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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Instrumental Innovations in Carnatic Music

Kadri Gopalnath Saxophone, 1982

Reflections by Shri R. Sachi

( Photo courtesy: The Hindu )

Carnatic music gives a prominent role to melodic instruments and instrumental innovations. Since the time of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, the western instrument violin has been embraced and enhanced in our music. The traditional veena and flute have undergone many innovations. In addition, the clarinet, the mandolin, the guitar, and even the keyboard have all made inroads into Carnatic music. Most importantly, the saxophone has made an emphatic entry as early as in the 1970’s, and its synonym is Vid. Kadri Gopalnath.

Born into a Nagaswara vidwan family in Mangalore (1949), Kadri was fascinated when he heard the saxophone in the Mysore Palace band. He took to the instrument, tamed it to Carnatic ways, and has an impressive list of admirers over the years, from Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer to A R Rahman. He has been conferred a doctorate by Bangalore University, the title Sangeetha Kalashikhamani from Indian Fine Arts, Chennai, and most recently the Veene Sheshanna Memorial national award. He underwent advanced musical training under Vid T. V. Gopalakrishnan (this year’s Sangita Kalanidhi designate by the Madras Music Academy.) Whereas some purists may criticise the saxophone as being less than perfect in microtonal raga and gamaka reproduction, there cannot be any debate regarding Vid. Kadri Gopalnath’s contribution to popularising Carnatic music and the instrument saxophone especially among lay audiences of this generation.

We reproduce below an extract from his concert review in the New York Times, 1987:

" KADRI GOPALNATH plays South Indian classical music on the alto saxophone. A western listener, trying to imagine this, might expect something like the sinuously bluesy playing of a few jazz saxophonists, notably John Handy, in encounters with Indian musicians. But Mr. Gopalnath's approach is quite different. He originally played the nadaswaram, a large, throaty South Indian reed instrument, and has been able to transfer the bends, slurs and quavers of the traditional instrument to the western one with remarkable thoroughness. He is more or less reinventing the alto saxophone, using it to do things neither its western classical exponents nor the jazz players who have perfected it as an expressive instrument could have imagined. "

Vid. Kadri Gopalanath has been popular among Parvathi audiences, especially youngsters and lay listeners. We are glad to share some excerpts from his 1982 concert held during Ramanavami celebrations.

Concert Details:

Kadri Gopalnath ---- Saxaphone
A,R.Krishnamurthy --- Violin
P.G.Lakshminarayan -- Mridangam on 9-4-82 at 'Parvathi'

Song List

01 Srichamundeshwari-Bilahari-Mysore Vasudevacharya *** 02 Panchashatpitharupini-Devagandharam-Muthuswami Dikshitar *** 03. Nanati bratuku- Revathi-Annamacharya *** 04. Baro Krishnaiyya- Ragamalika- Kanaka Dasa *** 05. Smara Varam varam – Bahudari- Sadashiva Brahmendra *** 06. Venkatachalanilayam – Sindhu Bhairavi – Purandara Dasa ***