Great Masters of Indian Classical Music -4

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Muthuswamy Dikshitar:

Muthuswamy Dikshitar (1775-1835) was the famous composer of Carnatic music who wrote his songs primarily in Sanskrit. Muthuswamy Dikshitar was the youngest of the celebrated trio of composers, revered as the ‘Trinity of Carnatic music’, which also included Shyama Sastri and Thyagaraja. He contributed immensely to the repertoire of Carnatic music and composed hundreds of ‘kirtanas’. Most of his compositions are in Sanskrit, but a few of them known as ‘Manipravala compositions’ were rendered in multiple languages.

Mysore Vasudevachariar:

Mysore Vasudevachariar (1865-1961) was a renowned vocalist of the Carnatic music who has composed nearly two hundred ‘kritis’ in Sanskrit and Telugu. He composed the music for the Ramayana ballets choreographed by Rukmini Devi Arundale.

Omkar Nath Thakur:

Omkar Nath Thakur (1897-1967) was a distinguished vocalist and an eminent representative of the Gwalior Gharana. He helped in establishing the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Benaras Hindu University. He composed the music for Vande Mataram. He was honoured with titles like ‘Sangeet Samrat’, ‘Sangeet Prabhakar’ and ‘Sangeet Mahamahopadhya’.

Pandit Jasraj​:

Pandit Jasraj (b.1930) belongs to the Mewati Gharana and is one of the most popular contemporary Khayal singers. His biggest contribution to Indian music is his concept of a novel ‘jugalbandi’ based on the ancient system of ‘moorchanas’, which has been so highly acclaimed that connoisseurs of music have named it ‘Jasrangi Jugalbandi’. Pandit Jasraj has been honoured by the Harvard University Art Museum in the USA. He has set up music academies at Vancouver and New Jersey. He has received several titles and awards including Padma Vibhushan (2000), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1987), Sangeet Kala Ratna, Master Dinanath Mangeshkar Award, Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (2010).


Pannalal Ghosh:

Pannalal Ghosh (1911-1960) was a renowned flute player and composer, who pioneered the introduction of ‘gayaki’ to flute, enlarging its scope and elevating it from a simple pastoral medium to a concert instrument. He played compositions set to difficult talas and experimented with several different techniques, which were considered uncommon in flute. He created new ragas like ‘Deepavali’, ‘Jayant’, ‘Chandra-Mauli’ and ‘Nupurdhvani’. He has scored the music for several films such as ‘Anjaan’ (1941), ‘Basant’ (1942), ‘Beeswi Sadi’ (1945), ‘Aandolan’ (1951) and ‘Aandhiyan’.


Papanasam Sivan:

Papanasam Sivan (1890-1973) was a highly acclaimed vocalist of the Carnatic music renowned for his spiritual compositions. He has composed over 2000 classical songs, including many famous ‘kritis’.

Purandara Dasa:

Purandara Dasa (1480-1564) is considered as ‘the Father of Carnatic Music’, who composed thousand of songs, mostly in Kannada. He is credited with codification of the teaching of the Carnatic music. He even composed exercises in ‘note’ reproduction for the beginners, which are known as the ‘Sarali Varisai’. His teaching methods are in use even today.


Ram Narayan:

Pandit Ram Narayan (b.1927) ranks among the most eminent Sarangi players of today. He continuously experimented with the structure of Sarangi and brought about changes in the traditional bowing technique. He has recorded many long discs in India and abroad and composed songs for films like ‘Humdard’, ‘Adalat’, ‘Milan’, and ‘Gunga Jumna’, and played for ‘Adalat’, ‘Noorjehan’, ‘Mughal-eAzam’, and ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’, among others. He has received several awards such as Padma Shri (1976), Padma Bhushan (1991), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Padma Vibhushan (2005).


