Musician with a mission
If today Visakhapatnam could boast of a rich cultural ambience next only to Chennai, the credit largely goes to Indraganti Venkata Lakshmana Sastry, popularly known as I.V.L. Sastry, whose missionary zeal to spread classical music and create an awareness about it in the city saw the cause of Carnatic music advanced very well over the last quarter century.
Born on July 8, 1927 at Penugollu, near Yellamanchili, IVL hails from a family of musicians. His father, Lakshmi Narayana, was his main source of inspiration. IVL learnt vocal music under the tutelage of his father and mridangam from the late Mullapudi Lakshmana Rao. He learnt kanjira, flute and harmonium on his own and continued as an artiste and musicologist imparting all that he knows like to those interested.
In 1979 on the birthday of the late Ekkirala Krishmacharya when many of his disciples offered valuable gifts to the Master, IVL thought of a unique gift, saying "It is my guru dakshina". On that day he vowed to impart classical music to aspirants free of cost and started the Sangeetha Janakulam. It marked the turn in the tide of not just his life alone but also in a musical ambience at Vizag for, it immensely benefited the aspirants.
At Janakulam, learners are admitted after assessing their performance in an entrance test called `suswaram' (to test their vocal abilities). The school offers two types of courses, - a five-year diploma course based on the syllabus prescribed by Andhra University for its diploma in music/BA music and a one-year course wherein students are taught Thyagaraja divyanama kirtanas, Ramadas kirtanas and Utsava sampradaya kirtanas. Students opting for the long-term course are required to take an oath that they shall not discontinue the course or else pay a fine of Rs.116. The Sangeetha Janakulam has till date benefited over 5,000 aspirants with an unblemished track record of nil dropouts.
Janakulam conducts monthly concerts in Sri Raghavendra Swami Mutt in Ramnagar to offer a platform for its student-artistes to acquire concert experience.
Says IVL: "Carnatic music was at its lowest ebb from 1940 to 1970 in Andhra due to the impact of cine-music, and talented musicians were rare. Its popularity started increasing only after the Government had earmarked a special quota for musicians in jobs."
On the difference between Carnatic music and Hindustani music, IVL says that the stress is more on rhythm and gamakas in Carnatic music while Hindustani music is based on pure notes with less stress on gamakas.
His favourite ragas are Karaharapriya, Kambhoji, Thodi, Kalyani and Sankarabharanam. Recalling his unforgettable experience, he says that he had once a dream about the Keeravani raga and went on to sing it at a concert in Kolkata the next day without any rehearsal.
IVL retired as an office superintendent from Indian Railways. He shares his passion for music with his wife and daughters who are accomplished violinists and vocalists. His only son, Kali Prasad, is a well-known flautist.
IVL is also a recipient of many awards, including Sangeetha Vachaspati, Sangeetha Kala Tapasvi, Poorna Purusha and Sangeetha Praveena.
He is of the firm opinion that "music is a vehicle which elevates one's mental calibre. It creates no impediment for the general education. Scientifically it establishes that those learning music have fared better in mathematics and sciences as it helps to develop concentration". He advises students not to be afraid of taking learning music while they are engaged in other studies.
His piece of advice to teachers: "Thyagaraja Swami has set a lifestyle to be an idealistic teacher. Those who have no necessity to struggle for livelihood can adopt the lifestyle of Thyagaraja and help spread popularise classical music".
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