Voleti Venkateswarulu – Legend 3 – Compiled by Sashi Kulkarni & T.V. Ramprasadh

Voleti Venkateswarulu (1928-89)

Resource Person :Sashi Kulkarni
Content Review : TV Ramprasadh (www.tvramprasadh.com)
Biography courtesy: Ashok Madhav(www.carnaticcorner.com)
Voleti Venkateswarulu was a musician of extraordinary caliber with much imagination. Wherever he performed, he used to draw a knowledgeable audience with him.
He was born in 1928 in Rajamundry, Andhra Pradesh. He had his formal training in music from C. Achutaramaiah and Munuganti Venkatarao Pantulu. He polished his music with the veteran musician, Dr. Sripada Pinakapani. He was fond of Hindustani music also and therefore he sang many Hindustani ragas at the end of his concerts – either as shlokas or bhajans . He graduated with a degree in music from Andhra University.
He worked at the All India Radio, Vijayawada as the Program Producer and he brought in some innovative programs. Bhakti Ranjani and Sangitasikshana were his creations and they were very popular with listeners.
In his concerts, he mostly sang kritis of Tyagaraja, one or two compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Sastri, Patnam Subramania Iyer and Tanjavur Ponnaiah Pillai. He sang javalis also. Kshetrayya padams and Narayana Theertha Tharangams would find a place in his concert repertoire. His raga alapanas, rendering kritis showed his style and creative imagination. Dr. Sripada Pinakapani had remarked that he was impressed by Voleti’s musical knowledge and called him a genius. He further added that Voleti was one of the best musicians Andhra Pradesh has produced.
He was fond of singing ragas like Begada, Varali, Ranjani, Hamsanandi, Hindolam and Pantuvarali. Of course, he did not exclude singing ragas like Todi, Kharaharapriya, Kalyani and Purvikalyani. Before he sang a kriti in Purvikalyani he would be elaborating panchamavarja raga alapana for Purvikalyani, which was interesting. The sancharas were clear and precise.
He never practiced for his concert. Before his concert he would be in a contemplative mood and would not talk much at all. Before the Sangita Sikshana program on the AIR, he would be humming or doing alapana in Hindustani ragas at the studios. However, as soon as the program or the song was announced on the radio he would quickly switch to the typical Carnatic style of singing. Such was his facility in changing from one style to another.

In many of his concerts he was accompanied on the violin either by Lalgudi Jayaraman or M.S.Gopalakrishnan. More often, Vellore Ramabhadran, Karaikudi Mani and Dandamudi Rama Mohan Rao were his accompanists on mrudangam. He was particularly happy with their accompaniment.
Among Venkateswaralu’s pastimes, going to movies had high priority. It is said of him that he could invariably be found in a movie house if he was not busy singing in a concert!

Voleti had only a few disciples like M.V.Ramanamurthy, N.C.V.Jagannatha Charyulu Malladi Suri Babu and Srirangam Gopalaratnam. Malladi Suri Babu was associated with Voleti for a long time at the AIR, Vijayawada and had consequently imbibe Voleti’s style of singing.

Voleti was a simple man and he was breathing music 24 hours of the day. He did not care for honours and accolades and neither did he seek them.

Kulkarni Uvaacha…….
In an era when Carnatic Music stars looked more like a well equipped technology experts (with their arsenal of tool bags, guide books, how to do manuals, road maps, step by step procedures….), here was a maestro who floated effortlessly, like an eagle gliding on thermal after thermal, with least visible effort ………., it looked so natural.
There is a saying that when civilization is at its happiest, all the citizens will communicate with each other in verse.

Voleti’s singing was like that ‘nightingale hidden among the branches of the tree, proclaiming that all is well with world – by singing for himself.’

So here is a representative set that ranges from lightest of an Annamyya song to a hard-boiled classic like Sankalpame.

Given the fact that South India has played host to both Carnatic and Hindustani Music for quite some time now, it is strange to see artists from both streams performing in cocooned existence – however elite the individual cocoons may be.
In recent times, the ease of access to music, has started drawing in listeners to forms they were not used to.
Some decades ago, a diehard Hindusthani rasika would not bother to pause at a local radio station that was featuring something that went tha da rinana or say Sree Venkatesa Gireesham. Conversely, a Carnatic Music rasika would have little patience with a 60 minute exploration of a single raga – even if it was Yaman.
In this period, one Carnatic Music vocalist dared to imbibe a great deal from the Hindusthani Music stream and used that a gilt edge for his outpourings. A famous photograph of Voleti practicing shows photo frames of both, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ariyakudi as the backdrop. That pretty much sums up the quality of his music.
It was left to the likes of Lalgudi Jayaraman and Balachander to keep telling Chennai audiences that there was this guy in Andhra who could do wonders.
In a typical railway journey one can notice two kinds of passengers. One who occupy their seat, find security in it, and get up only at the destination. The other one, who fidget within an hour of start of journey, move around a great deal, risk standing near the door for that fine gush of fresh air, pick up a friendly chat with ticket examiner, share a chocolate with a charming kid nearby….and do a hundred other things before their destination arrives .

Voleti’s music recordings are a bit like this.

Here is a sample set.

One will find a Sombre Dikshithar piece here.
Gajaananayutham – Vegavauhini – Dikshithar
Mahaasuram – Chaamaram – Dikshithar
The pained outpourings of Thyaagaraja are here too.
Ninne Namminaanura – Panthuvaraali – Thyaagaraaja
The dulcet compositions of likes of Pattabhiramayya, Dharmapuri Subbarayar (an iconic Enthati Kuluke), Maathru Bhoothiah and Ponniah Pillai.
ChaarumathiUpachaaram – Kaanada – Pattabhiraamayya
Enthati Kuluke – Kalyaani – Dharmapuri Subbaraayar
Neemadhi Challaga – Aanandha Bhairavi – Maathru bhoothiah
Amba Sowramba – Arabhi – Ponniah Pillai
The fresh scented work of Muthiah Bhaagavathar, songs which always get the blood racing in our veins 
Ambavaani – Keeravaani – Muthiah Bhaagavathar
Serious songs like Shambho Mahadeva and Sankalpame handled with highest care that is demanded by classical Carnatic Music.
Shambho Mahadeva – Pantuvaraali – Thyaagaraaja
Sankalpame – Karaharapriya – Patnam Subramanya Iyer
And also a ghazalish rendering of Annamayya – Nagavulu.
Nagavulu Nijamani – Yadukulakamboji – Annamacharya
And another gem of an Annamayya piece
Akati Velala – Revathi – Annamacharya
And an imploring Yaare Rangana.
Yaare Rangana – Hindholam – Purandharadhaasa
He makes it sound and look so easy

Paramapaavana – Ranjani – Meesu Krishna Iyer

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