Annual event an ode to doyen of Carnatic music

Annual event an ode to doyen of Carnatic music

Vocalist R K Srikantan was decorated with more than 50 national and state awards, including the Padma Bhushan

The Vidwan R K Srikantan Trust is organising the Annual Sankranti Music Festival from January 14 to 23 this year. While the festival is usually a four-day event, this year marks two milestone occasions and calls for special celebrations, says Rudrapatnam S Ramakanth, managing trustee of the organisation.

“2020 marks the 25th year of the trust and is also the birth centenary of my father, Rudrapatna Krishnashastri Srikantan, in whose name it has been established,” he says.

Trust to honour musicians, pandits

Ramakanth says that he got the idea to set up the trust in 1995, the year his accomplished father turned 75. “When he turned 75, he was felicitated by his disciples, well-wishers and relatives in a grand function at Chowdiah Memorial Hall. He was also given a purse of Rs 1.5 lakhs.”

“After we came back home, I mooted the idea to my father of establishing a trust in his name. He immediately agreed. I did the preliminary work and got it registered quite soon and the first edition of the Sankranti festival took place in that year itself,” he recollects.

This year, the trust is felicitating veteran violinist Sangeetha Kalanidhi Dr M Chandrasekaran (82). “He accompanied my father on the violin for about 60 years. When he started playing for him in 1954, he was in fact Master Chandrashekaran, a small boy,” laughs Ramakanth.

The violinist, who is visually challenged, will be conferred the title of ‘Srikanta Shankara’. 

Sharing the title along with him is Krishnamurthy Sastrigal, a vedic pandit who is an expert in the vedas and Advaita (non-dualistic) philosophy.

The award includes a purse of Rs 50,000, a shawl and a memento. It will be conferred during a mega event which will see performances by 40 artistes. The event is free for all and lunch or dinner will be served to the audience each day.

Ramakanth says that the trust runs on funds by donors who are banks, wealthy people and corporates. “We express our gratitude by printing their names in the invitation,” he explains.

The event usually attracts crowds ranging between 500-1,000 in number, though Ramakanth points out that “hardly ten per cent will be really interested in Carnatic music. And youngsters are lesser in number.”

Extraordinary musician, exemplary teacher

R K Srikantan was born in 1920 in Mysore. He went to Sadvidya Pathashala and Banumaiah High School and later completed his BA from Maharaja College, Mysore. He joined All India Radio in 1946.

“It was a small establishment at that time and it was called ‘Akashvani’. He established himself there as a able music producer and teacher quite quickly,” says Ramakanth, adding that the family moved to Bengaluru when AIR was shifted here in 1954.

R K Srikantan used to conduct music classes, titled ‘Ganavihara’  over radio from 7.30 am onwards. “People from all over South India would listen to it. So he had many disciples who did not take lessons from him  personally but learnt music composition from him through these on-air classes,” reminisces Ramakanth fondly.

He goes on to inform us that his father started performing at the age of 13 and went on to give concerts all over India and abroad during his long and illustrious career. “I think perhaps he is the only musician who performed for 83 years,” he says, adding that his father was a soft-spoken person who never spoke ill of anyone.

As is the case with musical geniuses, Srikantan was immersed in his music most of the time, disconnected and unbothered with what went on in the world outside or even in his house.

“He got a wonderful wife in my mother, R K Maithreyamma. She used to take care of all the domestic responsibilties,” says Ramakanth. 

Though Srikantan was unbothered about awards, they came in search of him. In droves. A few of his awards are:

Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the Government of India in 1979.

State Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the Government of Karnataka in 1981.

Sangeetha Kalanidhi Title from the Madras Music Academy in 1995.

Kanaka-Purandara Award by the Government of Karnataka.

Padma Bhushan Award by Government of India in 2011.

Sangeet Natak Akademi Tagore Ratna in 2012.

Like father, like son

Ramakanth started singing with his father in 1972 and continued to do so for 45 years, juggling college and work for this. 

“I was studying MSc Botany in Dharwad. Since my father would mostly schedule performances on Saturday and Sunday, I  used to leave Dharwad on Friday, sing at the concert, go back on Sunday and then go to college the next day,” he says.

He later went on to become a lecturer in biology and retired in 2007 after 30 years of service. Even in those years, he continued to perform with his father regularly. “I performed with him till 2014; he sung at a concert just a week before his death,” says Ramakanth, who, after retirement, is into music full-time.

Ramakanth is the eldest and has a brother and five sisters, one of whom is the extremely popular ‘Sugama Sangeetha’ singer Rathnamala Prakash. “My other sisters too sing very well but they didn’t take it up professionally,” he says.

Catch the event

The 25th Annual Sankranti Music Festival, organised by Vidwan R K Srikantan Trust in association with Academy of Music, Ministry of Culture, Govt of India and Department of Kannada and Culture, Govt of Karnataka, will be held from January 14 to 23, at Chowdiah Memorial Hall and Seva Sadan, Malleswaram. 

Performing artistes for inaugural function include Lakshmi Gopala Swamy and Ranjani and Gayatri at Chowdiah Memorial Hall on January 14.

Other days will see performances by artistes such as K Shanti Rao and M S Sheela on January 15; G Ravikiran and T S Satyavathi on January 16; B K Ananthram and R A Ramamani on January 17; Vaishnavi Ramdas, Suma Sudheendra, Dr Aravind and Manasa Nayana on January 18; R K Shankar, Dr Sridhar, C Ramdas and K Vageesh on January 19; Chandanbala Kalyan, R N Tyagarajan, R N Taranathan and R K Sriramkumar on January 20; Uma Money and Vidyabhushana on January 21, Tumkur Mohankumar, Shashikiran and  Ganesh on January 22; Vijayalalitha Ramesh Vemuri and Vishnudev Namboodari on January 23. The programmes will be held in Seva Sadan and will begin from 5 pm on weekdays and from 9.30 am on weekends.

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