Voleti Venkateswarulu (1928-89)

Voleti Venkateswarulu was a musician of extraordinary caliber with much imagination. Wherever he performed, he used to draw a knowledgeable audience with him.

He was born in 1928 in Rajamundry, Andra Pradesh. He had his formal training in music from C. Achutaramaiah and Munuganti Venkatarao Pantulu. He polished his music with the veteran musician, Dr Sripada Pinakapani. He was fond of Hindustani music also and therefore he sang many Hindustani ragas at the end of his concerts - either as shlokas or bhajans . He graduated with a degree in music from Andhra University.

He worked in the All India Radio, Vijayawada as the Program Producer and he brought in some innovative programs. Bhakti ranjani and Sangita sikshana were his creations and they were very popular with listeners.

In his concerts, he mostly sang kritis of Tyagaraja, one or two compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Sastri, Patnam Subramania Iyer and Tanjavur Ponnaiah Pillai. He sang javalis also. Kshetrayya padams and Narayana teertha tarangams would find a place in his concert repertoire. His raga alapanas, rendering kritis showed his style and creative imagination. Dr Sripada Pinakapani had remarked that he was impressed by Voletiís musical knowledge and called him a genius. He further added that Voleti was one of the best musicians Andhra Pradesh has produced. Among the senior musicians he had high regard for include Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan. Their pictures adorned the living room of his home in Vijayawada.

He was fond of singing ragas like Begada, Varali, Ranjani, Hamsanandi, Hindolam and Pantuvarali. Of course, he did not exclude singing ragas like Todi, Kharaharapriya, Kalyani and Purvikalyani. Before he sang a kriti in Purvikalyani he would be elaborating panchama varja raga alapana for Purvikalyani, which was interesting. .The sancharas were clear and precise.

He never practiced for his concert. Before his concert he would be in a contemplative mood and would not talk much at all. Before the Sangita Sikshana program on the AIR, he would be humming or doing alapana in Hindustani ragas at the studios. However, as soon as the program or the song was announced on the radio he would quickly switch to the typical Carnatic style of singing. Such was his facility in changing from one style to another.

In many of his concerts he was accompanied on the violin either by Lalgudi Jayaraman or M.S.Gopalakrishnan. More often Vellore Ramabhadran, Karaikudi Mani and Dandamudi Rama Mohan Rao were his accompanists on mrudangam. He was particularly happy with their accompaniment.

Among Venkateswaraluís pastimes, going to movies had high priority. It is said of him that he could invariably be found in a movie house if he was not busy singing in a concert!

Voleti had only a few disciples like M.V.Ramanamurthy, N.C.V.Jagannatha Charyulu Malladi Suri Babu, Srirangam Gopalaratnam. Malladi Suri Babu was associated with Voleti for a long time at the AIR, Vijayawada and consequently has imbibed Voletiís style of singing.

Voleti was a simple man and he was breathing music 24 hours of the day. He did not care for honours and accolades and neither did he seek them.

Written by Ashok Madhav