An era of light music

Music As light music continues to allure listeners, here's tracing its history. Gudipoodi Srihari

L ight and light classical music serve dual purpose of retaining classical flavour of the ragas and bring out sweetness of Telugu literature that many stalwart poets and musicians brought out over the years. ‘Lalitha Sangeetha Navaha Mahotsavam', a nine-day festival was organised by the Delhi Telugu Academy and Little Musicians Academy at Ravindra Bharathi recently to celebrate this genre of music. Inaugurated by the former chief minister K. Rosiah, a few stalwarts of light music were felicitated C. Narayana Reddy whose songs have become the inspirational source for light music like that of Devulapalli Krishna Sastry, said light music was the mother of film music.

Looking back at the era of light music brings back memories of contribution of stalwarts from Valluri Jagannadha Rao in 30s to this day, like a story intertwined with rich literature and richer music. If there was no expression of the lyric through song and broadcast over radio, most lyrics would not have seen the light of the day. It is a two-way process of give and take. For poets, inspiration has stemmed from many events in life — a lullaby, a song that labourers in the farms sing to forget strain, the many realities of struggles in life, nature's beauty, romanticism, social inequality and devotion.

Poetic expression

Folk music slowly emerged as light music with the advent of music gaining some grammar, taking the pattern of writing and singing to a new level of aesthetics. The changes in poetic expression attained certain amount of freedom, at one stage giving birth to a new kind of literary expression called Bhava Kavitvam which brings into play a kind of expressionism. Devulapalli Krishna Sastry was the harbinger of this new trend.

Composers well versed in classical and light music choose apt ragas that suit the mood of lyrical expression.

Srirangam Srinivisa Rao (Sri Sri) wrote many songs, which contributed to the light music genre. Rayaprolu Subba Rao, Nanduri Subba Rao, Siva Sankara Sastry, Kavikondala Venkata Rao, Konakalla Venkataratnam, Basavaraju Appa Rao, Abburi Ramakrishna Rao, Adavi Bapiraju and many others left behind a great treasure of songs. The Zamindars of that area used to encourage them. B.V. Narasimha Rao was adept at mixing folk songs. He was regarded as Vaggeyakara in this field. Some of his songs went into gramophone records. Narasimha Rao and Vinjamuri Sisters Anasuya and Sita presented these songs on stage. Sthanam Narasimha Rao, a great stage actor known for his female roles used to render songs of Devulapalli Krishna Sastry.

Another stage great Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao became popular for his song Guthi Vankay Kooroi Bava. Viswanatha Satyanarayana, the first Gnanpeeth awardee in Telugu literature used to sing his Kinnerasani Patalu on stage. In parallel there was an active stage with great thespians singing original compositions that were popular even in villages.

The Lalitha Sangeetham began reaching households once All India Radio established its station in the then Madras (Chennai). It allotted time for light music songs with the name Geethavali. AIR used to broadcast these bhava geethas featuring established singers like Suryakumari, Anasuya, S. Varalakshmi, Balasarswati, Bhanumathi, M.S. Rama Rao, Ghantasala, P.B. Srinivas and others.

After AIR launched in Vijayawada, more musical works came to the fore. The singers included Balamuralikrishna, Voleti Venkateswarlu, Srirangam Gopalaratnam and many others. C. Narayan Reddy, another Gnanpeeth awardee, wrote a number of memorable musical ballets. Vennelavada, Manavudu-Yantram, Vasanthalakshmi and the like with impressive abstraction were some of them. The beauty of these ballets is that each of the songs, written for them, turned into solo numbers. Ramappa of Narayana Reddy had beautiful songs like Raala Lopala Poolu Poochina. Each of the songs were set in Carnatic ragas by composers like Palagummi Viswanatham. The impact of the song lies in its melody that captures the imagination of the listener.

The period that Krishna Sastry spent in All India Radio, and Palagummi Viswanatham serving as music producer is still regarded as the golden era of light music. Nagarjuna Sagar dam was under construction then and Pt. Nehru, during his visit, described it as a ‘Temple built by Humanity'. This inspired Krishna Sastry and he penned Kotha Kovela, Kotha Kovela. Narayana Allah Allah on secularism was another great song rendered by Balamurali, Chitharanjan, Kanakadurga and others to impressive tunes set by Palagummi.

The songs written and composed during this period, including those on Ugadi, are still in vogue with many singers rendering them at many events.

Most memorable names in this field are that of Valluri Jagannatha Rao, B.V. Narasimha Rao, Rajanikantha Rao, Mullick, Kocherlakota Suryaprakasa Rao, Balamurali, M.S. Rama Rao, Ghantasala, S. Rajeswara Rao, Balasaraswati, Anasuya Devi, Manchala Jagannadha Rao, Voleti Venkateswarlu, Emani Sankara Sastry, Palagummi Viswanatham and a few others. The present generation composer-singers like Chitharanjan, Kalaga Krishnamohan and others are striving to retain this glory of light music. Young K. Ramachari is now the bridge between past and present, to take this to future generations by specially creating Little Musicians Academy and teaching children all these songs of past and present.

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