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To her long list of achievements, including being the 2024 recipient of the Panchakshari Gavai Rashtreeya Prashasti from the Karnataka Government, vocalist Nagamani Srinath can now add author. On her 74th birthday, which falls on April 7, Nagamani will release her autobiography, Antaraalada Alaapane (Song of the Soul).

Published by the Jnana Deepika Educational Trust in Bengaluru, the book recounts the first part of her musical journey. “I still can’t believe I wrote a book! I never thought I would compile my musical experiences. I am indebted to my well-wishers who insisted I put them together for posterity’s sake,” says Nagamani.

Vocalist Nagamani Srinath’s autobiography
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Born in Jodi Gubbi village in Hassan district to Sanskrit and Kannada school teachers GN Narayana and Venkatalakshamma, Nagamani was sent to Mysore to continue her music studies when she was just seven years old. “My mother had observed me singing from the age of five and was determined that I take lessons when my voice was still malleable. Arekere Narayana Rao was my first guru, and in two years, he had me take the stage at the Trimurthi Jayanthi Utsava in Mysore when one of the performers could not make it,” she recollects.

That set the ball rolling for Nagamani and soon, she was singing alongside leading artistes of the early 1960s such as Violin Mahadevappa, Mridanga VS Rajagopal and Ghata MA Krishnamurthy. Word got around and before long, she was performing in and around Mysore, Mandya, Madikeri, Bengaluru and parts of North Karnataka. When she graduated with music as one of her subjects, she bagged a Central Government Scholarship to study music in Chennai.

The 20-year-old became the disciple of yesteryear doyen Ramnad Krishnan. “Every day was a new experience as the contours of my learning expanded and I saw all my lessons in a newer light and fresher perspectives. For my post graduate diploma in music at Central College of Carnatic Music it was not only my guru Ramnad Krishnan, but also stalwarts such as TN Krishnan, Palghat KV Narayanaswamy, TM Tyagarajan and Paroor Anantharaman, who were part of the visiting faculty, who mentored me. I was also fortunate to receive advanced lessons from DK Jayaraman, Veena R Visweshwaran and Gowrie Kuppuswamy.”

Vocalist Nagamani Srinath

Vocalist Nagamani Srinath
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Lessons and inspirations

While violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman instilled the value of sadhane (practice) to help her voice maintain precision, Nagamani’s muse was ML Vasanthakumari, who had by then, noticed Nagamani. However, she says the words of Ramnad Krishnan are what she lives by: The intricacies of rendition are what makes them classical.

“My guru believed that the pursuit of formula and tradition in following the idioms of classical music should not be a stifling of progression. Your inventive abilities are in adapting to modern requisites,” she says.

Nagamani not only performed at concerts, but also produced albums that were both prolific and pedagogical. She has tuned hundreds of dasara padas, as well as composed 200 pieces with varna, kriti and tillana that are now used in music and dance platforms. “What I consider my best contribution towards disseminating Carnatic music is the Gurukula Series — an audio-visual production of over 500 hours of music for students to use as a learning tool. Available on YouTube and as DVDs, the 20-year process has been a labour of love for me,” says Nagamani. 

Vocalist Nagamani Srinath

Vocalist Nagamani Srinath
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Amongst the most notable awards to her credit are the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Karnataka Rajyothsava Award, Chandana National Award, Karnataka Ganakala Bhushana, Academy of Music’s Chowdiah National award, Gayana Samaja’s Gana Kalashri and the Best Teacher Award from the Karnataka Government.

“All those I revere in the Carnatic world including MLV, Lalgudi Balamurali Krishna and Ramnad Krishnan told me that a good musician is one who takes music forward to students. I was often reminded that whoever cannot teach well was not a good musician. Among the large numbers I have trained, nearly a hundred are performers today in many parts of the globe,” she says.

At the launch of Antaraalada Alapane, Nagamani’s students will take to the stage, to start off the function.

(Antaraalada Alaapane will be released on April 7, 10am, at Babburkamme Seva Samithi, 17, Seshadri Road, Gandhi Nagar. Call 98451 19995 for details)  

Vocalist Nagamani Srinath

Vocalist Nagamani Srinath
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

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