By T.M. Sivaraman
In one of his concerts, Lalgudi Jayaraman, accompanying
him on the violin, refused to respond with his own
violin alapana after Nedunuri Krishnamoorthy
had sung a soulful and imaginative Kapi alapana.
After the concert, when Nedunuri asked him the reason
for his refusal to play Kapi alapana, Lalgudi astounded
him by saying, "Nedunuri Sir, what is left
for me to respond after you had exhausted all the
possible manodharma in your own alapana? It is impossible
for me to give any comparable response." Not
only that, he called the Sabha secretary and told
him that Nedunuri was truly a great musician.
|In yet another of his concerts, the
legendary M.S. Subbulakshmi was among the audience.
After hearing Nedunuri's "Nannatu batuku natakamu
" in Revathi, she remarked, "for
this one raga exposition, Nedunurigaru, you deserve
the "Sangeeta Kalanidhi" title. If Annamachary
were alive, he would have shed emotional tears hearing
you sing his composition." Nedunuri again felt
elated but humbled at the praise coming from one
of the immortal legends of Carnatic music. He was
quite humility personified, when he replied, "Amma,
I don't deserve such high praise from you. For,
you are the one who has done yeomen service to popularize
his krithis. It is only your own greatness that
makes you appreciate my music. I am truly grateful
What more can a lay rasika like me add to such encomiums
from two of the legends of Carnatic music. Yet,
in my own humble way, I will try to pay my tribute
to the great musician, who is now 80 years old.
He has been singing at the Music Academy for over
50 years, only taking short breaks due to health
reasons. And, every one of his concerts have drawn
huge audience, held in captivity by his creativity,
bhava, sense of rhythm and ability to strike an
emotional chord with listeners.
Born in a very poor family of an Andhra brahmin,
he is the youngest of eight children. He had to
struggle in his childhood due to poverty. He was
endowed with great singing skills and was able to
grasp any bhajan or keertan in a jiffy and reproduce
the same flawlessly. His listeners, even at his
young age, were captivated with his voice and singing
skills. Probably he had inherited these from his
mother, who used to sing Ashtapathis and Adhyatma
Ramayana krithis with a great deal of religious
fervour in a melodious voice.
He had the thirst for knowledge and wanted to study
and learn a great deal .But his father told him
that he could learn anything if it was available
free. So he learned Hindi and Sanskrit, since these
were taught free. And hearing him sing the Ashtapathis,
local vidwans Appa Rao and Kalluri Venugopal Roa
adopted him and taught him to sing varnams, Ashtapathis
and Tarangams. They also encouraged him to hold
singing sessions at their homes. At one such session,
Appala Narasimhan, the Tahsildar of Vizianagaram,
was present and was totally enthralled by his singing
prowess. He instantly agreed to enroll Nedunuri
in Maharaja College, Vizianagaram, where another
Sangeeta Kalanidhi Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu was
the principal and his nephew Dwaram Narsingh Rao,
a violinist in his own right, was among the teaching
staff. In spite of possessing a melodious voice,
Nedunuri wanted to learn violin, fascinated by the
sounds of violin. But he was persuaded by Narsingh
Rao to concentrate on vocal music, since he had
an extraordinary voice. Nedunuri took his suggestion
and started learning vocal music.
Though Appala Narasimhan, his mentor who enrolled
him in the music college, was paying his educational,
boarding, lodging, tution and other expenses, Nedunuri
had to subsist on the princely sum of rupee one
per month that his father was able to give him.
He could only get half a cup of coffee for a month
with this and had, therefore, to endure great privation
for his other needs. But somehow, he managed to
survive with the determination to learn Carnatic
As years passed by, he was out of the music college
and on his own. He used to seek the local sabhas
for chances to exhibit his skills. Since he was
raw, sabhas gave him very few chances.
He used to attend concerts of senior vidwans .On
one such occasion at Saraswathi Gana Sabha in Kakinada
where a Flute Mali concert was cancelled at the
last minute, someone in the sabha suggested that
Nedunuri, present in the audience, be asked to sing
to placate the audience, which was turning restless.
And so he sang. The audience was captivated by his
singing and the concert was a huge success. He had
arrived in the Carnatic scene as a great artiste!.
There was no looking back for Nedunuri since then.
His singing skills were further polished and refined
under the tutelage of eminent musician and musicologist
Dr. Sripada Pinakapani, who adopted him as his protege.
The number of concerts increased and he was much
sought after by sabhas in Andhra and Tamil Nadu.
His name and fame spread rapidly and he became a
musical icon in his own right.
He held various prestigious faculty positions in
music colleges and music institutions. He worked
as Principal of S.V. College of Music and Dance,
Tirupati; M.R. Government College of Music and Dance,
Vizianagaram; Government College of Music and Dance,
Secunderabad; and retired as Principal of G.V.R
Government College of Music and Dance, Vijayawada
in 1985. He was Dean of Faculty of the Fine Arts
and Chairman of Board of Studies in Music of Sri
Venkateswara University and Nagarjuna University.
Prestigious awards and titles followed him. Krishnagana
Sabha conferred the title "Sangeeta Choodamani"
on him in 1976. Music Academy awarded "Sangeeta
Kalanidhi" to him in 1991.He was appointed
as the Asthana Vidwan for Tirumala Tirupati Dewasthanam
and the Kanchi Kamakoti Peedam.
What characterizes Nedunuri's music?
His music is characterized by a mellifluous voice,
expressive and original alapanas, creative sangatis
and neravals, an absolute sense of rhythm in his
swara prastharams and, above all, emotional bhava
that touches the listners hearts with bhakti
rasa. He has also mastered the clear diction and
pronunciation of not only his native Telugu krithis,
but also Tamil krithis, particularly of Papanasam
Sivan. Hearing him sing Tamil krithis, one would
not say that he hails from Andhra. So much so, renowned
music critic Subbudu once asked, "has Carnatic
Tamil isai migrated to Andhra? He is from Andhra,
but his Tamil diction is impeccable and flawless."
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