/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": June 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dr. Emani Sankara Sastry – the one man symphony in Carnatic music

A handsome young veena maestro came to Mysore in the 60’s and stirred up the imagination of the Carnatic music lovers with his cuckoo song and his rosewood veena. That was Sri Chitti Babu.

This chronicler (R. Sachi) remembers how that vidwan’s guru himself came and played some months later. Looking every bit a grand master of the grandest of Indian musical instruments, the veena, the guru produced such a range of musical sounds from his veena that he could be hailed verily as a one man symphony.

That was Emani Sankara Sastry. His music was a wide spectrum. Some lilting silken streams of sound and some majestic cascades. Some sounds that were so vocal you had to pinch yourself to remember it was the veena, and some vibrant and emphatic patterns that spurred the percussionists like a military march. This maestro simply left you bemused. At last you understood why Carnatic music did not need a 50-piece orchestra. The veena alone was enough. No wonder Lord Shiva played the veena. In addition to Goddess Saraswathi and Sage Narada. And even Ravana.

Emani Sankara Sastry (1922- 1987) was born in Draksharamam, Andhra Pradesh. He came from a family of celebrated classical musicians. His father Vainika Bhooshana Veena Acharya Emani Achuta Rama Sastri was a famed vainika and sastragna; a contemporary of Sangameshwara Sastri and Veena Venkata Ramana Das of Andhra. After graduating from Andhra University, Vidwan Emani Sankara Sastry worked as the music director in Gemini Studios. Emani joined All India Radio in 1959 as producer of music at Madras. Soon he rose to the position of director and composer of national orchestra and chief producer of music at AIR New Delhi. He was the asthana vidwan of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams and a member of the University Grants Commission. He was conferred among many titles the prestigious title of Maha Mahopadhyaya by the Banaras Hindu University – the first Carnatic musician to be so honoured.

He was invited to perform at the United Nations in the 60’s. He won the admiration of violinist Yehudi Menuhin and at his special invitation participated in the festival of international music council at Paris in 1974. This concert was named the concert of the century by discerning reviewers. He also performed for the UNESCO at Alma Ata, Soviet Union.

Emani played memorable Jugalbandi duets with maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Halim Zaffar Khan. The featured concert is a duet with Vidwan M.S.Gopalakrishnan.

When this chronicler had the good fortune to meet Vidwan Emani in Delhi, the maestro was all grace and charm. When the Vidwan spoke about music, there was a twinkle in his eye. He recounted his prodigious training from a young age under his unsparing father. At his home, there was a painting of his father playing the veena holding it vertically, as Lord Shiva has been depicted in ancient sculpture.

While playing a recording of his famous UN Concert featuring Kalyani, the vidwan remarked to this chronicler how it was vital that the artiste addressed the veena with reverence, and pleaded, “mother, kindly allow me to play some music”. That was his approach to music always.

Vidwan Emani composed Adarsha Shikhararohanam, an orchestral tribute to the conquest of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay in 1953. He also composed another opus, Indu Chakra, to symbolise the significance of the Indus Valley in Indian culture (and the great river projects of the ‘50s) using the six ragas in the first melakarta cycle. His orchestral pieces were liked so much by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India, that he was known to hear the recordings almost every day.

In this concert, we have a treat of symphonic genius, from both Vidwan Emani and the redoubtable maestro M.S. Gopalakrishnan. Emani expounds Meru samana with peaks of emotive grandeur to do justice to Thyagaraja’s imagery of Rama standing battle-ready like the Meru mountain. He transports you in every song to realms beyond conventioncal Carnatic song. The way he strikes the first notes of Purvi Kalyani is colossal. And when he announces the Surdas bhajan and sings the lines, you know what a master artiste he is.

The sheer tonal delight of MSG’s violin enhances his perceptive collaboration here. MSG does not fiddle to distract in the middle of the veena passages, and bides his turn to provide apt counter points at every stage of the concert. His honeyed bow seems to dance in the swarm of resonant bees that the veena conjures up. A remarkable concert indeed, from Viriboni to Veda mantra.

The rasikas at Parvathi were treated to this torrent of virtuoso excellence in 1971. We are indeed lucky, after 39 years, to have a chance to listen to this recording, thanks to Sri K. Srikantiah’s munificence.

Emani Sankara Sastry---Veena
M.S. Gopalakrishnan-----Violin
Guruvayoor Dorai----Mridangam
on April 10, 1971.

[ 1. Veeriboni -Bhairavi Atatala varnam- Pachimiriyam Adiyappa *** 2. Vatapi Ganapathim –Hamsadhvani – Muthuswami Dikshitar *** 3. Merusamana –Mayamalavagowla – Thyagaraja *** 4. Orajoopuchu – Kannadagowla – Thyagaraja *** 5. Gnanamosagarada – Purvikalyani – Thyagaraja *** 6. Raghuvamsha –Kadanakutuhalam – Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer *** 7. Brochevarevarura – Kamach – Mysore Vasudevachar *** 8. Sudhamayi – Amrutavarshini- Muthaiyya Bhagavatar *** 9. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Kharaharapriya *** 10. Surdas Bhajan – Misra Hindustani Todi *** 11. Jagadoddharana – Hindustani Kapi – Purandara Dasa *** 12. Veda Mantra *** 13. Mangalam. ]


"...man, I tell you when that person called GNB sat on the platform, in his very first concert in Mysore …I swear, I thought I was in some 'Swara loka'...what a 'roopa'!... those diamond ear rings...hair so neatly groomed …I was so crazy admiring him that after the performance I went up to him and asked him “Sir, what is the scent you are wearing?” Unhesitatingly, he said ‘Swag’! …my God to hear his 'bhirkha'...the 'vaikhari'…the new trend in Kalayani...in Carnatic music he introduced us to a totally new wave. It just arrested me... I just went crazy for GNB. Then slowly over time a friendship developed...GNB would come home...he came to sing at my elder brother’s wedding...for that he was accompanied by Chowdiah and Palghat Raghu...even to this day that performance is etched in my memory... then you know there was a big blow to all of us in his passing away at Tiruvananthapuram, in his fifties...he was then a principal of the college there... all in all he was my hero!.....ah, now I remember that other song from 'Shakuntala'... ”Premayil…” (Sri Srikantiah regales once again)…Can you believe all this is somewhere between 1939 and 1942?...”

"...now, the Bidaram Krishnappa Mandiram secretary, Advocate Ramachar, is Vasudevachar's great friend and he has started the Saraswati Samaja Music Sabha...their first concert is in Town Hall...GNB, Mani and Chowdiah were invited first time to inaugurate it...GNB was simply in terrific form that day...it is my privilege to be there and I am sitting next to the great Octogenarian Vasudevachar ...then GNB chooses 'Khamach' and starts to sing 'Brochevararevurara'...the rendering is electrifying...at that point Vasudevachar turns to me and says "Magu" (he always called me Magu-young man),..."Nana Kriti nalli ishtu merugu ide anta ivvate gottu aitu " (only today have I come to realize that this composition of mine has such a glitter!). ... man, was I thrilled!...as soon as the ‘kutcheri' was over then I jumped onto the platform and went straight to GNB and said “this is what the composer has said to me…”...Immediately GNB girded the sash around his mid waist came down with me and bending down touched the great man’s feet...saying that this was his greatest honour to receive such an acknowledgment from the master composer himself.

Where, I ask you, do you see such incidents of respect these days?..."