“I feel rewarded for having been chosen for this year’s Sangeetha Kalaratna award of the prestigious Bangalore Gayana Samaja,” says violinist Mysore S. Mahadevappa.
The 83-year-old vidwan, who is the president of the samaja’s weeklong music conference, will receive the institution’s biggest honour next week in the city.
“I don’t know how much I have done to receive this, but I am contented that my students, most importantly my sons — Nagaraj and Manjunath — are definitely taking my violin legacy forward. Can a guru or father ask for more?”
Recalling his childhood days, Mahadevappa says, “Although my father, ‘Harmonium’ Subbappa, had an intrinsic sense of musicality, he never thought of bringing me into music. It was just providence that pulled me into a drama at my native village, Mudigundam, near Kollegal, and I had to do the role of a young prince. ‘Nataka Meshtru’ Siddashetru realised my potential at once and started my foundation lessons in vocal. Soon, I went to a locally recognised teacher, Narayanaswamy, who enthusiastically taught me until my voice broke. Then, I was told by my guru that I could be better off with a bow to bring about more melody!”
Playing violin soon became his way of life. “My guru told me that I was absorbing nuances like a blotting paper and I would have more time to learn if I didn’t go to school,” the vidwan recalls.
“At 19, I was playing at functions and for small banners. Playing violin for a drama in the late 1940s was certainly worth it, as we would get anything between Rs. 30 and Rs. 50 for each show,” he says.
The turning point in Mahadevappa’s musical journey came by chance. It so happened that the accompanist of T. Puttaswamaiah, renowned vocalist and brother of the legendary violinist T. Chowdiah, did not turn up for his concert at Kollegal, and young Mahadevappa was recommended to step in and prove his talent.
After the concert, an impressed Puttaswamaiah told him: “With your aptitude and flair, you should be following a different course of study which would help you to get immersed in serious melody. Come with me and you will see a world of offering.”
Mahadevappa agreed and went to Mysore. At the traditional gurukula, apart from rigorous training, the young violinist learnt how to sculpt pure classicism — a style that had an abundance of vocalised format, more ‘bhava’ and emotive elements than just technical jargons for melodic interpretations.
“‘Your violin should bow to speak and sing music, and not just play it’, my guru used to always tell me,” he recalls. Gradually, Mahadevappa started accompanying Puttaswamaiah in his tours across the country. And it was just a matter of time before he started performing with other top-ranking artistes.
Mahadevappa’s artistry lies in bringing out the quintessence of the pristine purity of the Bidaram school of music (Tyagaraja paramapare) in which the raga and pallavi elaborations are unique.
The Rajya Sangeetha Vidwan award winner Mahadevappa has trained students in the hundreds. He was the head of the Department of Music at the University of Mysore. He has served as professor in the university for almost 26 years. Mahadevappa is actively involved in music promotional works in Mysore.