Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sri Neyyattinkara Vasudevan

Sri Neyyattinkara Vasudevan

Neyyattinkara Vasudevan (1940-2008) was a leading Carnatic vocalist from Kerala. He belongs to Neyyattinkara , a township south of Thiruvananthapuram.

Vasudevan born in humble surroundings and after finishing his high school studies, his ardent love towards Carnatic music prompted him to join the Swathi Thirunal Music College at Thiruvananthapuram. He passed Ganabhushanam in 1960 and Sangeetha Vidwan in 1962 with colours. His skills were honed in the College by a bunch of reputed musicians under the leadership of the illustrious Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer. Later Vasudevan imbibed the esoteric subtleties from a rigorous training meted out by Ramnad Krishnan in Chennai. Vasudevan's career graph soared upwards with his arrival to Tripunithura to serve as Assistant Professor in RLV College of music there. This hoary royal town has ever provided a fecund soil for any aspiring musician to bloom and Vasudevan was no exception. With his charming disposition and a positive approach to his chosen vocation, he became immensely popular. In 1974, he joined the All India Radio, Trivandrum as 'A Grade' Staff artist in Vocal Music from where he retired in 2000. The AIR honoured him with 'A Top Rank' - the highest rank in Carnatic Classical Music. He has been to American countries and Canada in 1983, 1984 and 1994 respectively for giving public performances and for imparting music to music lovers. He has also given public performances in Abudhabi, Dubai, and Muscat during his tour in 1992.

Sri Vasudevan died on May 13, 2008.

Albums and Recordings

The A.V.M Studios has released a cassette of Swathi Thirunal Krithis sung by Vasudevan. The C.B.S has produced two cassette volumes, sung by him, containing Krithis of different composers. The HMV & Manorama Music have also produced a volume of krithis rendered by him. For the film "Swathi Thirunal", Sri.Vasudevan served as consultant for music aspects. He has also sung in films (Classical Music only) such as "ENIPADIKAL (1968)", "SWATHI THIRUNAL (1987)", "CHITHRAM (1988)", "VACHANAM (1990)" & "MAZHA (2000)".

He has recorded a music album Classical Encounters with his diciple Sreevalsan J Menon

Rendition Style

His strict adherence to tradition and yet innovating within it, unique style of raga elaboration, inimitable style of rendering rakthi ragas, rendering of compositions in appropriate tempo, compact swaraprasthara and above all his capacity to build up a rapport with the accompanying artists as well as his listeners brought him encomiums even in a place like Chennai where the audiences are fastidious by nature. When he secured the prize for the best sub-junior vocalist in 1971, at the Music Academy, roaring reviews had appeared in the leading newspapers. Vasudevan's gift for voice modulations and flourishes are always enviable. He comes out always with a clean diction and his format during a concert is evenly distributed among our Sahajavaggeyakaras. He has taken a lot of pains in popularising, Swathi Thirunal compositions throughout the country and abroad.


Vasudevan is blessed with a number of disciples in South India and U.S.A. Some of the performing musicians who are his disciples include M.G.Sreekumar, Sreevalsan J.Menon, Late Thripunithura Lalitha, Mukhathala Sivaji, Alleppey Sreekumar, Suresh.K.Nair, Vellayani Ashok Kumar, Narayanan Nair etc.

Honours and Awards

Vasudevan has been given the Indian President's Award in the A.I.R. Music competition in 1960. He has been given music concerts regularly in Madras Music Academy ever since 1972. He has been given awards for Best Vocalist in the years 1972, 1978, 1982 and 1988 by the same institution. In 1993 he was given award for Best Musician in Raga rendering.

He has been giving public performances throughout India and abroad. Almost all top ranking violinists and mridangists have accompanied him in his concerts. He has also been featured in the National Programme of Music and Radio Sangeetha Sammelan concerts. The Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award was given to him in the year 1982 and the prestigious Sangeetha Nataka Academy Fellowship in 1989. He received the Tulasivanam Award of Kerala in 1992. The title "Asthana Vidwan" was conferred on him in 1984 by the Sri. Venkateswara Temple Trust, Pittsburgh, U.S.A. The Govt. of India's Sangeeth Natak Academy, National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama honoured him with the Academy award for Carnatic Music in 2000. The prestigious Padmasree came in search of him in 2004 and the Swathi Puraskaram in 2006/7 by Kerala State Government.

More news on late Sri Neyyattinkara Vasudevan

He studied at the Swathi Thirunal Music collage and served as a professor of music there. His music is a combination of tradition and innovation. He has contributed in a big way to popularize Swathi compositions both as a teacher and a performer.

Hailing from Neyyattinkara, to the south of Thiruvananthapuram district, he studied in the Swati Tirunal College of Music here. The Carnatic music world realised his immense potential during his initial days of performance itself. Here was a singer in the truly classical mould who was not afraid of innovations. This twin quality made him acceptable to both the traditionalists and the innovators. To the delight of both, he soon took the Carnatic music world by storm. His concerts were eagerly awaited in the music circuits of Kerala. The sheer brilliance of his rendering made him acceptable to even the most exclusive institutions engaged in the promotion of exquisite music and brilliant singers.

He has succeeded in grooming up a group of talented young singers who are expected to do him proud in the coming days.

