Emani Sankara Sastry’s daughters Kalyani and Devi Ramanamurthy paid a rich musical tribute at a memorial concert.
Eemani Sankara Sastry was a doyen in the field of Carnatic music. He learned the art from his father Achyutarama Sastry, a great vainika of his times. Sankara Sastry too was a great veena virtuoso who gave concerts all over India. He was the music director of erstwhile Gemini Studios in Chennai and composed music for some outstanding films produced by the highly reputed Gemini Studios. He was known for graceful play adhering to tradition. He had even taken part in Jugalbandi sessions with Pt.Ravisankar and other stalwarts of Hindustani music.
He served as the chief music producer of AIR, Delhi, for a long time and was specially known for Vadyabrinda thematic compositions, as director of the National orchestra.
He served as Asthana Vidwan of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. With his sudden demise, there was a question as to who would carry on his legacy, but his daughter Kalyani, who was also seen accompanying her father in later days of his life has managed to do so. Kalyani’s grip on veena, following the footsteps of her father demonstrated her skills in a concert she presented at Saptaparni, on Sunday in the company of five of her students — Vijayalakshmi from Pittsburg USA, who came here to learn from Kalyani; Kalyani’s daughter Padmini, Deepti, Janaki and Mythili. This group was accompanied by Ramanamurthy on mridangam and Phani Bhushan on ghatam.
Kalyani opened with Behag varnam, composed by Calcutta Krishnamurthy. Later she took up a composition of her father Sankara Sastry set in raga Neethimati (a melakarta raga) for Neerajakshi Nee Muddu Momu Joopara also written by her father. Neerajakshi here is not the Goddess but a woman with lotus eyes. It was a difficult raga that one could only play with constant practice. Kalyani played the number almost like her father did, not only in her playing style but also the raga mood. Though the swarakalpana was brief, it stuck to the salient feature of the melody.
Kalyani then chose popular number of Thyagaraja Ganmurthe in Ganamurthy, a simple kirtana presentation. In between she went for tanam in Thodi ragam on the request of audience. Tanam play on Veena was always a beauty in itself, again reminiscent of her father’s style of presentation. Bagu Meeraganu in Sankarabharanam of Veena Kuppaiyer figured later which Kalyani played with a vocalist touch. This was preceded by essaying the raga briefly touching its important phrases. Kirtana play was neat and was followed by swarakalpana. Srikanthimatim in Hemavati of Dikshitar also had tanam presentation. The delineation of raga and Tanam presentation enriched the impact of the number that added to her vibrant play.
The later part of the concert included a Surdas bhajan, set to music by her father. This was one of many bhajans Sankara Sastry had set to music and popularised in his concerts. She ended her show playing a Tiruppugal and a Vedic Mantrapushpam, a tradition set by her father. Her five disciples were seen just joining her now and then to add to the sound levels. Later Sankara Sastry’s another daughter Devi Ramanamurthy, who came to be known as a popular ghazal singer, presented three ghazals — one in raga Madhuvanti in Roopak Tal, second in Raga Bhairavi in Keharva Tal and the third in Durbari also in Keharwa Tal. Hers is a melodious voice and her Hindi diction was apt. The accompanists who followed Kalyani also served her sister.