The doyen of Carnatic music, vocalist R.K. Srikantan, 94, passed away here on Monday.
“He passed away at Fortis Hospital at Seshadripuram at 9.30 p.m. after he was rushed there due to chest congestion earlier during the day,” said Srikantan’s son, Kumar Srikantan.
The funeral will take place on Tuesday.
On January 14, the doyen turned 94, and his birthday celebrations had seen the release of a biography, “Voice of a Generation”.
Unquestionably, the senior-most performing musician of the State, and undeniably a follower of chaste paddhati or tradition, Srikantan was blessed with a resonant voice that energetically boomed across concert halls all over the globe.
That he took up nearly 75 concerts and lec-dems even in 2013 made him the busiest nonagenarian musician. He was among the last of the surviving veterans of the traditional Carnatic genre, who had always had insisted on his students preserving their voice with good habits.
“He painstakingly nurtured and moulded his voice with disciplined lifestyle, and it is no wonder that it was this immaculate timbre that won him a standing ovation at the prestigious Music Academy at the 2013 December Music Season concert at Chennai last month,” said Ramakanth Srikantan, who always accompanied his father in all concerts.
Rudrapatna Krishna Sastry Srikantan was born on January 14 in 1920 at Rudrapatna village in Hassan district. He belonged to a Sanketi family steeped in music and Veda. With father Krishna Sastry, a Sanskrit and Veda scholar, Srikantan’s three elder brothers, R.K. Venkatrama Sastry, R.K. Narayanaswamy and R.K. Ramanathan, too were performers during their era.
With father and brother, Venkatrama Sastry, being Srikantan’s initial tutors, he went on to gather the finer nuances of rendering after observing and imbibing from several yesteryear stalwarts and gradually evolved a signature style of his own.
Where Karnataka’s pride is held high is in Srikantan scoring melody to hundreds of Dasa Sahitya, the kirtanas of Haridasas, in authentic musical scales that they were originally meant to be sung in. He has set to tune poems of Karnataka litterateurs/poets Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, Kuvempu, Adiga, P.T. Narasimhachar, K.V. Puttappa, Da. Ra. Bendre and DVG; and several vachanas of Shaivite savants as Basaveshwara, Akkamahadevi and Allama Prabhu.
His workshops and lecture-demonstrations on the Trinity, Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Shastri, and other academic aspects of music are judged to be veritable textbooks for students and connoisseurs.
The towering musician had also a personality that captivated for not just being a follower of time-honoured principles in presenting music but also equally so for being one of the outstanding teachers. Srikantan has trained more than 500 students directly and thousands indirectly on AIR’s “Gaanavihaara” music classes, a popular Carnatic music class that went on air for several years in South India during his 32-year tenure at Akashavani.
If ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan is even now one of his students taking across the evolved Srikantan-school, son Ramakanth, Lakshmikant Kadaba, M.S. Sheela, T.S. Satyavathi, R.A. Ramamani, Vidyabhushana, Veena artistes Suma Sudhindra and Shanti Rao and violinists Charulatha Ramanujam and Nalina Mohan are among his shishyas who are well-known performers.
Srikantan, widely referred to as the Semmangudi of Karnataka, is one of the few musicians from the State who was able to hold his own in Chennai, the bastion of Carnatic music. The doyen proved a much-required link between the older generation of musicians and the younger crop of “adventure seekers”. As he often spoke of the “change and transformation” as “inevitable” evolvement in music, how such changes will impact classical music is what he was concerned about.
“Humility, discipline and devotion are the pre-requisites to learn music,” Srikantan always declared. The face of classical music, in teaching methodology and concert format, is changing too. Showing off one’s technical perfection is becoming the sum total of a concert, leaving audience satisfaction far behind,” is how he described today’s music trends recently at his concert in Bangalore.
Srikantan was a recipient of Padma Bhushan. His earlier awards include: The Best Teacher Award by the erstwhile Bangalore City Corporation; Sangeetha Kala Ratna from the Gayana Samaja; Kanaka Purandara Award and the Rajyotsava Award from the State Government; Honorary Doctorate from Bangalore University; Chowdiah National Award by the Academy of Music, Bangalore, Central Sangeeth Natak Academy Award; Sangeetha Kalanidhi by The Music Academy, Chennai; Gayaka Chooodamani by Tulasivana Sangeetha Parishath, Thiruvananthapuram; Sapthagiri Sangeetha Vidwanmani by Tyagaraja Trust, Tirupati; Sangeetha Ratnakara by Bhairavi Fine Arts, Cleveland; Swati Puraskar by the Governemnt of Kerala; National Eminence Award by Shanmukhananda Sabha, Mumbai; Sangeetha Sagara by Carnatic Music Association of North America (CMANA).