N. Ravikiran (b.1967) is considered as an unprecedented phenomenon in playing ‘Chitra Veena’ or ‘gottuvadhyam’. His most significant contribution to the world of music is the concept ‘Melharmony’, a novel approach to compositions – creating harmony with an emphasis on melodic rules. Ravikiran has over 500 compositions in five languages to his credit including ‘Lakshmi Prabhavam’ (1997), ‘Savitri’ (1998), ‘Cosmos’ (2000), ‘Vinayaka Vaibhavam’ (2000) and ‘In the Long White Moonlight’ (2003). Ravikiran received many awards and titles including Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Millennium Festival Award (U.K.), ‘Sangeeth Samraat’, ‘Sangeeta Choodamani’ and ‘Isai Peroli’.

Ravi Shankar:

Pandit Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) was one of the greatest exponents of sitar and perhaps one of the most popular Indian musician all over the world. He received widespread acclaim for his creativity, originality and improvisation and distinct, unorthodox style of playing sitar. He also has command over instruments like Surbahar, Been, Rabab and Sursingar. In January 1945, he composed the music score for the patriotic song, ‘Sare Jahan Se Aacha’. He has to his credit several ragas like ‘Nat Bhairav’, ‘Pancham Se Gara’, ‘Kameshwari’, ‘Parameshwari’ and ‘Ganeshwari’. Raga ‘Mohankauns’ was composed by him in honour of Mahatma Gandhi. He has composed musical scores for films like ‘Charly’, ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Apu Trilogy’. His music for the film ‘Gandhi’ won him an Oscar nomination. He is the first Indian to receive the highest award of the Berlin Film Festival, the ‘Silver Bear’, for his music in the Indian film ‘Kabuliwala’. He is also the first Indian Musician to be commissioned by the London Philharmonic to compose a Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra in 1971. His long list of awards and honours include fourteen doctorates, Padma Bhushan (1967), the Padma Vibhushan (1981), Desikottam, Ramon Magsaysay Award, two Grammys, the Fukuoka Grand Prize from Japan, the Crystal award from Davos with the title ‘Global Ambassador’, Kalidas Samman Award, Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship (1976) and the Bharat Ratna (1999). He was nominated as a Rajya Sabha member in 1986. In February 2000, he was honoured with the highest French civilian award ‘Commandeur de la legion d Honneur’.


Sabri Khan:

Sabri Khan (b.1927) is one of the most renowned Sarangi players belonging to the Senia Gharana of Rampur. He has played with the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. He has been honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.


Semmangudi R. Srinivasa Iyer:

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (1908-2003) is hailed as the ‘Sangeeta Pitamaha of the Carnatic Music’. He was one of the front line vocalists during the late 1930s. In 1947 the Music Academy of Madras awarded him with the title ‘Sangeetha Kalanidhi’. In 1939 he was made resident musician (‘Asthana Vidwan’) of the Travancore Palace in Kerala and in 1941 he joined the Swati Tirunal Music Academy in Trivandrum and later became its principal. He was referred as ‘Karaharapriya Srinivasa Iyer’ for his brilliant exposition of the ‘karaharapriya’ raga. He is a recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, Isai Perarignar and the Sangeet Natak Academi Award (1953).

Shivkumar Sharma:

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (b. 1938) is undoubtedly the most accomplished exponent of Santoor. His ingenious, imaginative and innovative zest has transformed Santoor, the little-known Kashmiri folk instrument, into a full-fledged solo concert instrument in the Indian classical music. His first solo album was recorded in 1960. He teamed up with flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and Brij Bhushan Kabra to produce a concept album, ‘Call of the Valley’ (1967) which became a great hit. He composed the music for V. Shantaram’s film ‘Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje’ (1965) and also for several other hit Hindi films such as ‘Silsila’ (1980), ‘Faasle’ (1985), ‘Chandni’ (1989), ‘Lamhe’ (1991) and ‘Darr’ (1993). He is a recipient of several honours and awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1986), Padma Shri (1991) and Padma Vibhushan (2001).


Siddheswari Devi:

Siddheswari Devi (1903-1977) was the inheritor of great musical traditions from a family, which produced several famous singers like Kamaleswari Devi, Maina Devi, Rajeswari Devi and Vidyadhari Devi. Siddheswari’s vast repertoire included a large number of khayals, thumris, dadras, tappas, ‘kajaris’, ‘chaitis’ and bhajans. She has been honoured with the Presidential Award in 1966 and the title of “Desikottama” from the Visva-Bharati University.

