Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao : The Impersonal Classicist

Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa RaoWith the growth of styles and of personal interpretations, the ideal of pata integrity has suffered eclipse. This is a major factor which has contributed to the decline in the quality of classicism in contemporary cutcheri music. In this situation, the contribution of the “impersonal” classicist Srinivasa Rao, who swears by strict pata discipline assumes extraordinary merit and significance. He serves heroically by swimming against the current”-NMN, “The Hindu” Dt.2-111990.

Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao's exposition of Classical music is steeped in the purest tradition. His command over techniques of Raga Vistara, Svaraprastara, Neraval and Pallavi singing is highly impressive and indeed excellent. Doyen of Music was well known for his purity of Style, Raga Bhava, Patanthara Suddham and wide repertoire. His expansive raga delineations in Kalyani, Yadukulakambodi, Bhairavi, Kedargowla, Sahana and Dwijavanti were not only rich and scholarly, it won the hearts of Titans in Karnatak Music. Rao had mellifluous voice and his shruti suddham was the connoisers delight.

Srinivasa Rao was born on 21-08-1918 , at Penukonda, Anatapur Dt.,Andhrapradesh to S.Narayana Rao(Advocate) and Smt.S.Ganga Bai, both belonging to Dasakoota parampara . His ancestors were natives of Srirangapatna, Mysore . Rao did BA and BL and practiced Law for a brief period. His wife Smt.S.Saraswathi gave him total support to him to realize the potential. He has five sons and one daughter. He attained Lord's feet on 25-01-1994 .

Great Maestro's like Dwaram Venkataswamy Nadu, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyyengar, Musiri Subramani Iyer, G.N.Balasubramaniam and Semmengudi Srinivasa Iyer paid encomiums and opined:

  • He exhibited rare perseverance and devotion in learning.
  • He is Idealist, who expounds emphatically and they bear a fine outlook and musical thinking.
  • His repertoire is quite big.
  • One can easily guage great passion in his music.
  • He teaches the students with a gusto and he endeared himself to the students.
  • He is profound musician of Karnataka Music, equally at home in the theory as well as practice of music.
  • He is one of the most talented and extremely well qualified musician in the field of Karnatak Music.
  • He has specialized in Mudduswami Dikshita kritis and his repertoire may be described as a golden treasury of the great composers works. His mastery of the compositions of Haridasas, Thyagaraja, Shyama Sastri, Kshetragna and Bhadrachala Ramadoss are equally comprehensive and authentic.

Srinivasa Rao started performing at the age of 12 and has performed for well over Six decades, all over India . A few excerpts of reviews of his concerts by Subbudu(Indian Express), NMN and RV(The Hindu), Music critics of Times of India and Hindusthan Times read :

  • To those who complain about the absence of a second line in Karnatak Music, Srinivasa Rao, a fitting answer.
  • Rao retains his clear vision relating to what is authentically classical. It is transperantly classical. Whatever aspects of music he touches, quality carries the eternal flavor of carnatic classicism.
  • Uncompromising traditionalist with a clear prescription of classical prescriptive aesthetics of refined quality that determines the traditional color of Carnatic music.
  • Rao is among the few Karnatak Musicians who do not sacrifice quality for quanitity. Without an eye on applause or a desire to play to the gallery, presents brilliant exposition of ragas.
  • His recital was majestic and moving, a model of how ragas should be imbibed and exhibited. He emphasized the simplicity of the renderings, be it raga or svaram, as the secret of appeal in Music.

Srinivasa Rao received initial training from Pallavi Pakka Hanumanthachar, Tirupathi Rangacharyulu, Chilamathur Ramaiah. He received advance training from Great Maestros like Tiger Varadachar, Maharajapuram Viswantha Iyer, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu and Mysore Vasudevachar. Rao also received special training from T.L.Venkatarama Iyer(Mudduswami Dikshita kritis), C.S.Iyer(Shyama Shastri kritis), Vijayakrishna(kshetragna padams) and Tanjore Ponniah Pillai ( Pallavi and rare compositions)

Rao served with distinction, AIR, Madras and Vijayawada – 1944-1947 and 1954-1964 in various capacities, including Emiritus Producer. His introduction of Bhakthi Ranjani programme, became trail blazer. Trained by him, the Karnataka Vadya Vrinda programmes playing Trinity compositions, Thyagaraja's Nowka Charitram and Prhlada Bhakthi Vijayam music operas, raga darshana and sangita sikshna programes , were immensely popular. He was widely acclaimed for his stewardship as Principal of prestigious institutions like Central College of Kanatak Music and Teacher's College of Music of Music Academy , both at Chennai, in the years 1964-1978 and 1978-1980. He was selected for the most coveted post of National Professor of Karnatak Music(For the First Time) by the Centre's HRD Ministry, but due to his sudden demise, the appointment order had to be cancelled. He served various governing bodies like Experts committee of Music Academy , UGC grants committee, Sangeeth Natak Academy , audition committee of AIR as member and Chairman. Rao also served as Special Officer, Dasa Sahitya and Annmacharya Projects of T.T.D. and set to tune several compositions of rare merit. His lecture demonstrations on various aspects of Karnatak Music and it's practice were well received and acclaimed.

Srinivasa Rao received many honors and titles during his illustrious career and some of the presitigious are Sangita Natak Academy award, Sangita Kala Acharya, Sangita Kala Ratna, Swar Vilas and Doctor of letters, Honoris cause, Asthana Vidwan of TTD.

Srinivasa Rao had the rare privilege of teaching special compositions to Great Maestros like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyyengar, Semmengudi Srinivasa Iyer, M.S.Subbulakshmi, M.L.Vasanthakumari, M.Balamuralikrishna, S.Ramanathan, Radha & Jayalakshmi, Trichur Ramachandran, R.Vedavalli, Sugandha Kalamegam, Prapancham Sitaram. His prominent disciples are his Sons and disciples Madhvamuni Rao and Poornapragna Rao, Smt.Arundhati Circar and Shashank.

Srinivasa Rao's music was quintessential amalgam of his various Gurus Rich music and he was hailed as an institution by himself to uphold the true ideals and values of Classical Karnatak Music. Indeed, he was Nada Yogi.

S.Madhva Muni Rao,
Son & Desciple of SSRao,
170/C, 3 rd E Cross street , 3 rd Stage, 2 nd Block,
Basaveshwarnagar, Bangalore-560 079
Tel:080-23229151. Mobile :98453 36203.


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