The Composers of Karnataka
by Ashok Madhav
The ‘Hari dasas’ of Karnataka like Sripadaraya,Vyasaraya, Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa, Vadiraja and many others have made valuable contributions in bringing esoteric and complex aspects of Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas available to the common man in the form of simple compositions infused with bhakti element as devotion to the Lord. The compositions are predominantly in Kannada and set in familiar ragas. These Hari dasas were living some time between 1400-1600 AD. However, not much significant data is available on the later musicians and composers of 17th and 18th centuries and if available they are scanty.
Only when the Wodeyar dynasty assumed
power and prestige in the state of
Composers of Karnataka belonging
to 19th, 20th and 21st centuries
created compositions most often in Telugu and Sanskrit. These composers
more comfortable in creating compositions in Telugu and Sanskrit, as
the above two languages are better suited, following the pattern set by
Trinity. The influence of the Trinity is evident in these composers and
Composers who have enriched the lore of Carnatic music in the state of Mysore include Mysore Sadashiva Rao, Veena Venkatasubbaiah, Lingaraj Urs, Basavappa Sastry Tanjavur Chinnayya (one of the Tanjavur quartet), Veena Shamanna, Veena Padmanabhaiah, Veena Seshanna, Veena Subbanna, Karigiri Rao, Mysore Vasudevacharya, Bidaram Krishnappa, Giribhattara Tammaya, Nanjangud Subba Sastry, Chandrashekara Sastry,Veena Subramania Iyer, H.Muthiah Bhaghavatar, Veena Shivaramaiah, Veena Venkatagiriappa, Belakavadi Srinivasa Iyengar, Chikka Rama Rao, Mysore T.Chowdiah, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, C.Rangaiah, Chennakeshavaiah, R. N. Doreswamy, H.Yoganarasimham, Bangalore Mukund and R.Vishveshwaran. Most of their compositions are set in Telugu and Sanskrit. Of course, some of them have composed in Kannada also.
1838) from Kapistalam, Tanjavur Dt settled down in
Basavappa Sastry (1843-91) of Narasandra village,Mysore Dt was proficient in Sanskrit and Kannada. He has translated Kalidasa’s Shakuntalam, Malavikagnimitram and other plays in Kannada and also Shakespeare’s Othello in Kannada. He was given the title, “Karnataka Nataka Pitamaha” .He has composed a number of songs for his play-“Ratnavali” and “Uttara Rama Charitram”.He composed the famous state anthem “Kayo Sri Gauri”.
of the Tanjavur Quartet was born in Tanjavur Dt. He became a court
Veena Padmanabhiah (1842-1900) from Chikkanayakanahalli has composed several swarajathi, kritis, javalis and a sapta talesharam in Thodi. His kritis, “Sri Herambamide” in Nattakuranji and “Bhavayami tavapada” in Nagaswaravali with captivating chittaswaram are given as examples. Most of his compositions are either in Sanskrit or Telugu except one Javali, which is in Kannada.
Bidaram Krishnappa (1866-1931) of Udupi was a popular musician and has acted in several dramas and trained several musicians like Bangalore Nagaratnamma, T.Chowdiah, Rallapalli Anantha Krishna Sharma, BS.Raja Iyengar and others. His compositions are not many. “Amba brovave” (Dharmavati) and “Dasharathi ninnu” (Rishabhapriya) are mentioned here.
of Nanjangud was a music teacher in the
Chandrashekara Sastry (1867- ?) has composed javalis both in Kannada and Telugu.“Ye kamini bodhinchinadi” (Nattakuranji) and “Balika na pai” (Kalyani) are examples.
Veena Subramanya Iyer (1864-1919) son of Veena Shamanna is the author of the book,”Sangita Samayasara” which explains both theory and practice of music. Published in 1915 in Kannada, it is a valuable contribution to Carnatic music.
