Kadri Gopalnath obtained a status for saxophone in Carnatic music

He controlled the instrument in such a way that none could match him: violinist Kanyakumari

October 11, 2019 11:05 am | Updated October 12, 2019 03:08 am IST

Kadri Gopalnath during a performance in Chennai.

Kadri Gopalnath during a performance in Chennai.

Kadri Gopalnath, who adapted the Western instrument of saxophone for Carnatic music, died in Mangaluru on Friday . He was 69 and is survived by wife and two sons.

Kadri is the hometown of Gopalnath. His father Taniyappa was a nagaswaram player. Though he also learnt nagaswaram and played it for sometime, he switched to saxophone after he was attracted by the sound of the instrument played by a member of the Mysuru Palace band. He persuaded his father to buy him the instrument and altered the keys to produce gamakas of Carnatic music. He learnt from Gopalakrishna Iyer in Mangaluru and Balakrishna Pillai in Kumbakonam.

Vocalist and mridangam player T.V. Gopalakrishnan happened to listen to him and encouraged him to visit Chennai. He also became his teacher, and Gopalnath’s instrument became part of the city’s music circle. “I am very shocked. I cannot say anything now,” Mr. Gopalakrishnan told The Hindu .

Gopalnath became very popular and teamed up with violinist Kanyakumari and thavil maestro Haridwarmangalam A.K. Palanivel. Often, morsing player Rajasekar would also join them.

“I first played for him 30 years ago. He was like an elder brother to me after the demise of my teacher M.L. Vasanthakumari,” recalled Ms. Kanyakumari.

“Whether it’s classical Carnatic music, light music or cinema songs, he excelled in all of them. He controlled the instrument in such a way that none could match him,” she added.

Gopalnath’s entry into film music happened when director K. Balachander and music director A.R. Rahman attended one of his concerts. They introduced him in the film Duet , in which the hero is a saxophone player. His exploration of raga Kalyanavasantham, which became part of the film’s title music, and Anandha Bhairavai for the song ‘Mettu Podu’ continue to enthral music lovers. Despite the success, he did not work in many films after that. Rahman once again used him in the film Sangamam and he played an interlude for the song ‘Sowkiyama Kanne’.

Thavil player Palanivel, who accompanied him for over three decades, said he first met him in Valangaiman and organised a concert in Thirukalamputhur.

“I played with him in the country and abroad and our partnership became very popular in the music circles. He played in Thiruvaiyaru this year even though he was not keeping well. He knew the mind of the audience and played accordingly,” he said.

Mr. Palanivel said it was a proud moment when he received the Padma Shri award along with Gopalnath in 2004. They also played together with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain during the Tyagaraja Aradhana in Thiruvaiyaru and the concert is considered as one of the memorable moments by fans of Carnatic music.

Gopalnath also played with jazz musician John Handy, and they performed together in music festivals held in Prague, Berlin, France and many other countries.

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