He is an astute musician with a melody that remains unchallenged to this day. He is the most venerated music scholar of our times who has never compromised on the rigid grammar of classical music while he sang with technical elegance evoking the right emotion in the listener. He was the recipient of the prestigious ‘Sangita Kalanidhi' award by the Madras Music Academy, a decade and half ago, the second vocalist from Andhra Pradesh after his guru Dr. Sripada Pinakapani. Not to mention the number of other titles conferred across the country and abroad. His excellent style and rhythmic accuracy has evolved into a ‘baani' identified with his name.
You are in awe of meeting such a scholarly person. But once in the presence of Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, you find it all vanishing. He puts you at ease with a benign smile as he beckons you to a chair and orders refreshments. He is a man of few words, except when he holds a class or a lecture demonstration where he is in his full form.
Taking a look at the music scenario in Chennai where he was attending the Margazhi festival, he recollects , “music was born in Telugu and it is pathetic that we do not regard it the way it is done in Tamil Nadu. Right from the commoner to the connoisseur, people are real patrons of music in Chennai. That is the reason, there are so many sabhas actively promoting music. Dedicated teachers, diligent learners and devoted listeners and ardent performers - when you have all these in the right combination what more do you require. Music just thrives. The spirit is what matters. Once it is embarked, all else falls into place. I wish we cultivate such an atmosphere in our own state.”
The reason: lack of talent? “No,” he shakes his head vehemently. “There is talent in abundance but proper guidance is lacking, especially in the arena of traditional music. Premature public appearance has become the order of the day thanks to enough number of platforms catering to such fledglings. Teachers are forced to bend backwards to propel the pupil on to the stage for the fear of losing out on tutelage. Similarly, listeners are either musically illiterate or semi-literate and hence mediocre performers begin to thrive. All this in turn breeds an attempt to eulogise mediocrity since it is attached to instant fame. Young minds are led by this trend. So, how can we expect sustained progress in genuine classical music? The learning process is enduring, taxing and tough. Still, you are nowhere at the end of the decade. Therefore, we resort to shortcuts and standards in conventional music are slashed down to suit the need of the hour. Nobody can be blamed. Even if the majority go by these standards, I wish at least a handful of young pupils emerge with a desire to learn with patience, imbibe and promote our Carnatic music the way it has to be despite the long years it takes to master to some degree,” he says with a glint of hope.
The maestro has a very viable plan of action to offer to make the state a musically rich one. “I had drawn a scheme which is to be presented to the government. I wish it is taken up. A music and dance festival should be conducted regularly every year for minimum five days in each of our districts under the chairmanship of the district collector. The initial funding has to be from the government. Slowly but steadily public patronage will rise and then the government can withdraw once the festivals will become self-sustaining. And in this way, we would be able to promote talent, classical music and showcase our prowess. The TTD which has been doing yeoman service with its ‘Nada neerajanam' as of now can lend a helping hand to the government and together make this state a culturally rich one. It's a dream and if it comes true during my lifetime I feel blessed,” he says.
Nedunuri had taken lessons in music from his mother and later, like many young music aspirants of his time, came under the influence and tutelage of Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu. He switched over to vocal music in the mid-forties under Polanki Venkataraju and was inspired by Dr. Sripada Pinakapani. There was no looking back after his first katcheri in the Nineties. As a guru, he has produced many a famous pupil like Panthula Rama for instance. “To that extent I am fortunate to be blessed by diligent pupils who were willing to go that distance with me,” he signs off.
Keywords: Nedunuri Krishnamurthy