. R. Krishnan, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, renowned musician S P Ramh (grandson of Shri. G.N. Dandapani Iyer), renowned Harikatha exponent Vishaka Hari, Saketharaman, Vittal Ramamurthy, Dr. N. Shashidhar, the leading Vainika Srikanth Chary and the Academy Award nominated Bombay Jayashri Ramnath.


Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar a.k.a. Vaidyanatha Iyer (1896 - 1974) was a Carnatic music singer from Palakkad Kerala, India.,Known by his village name Chembai, or simply as Bhagavatar, he was born to Anantha Bhagavatar and Parvati Ammal in 1896, into a Tamil Brahmin family at Kottayi-I/II near Palakkad on Janmashtami day.Chembai was noted for his powerful voice and majestic style of singing. His first public performance was in 1904, when he was nine. A recipient of several titles and honours, he was known for his encouragement of upcoming musicians and ability to spot new talent. He was responsible for popularising compositions like Rakshamam and Pavana Guru, among others.The music critic 'Aeolus' described him as "the musician who has meant the most to Carnatic Music in the first fifty years of the 20th century." His prominent disciples include Chembai Narayana Bhagavathar, Mangu Thampuran, Guruvayur Ponnammal, T. V. Gopalakrishnan, V. V. Subramaniam, P. Leela, Jayan and Vijayan, K. J. Yesudas and Babu Parameswaran, among others. He also mentored and lot of young accompanists, including Palghat Mani Iyer, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M. S. Gopalakrishnan, T. N. Krishnan, Palani Subramaniam Pillai and L. Subramaniam. Memorial music festivals have been held in his honour annually since his death in 1974, the most important being the annually celebrated Chembai Sangeetholsavam. Chembai had been conducting a music festival in his native village from 1924 onwards. This was continued by his family and now by Chembai Sreenivasan and Chembai Suresh (C. A. Subramanian). The concert, called Chembai Ekadasi Music Festival, is held annually in February–March. Chembai also holds a music festival on Guruvayur Ekadasi Day (mid-November) at Guruvayur every year. This festival, now called Chembai Sangeetholsavam in his honour, is officially conducted by the Guruvayur Devaswom Board.The Sri Guvayurappan Chembai Puraskaram, awarded by Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur, is instituted in Chembai's memory of the late Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar. This award, comprising a cash prize of INR 50,001, a gold locket of Sree Guruvayurappan, a citation and ponnadai, is usually presented during the annual Chembai Music Festival.

D. K. Jayaraman (1928 - 1991) ,born on the 22nd of July, 1928, to Damal Krishnaswamy Dikshitar and Rajammal in Kanchipuram, popularly and affectionately known as DKJ, was the brother of the music queen D.K. Pattammal. DKJ inherited his perfect diction, interest and aptitude for Tamil songs from his father who was proficient in several tamil literature. He was conferred the Sangita Kalanidhi title shortly before his death. DKJ’s first formal guru was his own sister Sangeetha Kalanidhi D.K. Pattammal to whom, he declares, he owes everything. But having a keen mind, he absorbed a lot by just listening to Vidwans like Ambi Dikshitar, N.S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar ( disciple of Naina Pillai) Koteeswara Iyer, Flute Venkatarama Iyer, T. L. Venkatrama Iyer and Papanasam Sivan, when they came home to coach Pattammal. DKJ was perpetually thirsty for knowledge. He once pestered DKP to write down the words of Balagopala kriti for him. Where other children cherished their wooden toys or rocking horses, DKJ’s prized possession was that bit of paper containing the great piece. He mastered the kriti over night and rendered it perfectly the next day to an astonished but appreciative DKP. Small wonder then, that DKP fostered her younger brother‘s musical talent right from a tender age. Some of his popular disciples include N. Vijay Siva, R.K. Shriramkumar, Balaji Shankar, Shri Dr. S.Sunder, Smt. Asha Ramesh, T G Badrinarayanan, Smt. Sharada Mani, and Sukanya Jayaraman.

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