Remembrance Music

Music changed this lawyer’s calling

K. Srinivasa Iyengar’s portrait being unveiled by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer

K. Srinivasa Iyengar’s portrait being unveiled by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer  

A tribute to K. Srinivasa Iyengar in his centenary year

K. Srinivasa Iyengar (RAJASREE) was a lawyer by profession. Only son of a top bureaucrat, Srinivasa Iyengar got to be a music critic, musician and a writer on Carnatic music. Born on June 2, 1919, in Bengaluru, he was enrolled as an intern with the late R Venkataramiah, a legal luminary at Karnataka. Destiny had something else for Iyengar. His initial interest in Carnatic music, which was more out of family compulsions, got strengthened and resulted in his turning towards music. In his school days, he learnt the flute, later took to the veena after his marriage to Rajalakshmi, who was a trained veena player.

I had the privilege of acquiring his valuable music material and expertise, for my dissertation on “Mysore as a Seat of Music” for Ph.D. at the Madras University. He also introduced me to many musicologists and musicians to help me. He started writing art criticism first in vernacular Kannada and the first opportunity was a brief music report on the concert of B. Devendrappa, a renowned musician of the Mysore Palace. The newspaper for which he wrote was the now defunct Tayi Naadu, published in 1955 from Bengaluru. This was a stepping stone for him and he was invited as a guest art critic for Deccan Herald.

Iyengar soon became a regular contributor, writing art criticism, under the pseudonym “RAJASREE” and became a permanent writer under heading ‘Herald Profile.’ He wrote biographical articles on stalwart musicians of the day, such as Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M.S. Subbulakshmi, flute Mali, Mysore T Chowdiah and Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar.

Bangalore Gayana Samaja, though established in 1905, could initially offer only a few music concerts and that too in different venues, before settling at “Shankariah Hall,” hired on rent. This was the time V. T. Srinivasan (first Comptroller and Auditor General of Free India) was virtually running the Samaja. Srinivasa Iyengar was roped into the Samaja by Srinivasan. Iyengar joined as a committee member first, and later as Secretary and finally as vice-president. He was with the Samaja till 1977.

Iyengar also wrote for The Indian Express, Swatantra (now Swarajya) and many more newspapers and magazines. He authored 18 books, noted among them being a Kannada translation of T. L. Venkatarama Iyer’s work on Muthuswami Dikshitar (published by National Book Trust of India) and a book on T. Chowdaiah published by the State Sangeet Nataka Academy. He wrote a series of biographical articles on famous Mysore musicians, in The Indian Express under the title, ‘Mysore Stalwarts.’

Iyengar dedicated himself whole heartedly to the Bangalore Gayana Samaja. With S. M. Ramakrishna Rao, president of the Samaja, he collected substantial funds to build a hall for the sabha. The New Samaja building was inaugurated in 1962, by Prof Humayun Kabir, the then Central Minister for Culture and Jayachamaraja Wodeyar was the chief guest.

Annual conference

In 1965, the Diamond Jubilee of Samaja was celebrated when top artistes were featured in a week-long festival. Srinivasa Iyengar was keen on including academic lectures and was toying with the idea of an annual conference on the lines of the Madras Music Academy. It was fulfilled with the first conference in 1969. The week-long conference during Dasara is still being conducted.

The Mysore Jaganmohan Palace museum had a rare and precious recording of Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s rendering of “Chintayama” of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. It was recorded on the waxy cylinder the Edison’s phonograph. Prof. P Sambamurthy sought the help of Iyengar to listen to this record. In spite of strict palace restrictions, Iyengar managed to have the record played to Sambamurthy, who has acknowledged this in his writings.

When the internationally acclaimed Western classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin visited Bengaluru, he was keen to listen to Chowdiah’s violin playing and sought Iyengar’s help. When Iyengar accompanied Menuhin to Mysore, Chowdiah was away on an emergency visit. So Menuhin was shown the seven-stringed violin designed by Chowdiah. Menuhin seemed to have expressed his disappointment, at not being able to listen to Chowdiah’s violin playing.

Srinivasa Iyengar took part in many music seminars, prominent among, was his lecture on Ugabhogas at the Madras University’s national seminar on musical forms in 1979. He had produced many musical features for All India Radio, Bengaluru. The Government of Karnataka had assigned Srinivasa Iyengar to organise the 400th Anniversary of Purandaradasa, at his birth place Hampi in Karnataka. The event was grandly celebrated.

Iyengar was a member of the Managing Committee of Sri Tyaga Brahma Mahotsava Sabha of Tiruvaiyaru for several years. He was a member of the music audition board for All India Radio.

Iyengar, along with wife Rajalakshmi presented many veena duet concerts, and performed in the mid-year concerts series at the Madras Music Academy in the year 1975. He passed away on December 13, 1979.

In recognition of his service to Bangalore Gayana Samaja, a portrait of Srinivasa Iyengar was unveiled by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer in 1987 at the Samaja premises.

The writer is a retired professor of music, the University of Madras.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 8:54:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/music-changed-this-lawyers-calling/article27222943.ece

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