Tribute to B. Krishnamoorthy, the master of pallavis

B. Krishnamoorthy was a renowned exponent of Carnatic music, a lakshana-lakshya vidwan and a great guru. He had staunch bhakti for his gurus and for the music that was handed down to him. At the same time, he carved his own creative space with his intricate and beautiful pallavis, unique thillanas, and melodic setting for numerous compositions and shlokas. Prominent among them are those authored by Sanskrit scholar Dr. V. Raghavan.

Born at Padarakudi near Karaikudi, Krishnamoorthy grew up listening to bhajans and learning from great bhagavatars. He got trained in classical music under Rama Iyengar, a disciple of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, and later under Ariyakudi himself. As a student of the Central College of Carnatic Music, he learnt from Musiri Subramania Iyer, T. Brinda and other stalwart musicians there. He also learnt padams from T. Jayammal of the Veena Dhanammal lineage.

As secretary of the Music Academy, Dr. Raghavan (whose daughters Priyamvada Sankar and Nandini Ramani were Krishnamoorthy’s first students) appointed him as a teacher at the Model School run by the Academy. He was one of the earliest recipients of a scholarship from Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, to train under Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer in pallavi singing. Besides learning, the long-standing guru-sishya duo would have deep discussions on music treatises.

B. Krishnamoorthy was an astute scholar and teacher. He had a long association with the Music Academy, Madras (1959-78), and was a lecturer and later principal of the Tamil Nadu Government Music College in Chennai and Madurai.

He had a penchant for notating songs, and he assisted in bringing out many of Music Academy’s publications. He also released a book with notations of Divyanama kirtanas in the Umayalpuram patantharam.

He was a patient but persistent guru, whose teaching sessions were as challenging as they were memorable. Sirkazi Sivachidambaram, Srividya, J. Jayalalitha, and B. Balasubrahmanyam, Wesleyan University, are among his noteworthy disciples. As part of a project for the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, Krishnamoorthy trained musicians Sikkil Gurucharan, Amritha Murali, Kunnakudi Balamurali Krishna and this writer, in rare pallavis.

During these master classes, he taught us many pallavis that he had composed, like swarakshara pallavi, trikala pallavi (where the structure of the pallavi itself incorporated tisram and three tempos in chatusram), pallavis in a variety of nadais and eduppus. We would be awestruck by the ease with which he would sing these complex pallavis and also perform niraval in them, while we struggled to understand and internalise their structure. He also taught us pallavis in rare talas like Ragavardhana and Kokilapriya and always insisted on the niraval being the most important aspect of pallavi singing.

He also guided musicians Gayathri Girish, K. R. Ganesh and Prema Rangarajan in their research projects on Nama Siddhanta and Pallavis in 35 talas and Tillanas respectively.

B. Krishnamurthi during a lec-dem at The Music Academy, Chennai, on December 17, 2009

B. Krishnamurthi during a lec-dem at The Music Academy, Chennai, on December 17, 2009   | Photo Credit: GANESAN V

Krishnamoorthy’s lecdems on a variety of topics such as 72 Melaragamalika, rare Tillanas in 108 Talas, exposition of the Simhanandana and Shatkala Pallavis were extremely well-received.

A Sanskrit scholar, he was involved also in the activities of institutions like Samskrita Ranga, Madras Sanskrit College, Samskrita Academy and Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute.

His recordings on rare themes like Tyagaraja Vibhakti Kritis of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Divyanama Sankeertanam of Saint Tyagaraja are invaluable.

He received many awards including the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, Sangita Kala Acharya from the Music Academy, Acharya Choodamani from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Best Musician award from Tamil Nadu Government Music College and Sangeeta Ratnakara from Bhairavi Fine Arts Society, Cleveland. As an A-grade artist of All India Radio, he performed for over six decades. The vidwan lives on through his timeless pallavis.

The writer is a senior Carnatic vocalist and Head of research, Music Academy Research Centre.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 9:36:06 PM |

Next Story