With the sudden demise of R.K. Srikantan, connoisseurs and his student fraternity experience a sense of void that’s hard to fill. At 94, Srikantan was musically active and had a busy schedule for the months ahead. His family sources say that nearly 40 programmes have to be cancelled, which also includes the Puttaraj Gawai award that he was to receive shortly. Ranjani Govind puts together the thoughts of some of his students and fellow musicians who have had a long association with the maestro:
M.S. Sheela: I have been his student for the last 50 years. I am fortunate to have been groomed in the ‘Srikantan gurukula’. There can be no guru like him, na bhooto na bhavishyati. We wondered if he had a permanent shruti-box fitted to his throat! Even at this ripe old age, he would say he had a lot to learn! It was his life-long wish to be with music till his end, and he achieved it!
T.S. Sathyavathi: My guru never veered away from sampradaya. The pancha-shuddha virtues intrinsic in his music were shruti-shuddhi, raga-shuddhi, sahitya-shuddhi, laya-shuddhi and bhava-shuddhi. His kind and affectionate words ‘Besh, Besh, Dhairyavaagi haaadu’ will forever ring in my ears. One of his best qualities as a guru was he never ever compared one student to the other.
R.A. Ramamani: I feel as if a pillar has suddenly collapsed. It’s difficult to come to terms. His insistence for discipline is his most valuable contribution to the world of music. H Whenever we needed help, he was always ready to give it to us. With his penchant to learn ever more all the time, he said he always wanted to be a shishya and not a guru. I remember as a 24-year-old when I entered Akashavani for a recording, he was shocked to see me surrounded by throat lozenges, and immediately asked me to throw them and get into voice-maintenance exercises.
Vidyabhushana: His death is indeed sad to the world of music. Srikantan was my guru much before I came to Bangalore, he taught me at the Subramanya Mutt quite often when he came and stayed there. He affectionately taught me the secrets of the Carnatic system, and this could be done only by people gifted with shastra gnana. If there is one person who has worked for championing the Haridasa sahitya, it is this great man.
R.K. Padmanabha: RKS, the complete musician, was firm in his convictions, and believed in regular sadhana. His knowledge of Kannada, Sanskrit and English were commendable. His rendering was infused with artha bhava (emotional content) and his enunciation crystal clear. His powerful open-throated singing is a yesteryear trait.
R.K. Shriramkumar: The passing away of vidwan Srikantan comes as a jolt to the field of Carnatic music, more so to our family. His passing away brings to an end to an illustrious generation of musicians in this family who were synonymous with discipline, diligence and integrity to the arts. Chikkappa, as he was fondly addressed by all of us in the family, was an awe-inspiring personality. His passion to bring forth the paramount values of our music, be it kalpana or kalpita sangita, his values and adherence to tradition made him a role model. Most importantly, he was young at heart, joyful and humorous.
G. Ravikiran: RKS sir often quoted the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’ To me, referring to Srikantan Sir in the past tense is really going to be tough. To me, like his hundreds of other students, he represents the embodiment of a tradition that is distinctly Carnatic! There were no compromises in his music – his was the ‘Chakkani rajamargamu’ of Carnatic music – and he made sure he imbibed that in each of us as well.