Shivamogga Subbanna is well-known, among Kannadigas and across the country in general, for his bountiful contribution to sugama sangeetha(light music). He is also the first Kannadiga to win a National Award; his song ‘Kadu Kudure Odi Bandita’ is still sung widely. Apart from being a musician, he is also an advocate.
To celebrate his 80th birthday and to felicitate the singer for his endless contribution to the industry, Karnataka Sugama Sangeetha Parishat, Bengaluru, is hosting an event on December 30 at Kuvempu Sabhangana.
In a tête-à-tête with Metrolife, Subbana spoke about the uniqueness of light music and his memories of composing music back in the 1970s.
Tell us about your musical journey...
I started singing and composing music when I was 30 years old. So, it has been almost 50 years since I came to this industry.
Music has always been an integral part of my life. Being an advocate, I saw it as a way of relaxation.
Who is your inspiration?
Kuvempu is my inspiration. His ‘Aanandamaya Ee Jagahrudaya’ is my all-time favourite.
How did you get the name ‘Shivmogga Subbanna’?
My former name was G Subrahmanya. Back then, there was a lot of confusion regarding my name; sometimes people would mistake me for S P Balasubrahmanyam and vice versa.
To clear the confusion, poet N S Lakshminarayan Bhat gave me the name ‘Shivmogga Subbanna’.
What is so unique about sugama sangeetha?
Usually, music takes precedence over lyrics in a song. But it is different in light music — music is just a vehicle to explain the real meaning of the poem to listeners. In fact, Kuvempu once told me that he liked my composition as I did not disturb the meaning of his poems. This art form was earlier known as ‘Kavya Gayana’ (poem recital). It was later named sugama sangeetha as it involved no complicated music patterns.
Do you think sugama sangeetha has a future?
Sugama sangeetha has never lost its charm. It is the pride of Karnataka. It enhances creativity of those who practice it.
Who has made their mark in light music?
‘Aanandamaya Ee Jagahrudaya’, ‘Baarisu Kannada Dindimava’, ‘Elladaru Iru Enthadaru Iru’, ‘ Kadu Kudure’, and ‘Kodagana Koli Nungitha’ are some of my favourites. Mysore Ananthaswamy and C Ashwath are among my most liked composers.
How do you compose music for a poem?
It was much simpler earlier since all we needed was a harmonium. I read the entire poem and understand what message the poet is trying to put across. Later, I choose a raga that flows along with the poem. ‘Bhagyashree’ is my favourite raga. The divinity in it comforts me.
A career in music is easy today due to social media and technology. How was it back then?
A career in music was indeed a challenge back then. As the Kannada saying goes, ‘Hottege Hittilladiddaru Juttige Mallige Hoovu’(there is no food to eat but jasmine adorns the crown). Music was a luxury for us; we were not encouraged or given the right platform. However, the advent of social media has also increased the competition in the field.
Has your family always supported you?
There is always a woman behind a successful man. I am here today because of the constant support of my wife of 50 years. She is also a great lover of music.
‘Anandamaya Ee Jagadhrudaya’, ‘Baarisu Kannada Dindimava’, ‘ Chinthe Ethake Gelathi ‘, ‘Modalu Maanavanaagu’, ’Alabeda Thangi Alabeda’, ‘ Kodagana Koli Nungitha’ are a few of his compositions.