Subbarama Dikshitar:

Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906) was an immediate scion and successor of the great composer Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar. Subbarama Dikshitar produced several kritis, varnas, ‘svarajatis’ and ‘ragamalikas’. His book ‘Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini’ comprises seventy six biographies of persons noteworthy in the history of music from the times of Sarangadeva.

L. Subramaniam:

Dr. L. Subramaniam (b.1947) is one of the leading violinists of India, who is widely acclaimed and recognized all over the world. He was a featured soloist in “All the World’s Violins” held in Belgium along with Sir Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli. His album ‘Global Fusion’ (1999) received widespread critical acclaim. He founded the Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival. Dr. Subramanium has scored the music for movies like ‘Salaam Bombay’ (1988) and ‘Mississipi Masala’ (1991), besides featuring as a soloist in the films ‘Little Buddha’ (1993) and ‘Cotton Mary’ (1999). He was the music advisor for Peter Brook’s historic stage production of the ‘Mahabharata’. He is a recipient of Padma Shri (1988) and Padma Bhushan (2001).

Shyama Sastri:

Shyama Sastri (1762-1827) was the senior-most among the famous Trinity of the Carnatic music. Sastri is believed to have created about three hundred pieces in all, fifty in Telugu, and fifteen in Sanskrit and five in Tamil among others. Shyama Sastri’s ‘kritis’ are renowned for their dictional charm and structural beauty.


Thyagaraja (1767-1847) is hailed as ‘the King of Carnatic Music’. Thyagaraja was a profound scholar and poet, considered as the inventor of ‘Sangatis’ and many other creative ideas in rhythm. The five ‘Pancharatna Kritis’ set in the Ragams ‘Nattai’, ‘Goulai’, ‘Arabhi’, ‘Varali’ and ‘Sree’ are rated as Thyagaraja’s most famous compositions. He also composed ‘utsava sampradaya keertanas’ and ‘divya nama sankeertanas’ which are sung in devotional congregations. He is also credited with the creation of two operas: ‘Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam’ and ‘Nauka charitram’. The Thyagaraja Festival is held annually in his honour.


Tansen (1506-1589 A.D.), born as ‘Ramtanu’, learnt classical music from Swami Haridas of Brindavan. He later joined the court of Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior and enhanced the dhrupad style of singing. Seeing his musical genius Emperor Akbar made him one of the Nine Jewels of his court in 1552 A.D. and conferred on him the title of ‘Tansen’ (meaning the ‘King of Melody’). Tansen composed many new ragas, such as ‘Darbari Kanada’, ‘Darbari Todi’, ‘Miyan Ki Todi’, ‘Miya ki Malhar’ and ‘Miya ki Sarang’, and laid down the foundations of the North Indian classical music.


U. Shrinivas:

Upalappu Shrinivas (b.1969) was the first to use mandolin in the Carnatic music. Having begun playing when he was only six years old, U.Shrinivas has often been compared to some of the world’s greatest prodigies. He produced an album called ‘Dreams’ with the Canadian guitarist Michael Brooks and also collaborated with John McLaughlin. His jazz-fusion concerts with the famous violinist L. Subramaniam brought him great laurels. He is a recipient of several honours and awards including Padma Shri (1998) and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2010).

V. Doreswamy Iyengar:

Doreswamy Iyengar (1920-1997) was a shining star in the galaxy of famous ‘vainikas’ of Mysore. He gave his first major performance in 1943 at the Bangalore Gayana Samaja. He was associated with the ‘All India Radio’, Bangalore, where he produced a memorable series on the post-Thyagaraja composers of Karnataka. He was bestowed with several awards including Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1971), Padma Bhushan (1983), Sangeetha Kalanidhi (1985) and Chowdaiah Memorial Award (1985).

