End in sight for row over State anthem tune

End in sight for row over State anthem tune

Mysore Ananthaswamy

A long-drawn battle over the state anthem is about to end, with a committee recommending abandoning of the current tune and switching to an older one composed by Mysore Ananthaswamy. The government is set to make a formal announcement soon.  

Admirers of two of Karnataka’s most famous sugama sangeeta composers, Mysore Ananthaswamy and C Ashwath, have been at loggerheads for 18 years over whose tune should be official.

Jaya Bharata jananiya tanujaate, a rousing poem by Kuvempu, was chosen as Karnataka’s official anthem in 2003. SM Krishna was the chief minister then.

Popular across the state

A committee led by the well-known poet G S Shivarudrappa recommended, for singing at official and school events, the tune composed by Mysore Ananthaswamy. It was an endorsement of a tune already popular across the state.

Set to a brisk beat, it had already been recorded several times in the voice of Ananthaswamy and was performed extensively on the concert stage, as also on radio and television. Ananthaswamy died in 1995, when he was 58. His tune was elevated to the status of naada geete (state anthem) eight years later.

Ashwath was upset that his tune had not made it, and in official circles, the length of the song had become a point of contention. It was too long at four minutes, especially since it called for elderly governors and ministers to stand while it was sung.

A second committee in 2006, led by composer Vasanth Kanakapur and later by poet Channaveera Kanavi, was set up to arbitrate on which lines to leave out. In the poem, Kuvempu mentions saint-philosophers Shankaracharya and Ramanujacharya but not Madhwacharya, and while a dispute over the tune raged, the government had to deal simultaneously with a clamour for his inclusion.

Sidelined

Ananthaswamy’s tune was sidelined under odd circumstances, with the government claiming it had lost the files containing the committee’s recommendations. Another tune, composed by C Ashwath, was introduced in its place. Ashwath’s tune has been in vogue at official events.

A majority of singers and poets interviewed by this paper in 2018 threw their weight behind Ananthaswamy’s tune, and said he had been a victim, albeit posthumously, of intrigue and manipulation.

Poet Doddarange Gowda, a member of the first committee, time and time again reiterated its preference for Ananthaswamy’s tune. The committee had considered four tunes before zeroing in on this one.

Recommendation is unanimous, says panel chief HR Leelavathi

A fresh 17-member committee, led by singer-composer H R Leelavathi and comprising distinguished musicians and poets, met earlier this month and unanimously recommended switching to Ananthaswamy’s tune.

It has also defined the time in which Jaya Bharata jananiya tanujaate is to be sung: two minutes and 30 seconds.

“Everybody in the panel has endorsed the tune. Ananthaswamy was the first to come up with a tune in the ‘60s and we feel this is the right way to honour him,” committee chairperson Leelavathi told DH.

The recommendation comes as a big relief to Ananthaswamy’s family, which has been petitioning the government for years.

“A committee comprising stalwarts and legends of sugama sangeeta has unanimously voted for Mysore Ananthaswamy’s tune and that says it all. It will be a huge shame and disappointment if the committee’s decision is once again dishonoured because of extraneous pressure,” says Sunitha Ananthaswamy, singer and daughter of the composer. 

She also dismisses the Ashwath camp’s suggestion that Ananthaswamy had composed a tune only for two of the verses, and not all. “Many singers have directly learnt all the charanas from my father. He chose to record only a few verses that beautifully described the essence of Karnataka,” she says.

Kuvempu, revered as poet-laureate, had heard Ananthaswamy sing the shorter version on several occasions, and had expressed no reservations at all, she told DH.

 

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