Divine KVN

Let’s get into a time machine and alight a little before 4 decades
Period 1974. Location Topaz Hostel, REC, Trichy.
2 guys who hardly knew each other were playing a game they hardly knew .
That was KNV (as he was popularly referred to) and me playing a game of Chess. From nowhere I started hearing a great Saveri raagam wafting in and soon figured out that the source was KNV. His Saveri was much better than the brand of chess he played.. I remember the conversation which went like
ME: Hey, that was great saveri
KNV: Being the son of an illustrious father, It shouln’t be too surprising that I could hum Saveri.
ME: Who is your father?
KNV: Palghat KV Narayanaswamy
ME: Palghat who?
KNV used to sing KJ Jesudas songs (Adhisaya Raagam, Deivam Thandha veedu etc)a few of SPB’s like Nanda En Nila in Madhuvanthi and one of Manna De’s all time great songs in Ahir BHairav (Poocho na kaise) all of semi-classical genre and occasionally KVN’s Vandemataram in various cultural programmes and walk away with prizes. Only one thing we figured out in campus was my favourite singer GNB was his pet peeve!
My direct association with KVN mama started when I met him in his Gurukkal Colony house in Mandaveli 1983 as a SPICMCAY coordinator to arrange Lec-dems in Blore. In under 10 mins he arranged the the flg outstanding concerts, within my meagre budget.
Concert-1 : KVN, MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IIMB
Concert-2 : N.Ramani,, MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IIMB.
Concert-3 :MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IIMB
Concert-4 : KVN, MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IISc.
Some of the points KVN mentioned in 1983, are still operating as maxims of Carnatic Music:
1. KVN,s music is known for its sruti shuddam and tala perfection. When enquired as to why he carries a tampura as well as a sruti box, he said , the A/C halls wont maintain the same sruti through out the concert. So he will fall back on sruti box mid way to realign the tampura sruti again.
2. KVN was a great advocate of Introducing the Jeeva Swaram asap in raga alaapanai, however long or short the alaapanai be. He was of the opinion that the listener should not be left guessing what Raagam the singer is singing or attempting!
3. He used to quote his guru Ariyyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar often in lec-dem and one of them stood out…” At the end of a Raga Alaapanai, the Raagam must stand out and not the singer!”
4. Vichu talked about how a Ada Tala Bhairavi varnam like Viribhoni would set the tempo for a concert. KVN recalled his guru Ariyakudi telling “ Varnam , adhu innum Varanum!.”
5. KVN constantly believed in offering variety to the Rasikas in terms of Raagam and also Thalam. No successive kritis will be set to the same taal.
6. At the magnificent new IIM campus at Bilekehalli on the Bannerghatta Road., he treated us to a brilliant evening of Bhairavi. Varnam, Bala gopala, RTP, Sindhubhairavi and the thukkada songs. I think it was janmashtami day then.
7. While he performed at the IISc, he sang a unique thodi RTP, during which he utilized the services of Mridangist, that indomitable Trichur Narendran, while singing Thanam, He explained to the stunned audience that this wsa an old practice of the Trivandrum palace. Palace, It was so good and different, I feel somebody can reintroduce the idea. Wonder, if any trade-mark or Royalty (pun un-intended) issues would be there!
8. KVN very strongly believed in giving very good music to all class of people and he said they’ll lap it up. He was not for watering down classical music pristinity, blaming the rasaikas for it.
9. KVN acted in a couple (or one) of movies. He didn’t continue his acting career, Owing to societal perceptions of cinema or the acute brahminical upbnging.
On a poignant note, KVN had 2 huge regrets in life and mentioned them at every available opportunity. One was an incredulously silly one (like all great men having a constant child in them) – He really missed speaking English.
The other regret of his, a really profound one worthy of his musical stature was his inability to teach his only son Carnatic music traditionally, His Master’s Way.


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