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Music reviews

Western harmonies with Veena ensemble

Maestro in concert
Dr Chitti Babu
Sagar Music

He was a child prodigy, who made his debut concert at the age of 12. He has broadcast extensively on All India Radio. He first learnt from Appalachariar and later was a prime disciple of Emani Sankara Sastry.

Mysore Maharaja is said to spontaneously present a necklace to him that had the pendant of the state emblem of Eagle embedded with rubies, diamonds and other precious stones form his neck after reporedly listening to his explanations of the kriti ‘Nee chithamu’ by Tyagaraja in the raga Vijayavasantham. Chitti Babu was the recipient of numerous titles and awards. He was given the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by Government of India in 1990. He was awarded Kalaimamani title in 1972-73. One day in the 2008 Music season of Madras Music Academy was dedicated to Chitti Babu.

He is best remembered for composing and playing lovely Western-style harmonies with his veena ensemble. His short, lively ditties, in albums such as Wedding Bells became so popular on radio and elevators and hotel lounges, that they overshadowed his virtuosity as a classical artiste. Purists were not always happy with his gimmickry, but his mastery over the instrument was undeniable. In this 2-CD album, you get to hear some of his stylish classical renderings. In CD 1 the tracks include ‘Sarasiruhasana’ (Puliyar Doraiswamy Iyer), ‘Vandanamu’ and ‘Nadaloludai’ (both by Tyagaraja), ‘Apaduruku’ (Pattabhi Ramaiah) and a Meera bhajan. CD 2 begins with ‘Ragam tanam pallavi’ in Kalyani raga, adi tala followed by ‘Tillana’. Two other tracks include ‘Govindamiha’ in Bagesri raga, adi tala (Narayana Teertha).

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