Who’s who in Classical Music
By V Ramnarayan
Namagiripettai K Krishnan (1924-2001) was among the first nagaswaram vidwans to achieve stardom after the era of TN Rajaratnam Pillai and Karukurichi Arunachalam. Born as the eldest of ten children in Salem in a family with no great musical pretensions, owed his career in music to his father’s efforts to give him the best nagaswaram exposure. Kaathaswami Pillai initiated his son Krishnan into Nayanam with a small nagaswaram, and trained him step by step in the Sankarachari padikattu. His grandfather Chinnappa Mudaliar gave him vocal training and groomed him for the concert platform in nagaswaram.
Though Krishnan was ready to perform at the age of 14, his father sent him to Arupukotai Ganesan for training in residence for a further four years.
At a congregation of young nagaswaram talent film director K Subrahmanyam convened at Chennai, Krishnan impressed an elite gathering of musicians and music lovers with his rendering of Kalyani raga alapana and the kriti Vasudevayani with niraval and kalpana swara for half an hour. Both raga and kriti were to become his life-long favourites, with a TNR composition Sivaguruparaney another important Kalyani piece in his repertoire. Abhogi, Andolika, Hindolam, Kalyanavasantam, Keeravani, Mohanam, Shanmukhapriya, Tarangini and Todi were other ragas he enjoyed playing. He was also partial to Bharatiyar and Bharatidasan lyrics.
Krishnan adopted TNR as his manasika guru, and developed his own individual style marked by its smooth melodic flow, proportion and judicious concert planning. He soon became a popular vidwan nationally recognised. He was a regular on radio and TV besides providing the background score in many films.
A lover of perfumes, Krishnan was an avid follower of cricket who witnessed India’s World Cup triumph in 1983, as he happened to be in the UK at the time, and rushed from a BBC interview to Lord’s to watch the final.
By all accounts a lovely human being, Krishnan was an advocate of due recognition for tavil vidwans and responsible in some measure for the percussionists receiving titles like Isai Perarignar and even Sangita Kalanidhi.
Krishnan was convinced that nagaswaram was the correct name of his instrument, citing numerous proofs for that from literature and history.
Krishnan travelled extensively in India and abroad with his music during a career that lasted nearly six decades. Decorated with many awards including Tamil Nadu’s Kalaimamani, he was an Asthana vidwan of the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam.
Krishnan’s successful concert career came to a premature end in November 1993 owing to poor health. His last concert appearance was at an event to felicitate music director Ilayaraja.