Dr. Sripada Pinakapani, who contributed immensely to theorise Carnatic music, enters his 100th year on Friday

Kurai ondrum illai, maraimurthi kanna… All but 99 and going on 100, as he is lying on his bed, with eyes that glow with life and spirit; ears that can catch the finest nuances and nod in appreciation; a voice, though feeble with age, that can preface a raga with an alapana or tag a swarakalpana to a verse at the drop of a hat, Dr. Sripada Pinakapani is a content soul with no regrets in life! The body prefers a supine position but the eyes speak volumes and the mind is filled with a memory that no computer can match! Music and medicine is saved and stored there! Only music is retrieved and experienced all the time since it is way above medicine and who knows it better than Dr. Sripada Pinakapani?

He is a ‘Vyasa’ who has given the Telugu land, a treasure trove called theory of Carnatic music which had been nurtured, preserved and practiced in the folds of ‘dakshina desham’ (south India) by the stalwarts of Thanjavur. Dr. Paani, as the music circuit loved calling him, took pains to note down each and every kriti and thousands of them, over decades, the grammar nuances which gave them the classicality, the tradition of rendering such compositions and document them for posterity. It was a Herculean task going by the fact that he was a practicing doctor who had to earn his bread and butter through his medical profession. “I don’t know why I was ordained to take to music first and then having done that, feel the urge to learn the theory and presentation of genuine classical music that was being practiced in southern India under the banner of Thanjavur baani (school/style). Once I was convinced music has enveloped me totally, I felt a great responsibility seep into me that I should not confine myself to learning and performing or teaching music but should collate everything that was best and time-tested in Carnatic music and bring it under one cover so that it would be passed on to the future now and always. I have trained some very good musicians of today like Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Voleti Venkateswarulu, Srirangam Gopalaratnam, who have gone ahead and been accorded the nation’s highest honours in the field of music and are today on par with the best vidwans in south India. What else do I need? I am totally content with my contribution and realisation of my objective,” he says with an air of finality.

To him, music was not a path to salvation or spirituality. “I wanted perfect music to be learnt and sung. That was my sole aim; all else fell into place. Bhakti in classical music cannot be at the cost of losing out on the traditions of grammar and syntax that make music. It is a tight framework which cannot be tampered with; perfection makes a man perfect,” he signs off.