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On a bhakti mission

RANJANI GOVIND

Vidyabhushana is synonymous with Daasara padagalu. It's no less than a life mission for him

Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

COMMITTED Vidyabhushana: `Without neglecting the grammar of classical music, I take up Dasa sahitya as full-length compositions'.

Be it the pada "Namamma Sharade" from his first Dasara Padagalu recording, his "Bhajeham Kumaram" a Sanskrit devotion containing 5,000-year-old puranic thoughts or his 100th cassette "Tanu Ninnadu, Jivana Nannadu," the Haridasa compositions expert Vidyabhushana of Kukke Subramanya has been showered with an overwhelming response. It's not only the musical value of his renditions that has earned him praise, but also his chaste diction that has had scholars thronging him. Says Vidyabhushana: "Shastras, vedas and traditional Indian culture were a major component in my childhood at Subramanya. My father Govindacharya used to teach Carnatic Shastriya Sangeetha at the temple premises and was actively involved in temple management. I am thankful to him for installing both intellectual and the fine arts passion in me to a large extent. I came under the guidance of B.V. Narayana Aithala in Udupi and for advanced lessons I went to R.K. Srikantan where I went through rigorous training of the compositions of the trimurthis. Later T.V. Gopalakrishnan's (vocalist and mridangist) influence saw me gain further hold on the nuances with ease."

With a background of Sanskrit, a melodious voice and his insights into the teachings of Haridasas, Vidyabhushana has tread his path with no great hurry. In a musical span of less than 15 years, he is perhaps among the few Carnatic musicians today to have nearly 200 cassettes and CDs to his credit. But this Sangeetha Vidya Nidhi of 1994 is rather embarrassed with the popularity. "It's God's grace. I have a zeal to propagate Haridasa Sahitya and it's not just my recordings which are going to matter. The activities in my institution Bhakthi Bharati Prathistana brings in senior musicians, scholars and musicologists to participate in Haridasa Sammelanas, lecture demonstrations, workshops and concerts throughout the State. We have printed literature on Haridasa kritis to help people gain more inroads into the dasa culture." The Pratisthana also has music classes for the young enthusiasts at his residence Udgeetha in Banashankari.

Bhakthi and bhajan have ruled his concert patterns too. In his love for Haridasa sahitya, his concerts get an hour for raga and swara prasthara, and the rest is for Daasara Padas. "I am swarmed by people who ask for padas. So without neglecting the grammar of raga, neraval, and swara, I take up dasa sahitya with a fervour that brings in a bhakthi bhava which I consider is the paramount feature of my music. This is what I call Karnataka Sangeetha Sahitya Bhakthi that I want to popularise in the State. Even when I go abroad, most of my audiences are Kannadigas and I feel immensely proud," says Vidyabhushana.

Kannada experiences are fine, but the scholar's Sanskrit diction had German nationals coming to him for recording his renderings. Eric, a harmonium player from Frankfurt had gone all over the country looking for him.

And when he did finally get in touch, Eric waxed eloquent about the appeal of dasa sahitya. The other German who heard Vidyabhushana's renderings of Lakshmi Narasimha, made it a point to stay with him, understand, record and eventually vowed to propagate.

"He was struck by the fact that Narasimha got me the first two lines of the sahitya for me in a dream for the Bilahari kriti "Bhavayeham Sri Narasimham, Deva Devam Bhava Taarakam Udaaram" which is recorded in the Narasimha series.

"I beleive in entertainment through bhakthi. Just as music, japa-tapa and aahara neyama are part of my melodic dharma," says Vidyabhushana.

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