(1877-1945) of Tirunelveli was one of the great composers of the 20th
century. His compositions became well known after his moving to
son of Veena Padmanabhaiah was a
1952) of Heggada devanakote was a director of the
Srinivasa Iyengar (1888-1936)
Chikka Rama Rao (1891-1945) of Kolar Dt was a good musician. As a youngster, he acted in several plays. He has to his credit composing varnams, kritis, ragamalikas, tillanas in Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada. “Chamundike paripalisali” (Saranga) and “Kamita sadana” (Sri ragam) may be given examples of his compositions.
T. Chowdiah (1894-1967) of Tirumakuta village, was primarily a violinist and was a popular musician. His compositions include kritis and tillanas in Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada. Two of his compositions “Sri Venugopala (Kamboji) and “Devi purna mangala” (Dhanyasi) are mentioned.
Chamaraja Wodeyar (1919-1974)
was the last
ruler of the Wodeyar dynasty
N.Chennakeshavaiah (1895-1986) of Mandya Dt was a disciple of veena Shivaramaiah and Mysore Vasudevacharya. He has composed jatiswaram, varnams, kritis, ragamalikas and tillanas in Sanskrit and Kannada. He has authored books on Haridasa compositions and Ragam.Tanam. Pallavis with notations. “Bhaja manasa” (Kharaharapriya) and “Keshavardhangi” (Kalyani) are given here.
R. N.Doreswamy (1916-2002) of Rudrapatnam has composed jatiswarams, swara jathis, varnams,kritis, ragamalikas and tillanas in Sanskrit, Kannada and Telugu.Two kritis-“Gaja mukha ninage” (Shanmukhapriya) and “Sharade varade” (Saraswathi) are two kritis mentioned.
H. Yoganarasimham (1897-1971) was a student of Mysore Vasudevacharya. He has made several varnams, kritis etc both in Sanskrit, Kannada and Telugu. “Kapadade” (Gagana-mohini) and “Sada saranga nayane” (Ranjani) are two of his kritis mentioned.
R. Vishweshwaran (1931- ) born in Birur is a
musician. He became an expert veena vidwan also an expert on
was on the faculty of the
Many other composers from Karnataka state who are responsible for enriching music.They are B.Devendrappa, Narayana Iyengar, Mysore Padmanabha Rao, Tiruvaiyar Subramanya Iyer (not a contemporary of Patnam Subramanya Iyer), Anavatti Rama Rao, Titte Krishna Iyengar, SN.Mariappa, Chintalapalli Ramachandra Rao, V.Ramaratnam, HM.Vaidyalinga Bhagavatar, Bangalore Ramamurthy, Sukanya Prabhakar,TS.Satyavathi, Geeta Sitaram, Nagamani Srinath, Nagavalli Nagaraj, Vasantha Madhavi, Amba Bai, RN.Sreelatha, Harapanhalli Bhimavva and Srikanth Murthy and others.
Interestingly, composers from Tamil nadu like Neelakanta Sivan, Gopala Krishna Bharathi, Papanasam Sivan, Koteeswara Iyer, Perisami Tooran and others took upon to composing only in Tamil. With Kerala composers, they have adopted Malayalam as the medium for some of their compositions in addition to other languages also.
In Kerala also, several composers- Swati Tirunal, Iriyamman Thambi, KuttiThangachi, Parameshwara Bhagavatar, Mambazha Kavirayar, Kesavan Pillai, Lakshmanan Pillai, Trivandrum Kshirabdi Sastri, Tulasivanam etc. have used Malayalam as the medium for their creations. Of course, some of their compositions are set in other languages also.
In fact, Neelakanta Sivan was living all his life in Kerala but he composed in Tamil and a few in Sanskrit.
Amongst the composers from Andhra Pradesh,
many have used Telugu and Sanskrit for their compositions. Earlier
like the Talapakkam composers and Bhadrachala Ramadasa and others have
keerthanas most often in Telugu. Of course, we do come across compositions in Sanskrit from the
A few composers like Basavanna, Akka Mahadevi and others from Karnataka have made ‘vachanas'’ in Kannada. These cannot be termed classical compositions.
[Editor’s note: The author of this article, Sri Ashok Madhav, is also a composer of
merit. Based in