Legends
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Nedunuri Krishnamoorthy
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.

Nedunuri Krishnamoorthy
being felicitated by
Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna
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 to you"

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 music.

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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