V.G. Jog:

Vishnu Govind Jog (1922-2004) was one of the foremost exponents of violin in the Hindustani music. His style owes much to the Gwalior, Agra and Bakhley Gharanas, being groomed by some of the finest musicians of India, like Baba Allauddin Khan and Pandit S.N.Ratanjankar. He was associated with All India Radio (AIR), Kolkata and the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata. He was a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1981) and the Padma Bhushan (1982).


Vilayat Khan:

Ustad Vilayat Khan (1928-2004) was the scion of the ‘Etawah Gharana’ whose stalwarts trace their lineage to the legendary Tansen. He was one of most renowned sitarists of India, whose unique contribution to the Indian classical music was his introduction of a new style of sitar playing, now called ‘Vilayatkhani baaj’. He composed music for Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Jalsaghar’ (1958) and Merchant-Ivory’s ‘The Guru’ (1969). He refused the Padma Shri (1964), Padma Bhushan (1968), Padma Vibhushan (2000) and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award but accepted the “Aftab-e-Sitar” from the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.


T.H. Vinayakram:

T.H.Vinayakram (b.1942), affectionately known as ‘Vikku’, is renowned for his beautiful drumming on the Ghatam. Vinayakram was a child prodigy who first became known in the West in the mid-1970s as a member of the group ‘Shakti’, which comprised of violinist L. Shankar, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and the jazz guitarist John McLaughlin. He captivated international audiences by the extraordinary speed and precision of his duets with Ustad Zakir Hussain. He is the first South Indian artist to ever receive a Grammy Award in 1991 for the Best World Music Album for his participation in Mickey Hart’s ‘Planet Drum’ in which he played Ghatam and ‘Morsingh’.

Vishnu Digambar Paluskar:

“Sangeet Bhaskar” Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931) is the composer of ‘Ramdhun’ – “Raghupati Raghav Rajaram”. He also set the song ‘Vande Materam’ to tune and sang it for the first time in the Congress session at Lahore. In 1901, he founded the ‘Gandharva Mahavidyalaya’ in Lahore, the first music school to be run by public funds, and in 1908 he set up its branch at Bombay.

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande:

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936) made an immense contribution to the Indian classical music. His noteworthy achievement was the concept of the ten ‘thaats’ or basic parent scales from which ragas are derived. He brought out a large number of publications in Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi and English including ‘Abhinavaragamanjari’, ‘Lakshya Sangeetam’, ‘Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati’, ‘Swaramalika’, ‘A Short Historical Survey of Music’ and ‘Philosophy of Music’. Owing to his close association with the India Music Conferences he is often referred as the “Father of Music Conferences”.

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah:

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887) was a great patron of music, dance, drama, and poetry and was himself a gifted composer, and a proficient Kathak dancer. Although his pen name was “Qaisar”, he often used the pseudonym “Akhtarpiya” for his numerous compositions. He wrote over forty works, poems, prose and Thumris under this pen name. His ‘Diwan-i-Akhtar’ and ‘Husn-i-Akhtar’ contain his collection of ghazals. He is said to have composed many new ragas and named them ‘Jogi’, ‘Juhi’ and ‘ShahPasand’.

Zakir Hussain:

Ustad Zakir Hussain (b. 1951), the reigning king of tabla players, has taken tabla playing to newer heights by rediscovering the subtle nuances of this instrument, along with his unique ability to communicate with his audience. He has made several historic collaborations, including ‘Shakti’, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar, ‘Remember Shakti’, the ‘Diga Rhythm Band’, ‘Making Music’, ‘Planet Drum’ with Mickey Hart, ‘Tabla Beat Science’ and ‘Sangam’ with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland. His album ‘Golden Strings of the Sarode’, with Aashish Khan was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Traditional World Music Album category in 2006. During the 51st Grammy Awards ceremony held in 2009, Zakir Hussain won the Grammy for his collaborative album ‘Global Drum Project’. He has scored music for several films like ‘Heat and Dust’, ‘In Custody’, ‘A Perfect Murder’, ‘The Little Buddha’, ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer’. He is a recipient of several honours and awards including Padma Shri (1988), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1991) and Padma Bhushan (2002).


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