C. Ashwath, as a singer and music director, created his own style by combining folk and classical idioms. His best works, including compositions of saint-poet Shishunal Sharief which he set to music and song, reflect this. His singing style was distinct in the Kannada light music tradition.
Mr. Ashwath passed away in Bangalore on Tuesday.
Born on December 29, 1939, he took a degree in science from Bangalore University. He worked with the Indian Telephone Industries for over two decades and retired as executive engineer in 1992.
Under the tutelage of Devagiri Shankar Rao Joshi, he learnt Hindustani music. He entered theatre with a bang, composing music for Kuvempu’s play “Smashana Kurukshetra”. Encouraged by the response, he took challenging theatre assignments such as Kannada version of Shakespeare’s “Othello”, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Bertolt Brecht’s acclaimed “Caucasian Chalk Circle”.
Having his mainstay in folk music, he ventured to conduct experiments such as employing jazz music for “Caucasian Chalk Circle”, percussion instruments for “Mricchakatika”, fusing Hindustani and Carnatic music for the Kannada adaptation of “Amadeus”.
Besides having a penchant for light music, he entered the tinsel world with writer Masti Venkatesh Iyengar’s play “Kakanakote”. He scored music for several films along with musician Vaidyanathan. He also took part in the making of T.S. Nagabharana’s “Santa Shishunala Sharif”, “Mysooru Mallige”, “Chinnari Mutta” and “Nagamandala” films.
He sang under many music directors, including G.K. Venkatesh, Rajan-Nagendra, Vijayabhaskar, M. Ranga Rao and Ilayaraja.
On the sugam sangeet (light music) front, Mr. Ashwath followed in the footsteps of the late Kalinga Rao and Mysore Ananthaswamy in his own inimitable style. His rendering of poems of Kuvempu, Da. Ra. Bendre, K.S. Narasimhaswamy, D.V. Gundappa, Gopalakrishna Adiga and G.S. Shivaradruppa, Lakshminarayana Bhatta, H.S. Venkatesha Murthy and B.R. Lakshman Rao not only popularised their works, but also brought fame to the singer and composer.
Some of his popular albums are “Shishunala Sharif Sahebara Geethegalu”, “Shravana”, “Mankuthimmana Kagga”, “Kannadave Sathya”, “Mysooru Mallige”, “Bannada Hakki” and “Subbaa Bhattara Magale”.
He had received many awards, including the Rajyotsava Award.