Karnataka-focused music Parishat marks 50th year

Musician and president of the Karnataka Ganakala Parishat on organising a 16-day music event
Last Updated 30 January 2020, 15:00 IST

Carnatic vocalist RK Padmanabha grew up in Rudrapatna. “There were many musicians in my village and right from my childhood, I took an interest in the art form,” he says. He adds by the time he was born, these musicians were long gone, but still credits the “quality of the soil” for his samskara.

By the age of 25, he shifted to Bengaluru for work. “I joined the State Bank of India in 1970 and I started music lessons in 1974. I gave my first concert in 1975,” he says. Today he is one of the top performers in the state.

“People think only the elite should listen to classical music, but I don’t accept that at all. Music is for everyone,” he says. Padmanabha also disputes the sentiment that people don’t like classical music; he points out that many popular film songs use raga oriented lyrics.

He also sees music as not just entertainment but as something that cleanses the mind and keeps one joyful and energetic. “Music unites us, irrespective of our differences. It belongs to everyone,” he says.

His aim is to make people understand the benefits of music. “I want to see a day when a doctor will prescribe a raga as a remedy for a headache,” he explains.

Apart from being a musician and performer, he is also a teacher. He teaches two categories of classes.

One is a ‘goshti gayana’ (group singing) class, where 99 per cent of the students are women. Apart from learning a host of classical compositions, the class is a healing process and a social gathering where they can escape their daily lives, he says, adding that it’s also a way to spread carnatic music. “When a woman learns music, she will sing it when she’s at home. Her children or grandchildren will inevitably hear it and will get interested. It’s like that saying: if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation,” he says.

Every three months, he and his students gather at a kalabhavan he has built near IIMB to spend time together and sing ‘goshti gayana’. “I’ve been doing this since 1984 and have taught thousands of women,” he says.

The other category of students are ones who have an aptitude for performance. He teaches them at his residence in JP Nagar. “I thoroughly vet the students before taking them under my wing, I want to make sure my time is not wasted. But I don’t take money for teaching them as I don’t want to create a connection between money and knowledge,” he explains.

He is currently consumed by the golden jubilee celebrations of the Karnataka Ganakala Parishat, of which he is the president.

The Parishat was formed in December 1969 with the intention of projecting the local talent and make music more than just concerts and performances. “In 1970, the managing committee at the time wanted an event that would promote music as a subject of study. They chose a veteran musician to preside over it. I took over as the president of the organisation in 2004 and am now organising the 50th conference,” he says.

The grand 16-day event, that begins on February 1, has been two years in the making.

The appeal for patrons and well-wishers to come forward and donate was printed all the way back in October 2018. Apart from costs, he says that giving a form that would be informative and interesting, was the most challenging aspect of the event. He expects around 1,500 to 2,000 people to attend the conference every day.

When asked if organising, teaching and performing continuously is tiring, he says that he derives his joy from music and anything related to it. “Music has given me so much and now I have an answer if anyone asks me what I have given back to music,” he concludes.

The conference will take place from February 1 to 16, from 9.30 am to 9 pm, at the Pathi Auditorium, NR Colony. Entry is free. For more information call 94485 74894

Music as a profession

Curiously Padmanabha does not advocate for music as a profession; in fact, he is vehemently against it.

He always insists that his students be well qualified and employeed. He explains that living in Bengaluru is an expensive affair and being in the art field is not enough to sustain a livelihood. “Not everyone can become MS Subbulakshmi, we should think practically. Besides, performing for a livelihood would mean that your focus shifts from the quality of music to the amount of money you can make” he says.

“Concerts should not be chosen on the basis of how much money they offer, but on the basis of your love and passion. This is not always possible when music is your profession,” he concludes.


The Parishat confers the title of Ganakalabhushana every year to a veteran musician and the title of Ganakalashree to a young musician.

This year there will also be a general felicitation of 50 vidwans, where they give the Ganakalasuvarna to mark the golden jubilee celebrations.

The Ganakalabhushana will be awarded to the Mysore Brothers Nagaraj and Manjunath (above). The Ganakalashree will be conferred upon Guruprasanna and Giridhara Udupa.

Programme structure

The conference will see the participation of over 400 artistes.

Between 9 am and 10 am, there will be a ‘gaana yagna’. Padmanabha describes this as a dharmic practice of offering the ‘gaana devathas’ food through music.

Then between 10 am and 11 am everyday, seven musicians are honoured.

Then from 11.15 am to 1.30 pm expert sessions including lecture demonstrations and question-answer sessions will take place.

From 3 pm the concert session starts. It is divided into four chunks, one between 3 pm and 4 pm, the next between 4.15 pm and 6.15 pm, then from 4.15 pm to 6.15 pm and finally from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm.


The estimated cost of the 16 day festival is Rs 2.5 crore and while many well-wishers have contributed, Padmanabha says that they are still struggling. “I too have put in Rs 2 lakh, but I think it’s completely worth it.”

Six books to be launched at the event

The Parishat is launching six books at the inauguration of the conference. The first is about science and music. The next is a Kannada translation of a book on music written by a king in Tanjore in the 18th century. The third is a collection of 18 articles by different scholars about classical music.

Another is a book explaining a musical written by the 15th century Kannada poet Nijaguna Shivayogi. The fifth book is one that lists all the Ganakalabhushana winners, and a little bit about them. Lastly, they are publishing a small booklet regarding acoustics. This is to guide venues and organisers for providing artistes with better sound setup.

“We don’t expect any profit out of the books. Even if someone pays me Rs 10, I will give them the books. My aim is to spread knowledge,” Padmanabha says.

Free Food

Along with free entry to the conference, the Parishat will be providing breakfast, lunch, coffee/tea and dinner for everyone attending. “I know people will come for the free food, and I welcome all of them with open arms. Even if they catch five minutes of a performance or expert session, I believe it will create an interest in them towards music.”

(Published 30 January 2020, 14:55 IST)

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