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Melodious journey

Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana completed 60 years of dedicated service to music. The maestro's rich talent and contribution to Carnatic music remains unparalleled in the State.


MUSIC TO THE EARS: Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana. - Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

DRAWING INSPIRATION from his mother who used to sing Ramadas and Thyagaraja kritulu, etc, in her own fashion, Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana decided to make classical music his career. Having donned the role of child Krishna on the stage at ten, Nookala came in contact with what he calls `stage music', an influence of Hindustani music from Pune on the music scene in Andhra Pradesh.

A brilliant student, he was deeply influenced by the concert of the granddaughter of Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu.

"We hail from Palakollu in West Godavari and since nobody was available to train me in music there, I wanted to go to Vijayawada or Vizianagaram for training. During one Sriramanavami celebration, Akkajirao, a veena player, gave a concert in our village. I decided to make him my guru, got hold of his address and set off to Vijayawada with just one rupee on me. I reached the house of Mangalampalli Pattabhiramayya, father of Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, to pursue music. I depended on `Vaaralu' for food," he reminisces.

"It took me four years to learn about 70 varnas (the number has now come to a maximum of 20). I learnt music for over 15 years from different maestros. I learnt varnas and kritis from other musicians too. In contrast, it takes about three-and-a-half years for the certificate course today. So, the students now do not get to learn anything perfectly or in detail. And, the quality suffers," he says.

"Attaining swaragnanam should be every student's aim - i.e. to identify the different swaras with the notes. If one goes systematically, he will be able to learn it. If the students apply this knowledge in studies too, they will certainly shine, as knowledge of music helps one identify and remember other things well," he says.

With a repertoire spanning 60 years to his credit, Nookala started giving performances after two years of learning. He learnt violin too under the Dwaram family and later Dr. Pinakapani, by mere observation of the finger movement at the concerts of violin maestros. He worked as teacher, lecturer, professor and principal in different music colleges in the State. He was a top-class artiste on the AIR and the Doordarshan. He conducted workshops, lecture demonstrations and classes in universities abroad. He was the recipient of the prestigious `Mahamahopadhaya' award by Akhila Bharata Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal in Delhi.

Nookala was all praise for his disciples. "They possess qualities like perseverance and involvement - essential for learning music. Some are more talented than I. Practice, dedication, concentration - all these are necessary to excel in music. Unfortunately, there are many illiterate musicians around now," he says.

On the standard of music colleges today, "We are only elevating the general standard of understanding music by increasing the number of listeners. Just like every engineering college cannot produce a Visweswarayya, all music colleges cannot bring out a Deekshitar, a Syamasastry or a Thyagaraja," he says.

"Dedication, brilliance, patience - today's students have it all. But, they are all job-oriented and want to go abroad to earn well. And, `if you have a good voice, try your luck in films, why waste your time and energy in classical music?' seems to be the attitude. I can understand if students cannot spare enough time for music, or give it importance over academics, in today's racy world. Even if he does, where is the guarantee that he can get a job or become a frontline musician, affording comfortable living," questions Nookala.

On the western and other influences on Indian music, Nookala says, "It is good to some extent but may prove fatal beyond a point. Our music was always influenced by light, folk and stage music in the form of Yenki paatalu, etc. Classical music won't suit this genre. So, the Carnatic strain came very late to Andhra. People like Susarla Dakshina Murty and Rajalu Venkata Ramaiah strived to promote classical music here. Some musicians adopted the gurukula style of teaching. But, even to enjoy Carnatic music, one needs cultivation. Popular playback singers speak as if they do not like Carnatic music. All this has a negative influence."

On the music appreciation/ criticism scene here: "the critic has to understand the music in order to appreciate or criticise it. In comparison with the critics in Tamil Nadu, the critics in Andhra Pradesh are certainly lagging behind. The reviews are not up to the mark. Some critics listen to just three/ four kritis and base their opinion on that. There are others who do not attend the concert and call up later to find out what we sang during the recital," says Nookala.

"However, there is a renaissance in classical music now as the awareness is on the rise. Youngsters too are showing interest - I have about 40, 50 students at present. If this trend continues, then the music scene in Andhra is going to be good in future," he says, before signing off on a happy note.

Nookala has also written books like Ragalakshana Sangraham about 250 Carnatic ragas, 70-80 Hindustani ragas and 40-50 English scales, A Monograph on Pancharatnas - a commentary on music, syllabus (till varnas) for music colleges in Telugu and English, and a book on the compositions by Deekshitar. His latest book titled Thyagaraja Saraswata Sarvaswam was inaugurated recently.

SHANTI NANISETTI

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