The late KLN Sastry will be remembered for his soulful music and his gentle ways

It would be hard to separate the Rajdhani channel of All India Radio, Delhi, which broadcasts a number of Carnatic music concerts, from the memory of KLN Sastry, reputed violinist who passed away this past Sunday. ‘Sastry Garu’, as he was affectionately called by his colleagues in music circles, accompanied a range of musicians from junior to extremely senior artistes, in their recordings, while serving at AIR, Delhi, as a staff artiste from 1972 to 1996, and one gets to hear the veteran’s accompaniment in the recordings broadcast by AIR frequently even now in their Carnatic music programmes.

Khambhampati Lakshmi Narayana Sastry was born on July 1, 1938 into a musical family in Antarvedipalem, Andhra Pradesh. He had his early lessons in the violin from his father, late K. Ramamurthy. Later, Sastry joined Maharaja’s Music College, Vijayanagaram, and received his advanced training under the renowned violin maestro Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu. Subsequently, Sastry got his Sangeetha Bhushana title from the Faculty of Music, Andhra University. He then moved to the Capital to join All India Radio as a staff artiste in 1972 and served there till 1996. A key member of the National Orchestra (Vadya Vrinda), Sastry was known for his dexterity, sweet tonal modulations, rich imagination and mastery over the instrument. He has accompanied a number of legendary artistes, including M.S. Subbulakshmi, M. Balamuralikrishna, K.V. Narayanaswamy, Voleti Venkateswarulu, D.K. Jayaraman and Nedanuri Krishnaswamy among others. Both as a solo violinist and an accompanist, he toured many countries like the U.K., the U.S., France, Russia, Japan, Canada, Germany, etc. He has been featured many times in AIR’s National Programmes of music, the Sangeeth Sammelans and Doordarshan programmes.

I had the opportunity to get to know him when I was associated with the music activities of the East Delhi Music Circle, Mayur Vihar, and the Noida Hariharaputhra Samajam, Noida. It was always delightful to interact with him while receiving him (he always arrived punctually for concerts), taking him into the auditorium and later seeing him off. Once I asked whether he didn’t find it difficult to constrain himself within the short duration concerts of AIR, ranging from half-an-hour to one-and-a-half hours, compared to the long duration sabha concerts. Pat came his reply, “In AIR concerts, the best of your talent comes out in the limited time duration.” I understood the inherent message that any short duration concert should not be underestimated.

Not only was he unassuming, his musical knowledge notwithstanding, he was also a soft-spoken man. He was very simple in his behaviour both on the stage and off the stage.

Sastry felt sad when he came to know about of the closure of the music activities of the Samajam due to the declining patronage from music lovers. He would encourage me to revive the musical activities of the organisation and would even offer his services for this purpose. His soul might have departed his body. But his soulful music remains etched in the memories of music lovers of Delhi and other parts of the world.

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