INTERVIEW Ever thirsty to expand his horizon, violinist Narasimha Murthy from Mysore, learnt from many maestros. This affable musician is a guiding light to many youngsters RANJANI GOVIND
Violinist H.K. Narasimha Murthy comes out of a AIR recording, and there are several youngsters waiting eagerly to talk to the 66-year-old simple, gracious and friendly musician. .
Narasimha Murthy was in the city to receive ‘Vishesha Acharya' award from the Vishesha Academy, for his commitment towards youngstersNarasimha Murthy seems a picture of fulfilment at the outset. But as you get talking to him, you realise his restlessness for knowledge and how it took him to several musicians, thereby imbibing many styles. The flourishing career he had with Akashavani Mysore, brought to his fold umpteen students and also made famous the “Narasimha Meshtru Baani”. In the last six decades Narasimha Murthy has trained hundreds of students and nearly 60 of them are now global performers. Murthy's father, a hotelier, was obsessed with music. “ From being a common food supplier he rose to be a hotelier, and eventually came to be known as ‘Shankara Bhavana Krishna Murthy' in Holenarsipur. “His passion for music, arts and theatre is what pushed me to music and my sister Lakshmi Chandrashekar to theatre,” he says. Even before he turned five, Narasimha Murthy was taken to H.T. Puttaswamaiah for vocal lessons. “Thank God,” he said, “my voice wasn't good enough for vocals, and I was taught violin. After a few years, I started learning from A.K. Muthanna and T. Puttaswamaiah in the Chowdiah style,” he says.
In 1966, after his B.Sc. in Mysore, he had this enormous thirst to expand his bowing knowledge. The violin genius Parur Sundaram Iyer in Madras welcomed him into his school, which he ran along with his sons M.S. Anantharaman and M.S. Gopalakrishnan. “They were not just masters in music, but large-hearted souls who made me join the Central College of Carnatic Music,” says Murthy. “I will be grateful to the Parur family for this gesture always. I came into contact with great musicians like K.V. Narayanaswamy, T.M. Tyagarajan, T. Brinda, Dr. S. Ramanathan, D.K. Jayaraman, T.V. Gopalakrishnan and the like, with whom I used to have regular practice sessions.” In the violin classes with MSG, Parur Iyer would be looking at young Narasimha's fingering techniques with a hawk's eye and throwing a bow of complaint arrows! “Discipline was a key for yesteryear musicians. For my 10 a.m. class, I would walk in with great enthusiasm and I would be mildly told, “You are one-minute late!” “I was initiated into a rare blend of the Hindustani idioms that caressed the Carnatic style so tastefully. Each varna had to be played 12 times. Long bow, cutting bow, the rolling-uruttu that was made famous by Chembai , and the startling one-string rendition, all this would go on for three hours. I would be tired with pain, but my teachers showed no such trace!” Although the Parur influence is paramount in Narasimha Murthy's style, he is afflicted with a sense of guilt that “he did not do justice” to the kind of unstinted training he received from them. “Associated with so many schools and having accompanied musicians of varied styles, I was unable to stick to the Parur expressions. But as Sundaram Iyer had said, ‘take the music to Mysore,' I am doing my best,” says Murthy.
Several foreign tours and awards followed before Murthy stepped into Mysore Akashavani in 1976 as a staff artist and is now an A-top, retired in 2006. “The job was an anchor to me. I would often get frightened at the prospect of being never-in-demand, and Akashavani was not just reassuring, it was my economic lifeline, as we were allowed only 24 outside concerts a year. Compare this to my 24 concerts a month in my younger days!” This is the reason Narasimha Murthy tells his violinist son H.N. Bhaskar and all his students to balance music interests along with a professional career. “Hard work, organised schedules and unstinted focus can only bear fruit,” he advises.