What is your idea of happiness?
I'm happiest when I do not hurt anyone. When you try to make everyone around you happy, you too experience happiness.
What is your greatest fear?
There are a few fears that haunt me. I fear I may unwittingly cheat someone. I fear I may lose my power to get rid of my ego. I fear that one day I may change.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Mahatma Gandhi. I'm not sure whether I possess his great qualities. But he has impressed me immensely with his life and his principles. He was someone who sacrificed so much for the sake of the nation. I have always wondered whether we give him the respect he deserves.
Which living person do you most admire?
My guruji, T. V. Gopalakrishnan. What I admire most about him is his uncanny knack of spotting talent. He would go out of the way to promote and encourage this talent. He has helped so many young musicians find their feet.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Attempting to find perfection in everything.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lack of respect for elders. This Bharatiya parampara (Indian tradition) is almost lost. It used be customary for young musicians to touch the feet of the elders. This I find is rapidly vanishing.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Call it extravagance if you will, but I'm not stingy when it comes to buying clothes, especially those I wear for my concerts. On stage, I believe, an artist must look neat and presentable. Appearance is important.
What is your favourite journey?
My life's journey. I started out with nothing, right from ground level. It was not easy for my father to bring up eight children. I look back on those fledgling days with a sense of surprise, awe. The journey till where I am today is my favourite.
Who is your favourite painter?
I'm not someone with ultramodern taste. My choice is Raja Ravi Varma. No one, for me, can be better than him. I have seen so many of his amazing works while at Gwalior and, of course, at the Mysore Palace. They still continue to fascinate me. I have had the fortune to see some of the greatest paintings while travelling abroad like the Mona Lisa. But Ravi Varma remains my personal favourite.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Undue respect. I have felt awkward when people, especially elders, touch my feet. I wonder whether I deserve this. And I pray I don't get carried away by such a show of affection.
On what occasion do you lie?
Oh! Yes (laughs). Sometimes. Like, for example, during concerts you are flooded with requests and there is very little time. You have the organiser looking at his watch for he may have to shell out more if I go beyond the stipulated time. This happens abroad. I then tell the audience, ‘See I could have played some of your requests but I have forgotten them and will do so on another occasion.'
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I'm not really sure. (Thinks for a while…) I can't say. There's something about my personality I don't approve of, neither does my family. I talk too much.
Which living person do you most despise?
Not any specific person. But I cannot stand people who boast a lot. I see them around me all the time. They have very little knowledge of music but talk as if they are masters. I hate that kind of showing off.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
It must be words like ‘shabash,' ‘wah wah' and ‘balle' that I keep using during my concerts to boost the morale of the artistes accompanying me.
What is your greatest regret?
Not having my parents with me now.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My music, my saxophone is my greatest love.
When and where were you happiest?
When I'm at a concert.
What is your present state of mind?
Relaxed. Before I begin a concert, I keep my mind clear, meditate, and there is silence around.
How would you like to die?
On the stage, during a performance like you often see in films and sometimes in real life. If that does not happen it must be ‘anayasena maranam, nina dainyena jeevitham…' (A life without hardships and an end that is peaceful…)
What is your favourite motto?
Do good to people; be generous.
Kadri Gopalnath is synonymous with the Indian classical saxophone. Hetraverses the globe performing classical and fusion concerts. He has recorded albums with numerous musicians. The album ‘Blue Rhizone' by the New Quartet, composed by Karl E. H. Seigfried, is a tribute to Kadri and his saxophone. He has participated in prestigious music festivals in India and abroad.