A jury headed by Sangeetha Nataka Akademi chairman Murali selected Mr. Vasudevan for the Swathipurasakaram award.

Musicians Remesh Narayanan and B. Arundhati and Sree Swathi Tirunal College of Music Principal Rajalakshmi were the members of the jury.

Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer, Ustad Bismilla Khan, D.K. Pattammal, K.V. Narayanswami, T.N. Krishnan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Kalamandalam Sankaran Embranthiri, Mavelikara R. Prabhakara Varma and Umayalpuram Sivaraman are the past winners of the award.

He was 68 and is survived by wife and two sons, according to his family sources. Contributing in a big way to popularise Swathi compositions, his music is a combination of tradition and innovation. Neyyattinkara Vasudevan was so popular for his charming disposition.

Vasudevan was born in 1940 in humble surroundings at Neyyattinkara near here. After finishing his high school studies, he joined the Swathi Thirunal Music College at Thiruvananthapuram because of his ardent love for Carnatic music.

He was recognised as ''Ganabhushanam'' in 1960 and ''Sangeetha Vidwan'' in 1962. Vasudevan had served as Assistant Professor in RLV College of music at Tripunithura. In 1974, he joined All India Radio (AIR), Thiruvananthapuram as an 'A Grade' artist. He retired in the year 2000.

Vasudevan was honoured with many awards, including the Padmasree in 2004 and the Swathi Puraskaram in 2007.

He was also awarded the Sangeeth Natak Academy for Carnatic Music in 2000 and the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award in 1982. He was also awarded the Sangeetha Nataka Academy Fellowship in 1989.

From The Hindu when he was selected for the Swati Puraskaram

Extraordinary musician and teacher: Neyyattinkara Vasudevan.

Neyyattinkara Vasudevan, who has been selected for the Swati Puraskaram, has renewed, refined and enriched the musical tradition he inherited from the great masters of Carnatic music.

His unlimited generosity as a guru has enhanced the lives of his disciples.

Ask mridangam maestro Umayalpuram Sivaraman about his favourite Carnatic musician from Kerala, and he would reply quickly: “Neyyattinkara Vasudevan.”

The master percussionist once told the audience at a concert in Mumbai: “If you want to be treated to the music of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Ramnad Krishnan and M. D. Ramanathan simultaneously, listen to Neyyattinkara Vasudevan.”

The maestro from Neyyattinkara, near Thiruvananthapuram, has renewed, refined and enriched the musical tradition he inherited from the great masters of Carnatic music. He has spiritedly preserved this tradition through his concerts and lessons to two or three generations of students, becoming its most important icon in post-Independence Kerala.

He likens a brilliant concert to a dynamic painting by an artist who has a definite idea about how to set out the elements, choose a light source and what to include or exclude in the composition.

Early 1990s. Being his disciple, I was with him as he proceeded to present a concert at the Ramaseva Mandali in Bangalore. Sometime ago, he had taught me ‘Sukhiyavaro’ in raga Kanada. When he was freshening up before the concert, I practised the raga with different swara combinations.

He stepped out of the shower, and said: “The sangathis (phrases) are good, but too many of them will make the presentation stale. Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Economy of expression

Economy of expression is the hallmark of his concert. He has proved that brevity in raga delineation, in swara prasthara and neraval is a worthy counterpoint to elaboration.

Nevertheless, each time you listen to him singing a raga, it would sound different. Concert to concert, he would change the manner of elaboration, pushing the boundaries of creativity. Sometimes, the raga presentation is guided by ‘lakshya.’ Here, the singer himself does not know which phrase comes next. There is a flow of spontaneous ideas.

On other occasions, he is guided by lakshana, where the plan is premeditated. In his concerts, there is a fine and majestic balance between the magical and the planned. He builds his musical edifice upon the foundations of brevity and balance.

Musicians of the younger generation have much to imbibe from the manner in which he interacts with fellow-beings. His simplicity, humility and, above all, unconditional love for others are exemplary. His unlimited generosity as a guru has enhanced the lives of his disciples. He would spend long hours teaching, making his disciples listen to stalwarts and discussing music.

If things went above their heads, he would say: “You will grasp this over time.”

He loves all forms of music, though he practises only the Carnatic style. He has made me listen to Pakistani brothers as much as G. N. Balasubramanian or M. D. Ramnathan. While we were travelling once, the background score of the film, ‘Salam Bombay’, composed by L. Subramaniam, was played in the car stereo. He exulted: “This is brilliant.”

He worked as assistant professor in the RLV College of Music, Thripunithura, for nearly a decade before joining All India Radio as an A-grade staff vocalist in 1974. He retired in 2000 and was later ranked A Top, the highest honour given by AIR to classical musicians. He never chased awards, but they came his way. He is a recipient of the Madras Music Academy Award, Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi Award (1982), Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi Fellowship (1989), Kendra Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999-2000) and Padma Sri (2004).

Apt award

The conferment of the Swati Puraskaram on him is apt as he has been one of the greatest ambassadors of the compositions of Swati Tirunals. The core of his music is embedded in the Semmangudi-Ramnad bani. He generally employs a madhyamakala tempo. His style of rendition is deceptively simple. He draws from D. K. Jayaraman’s adherence to kriti structure, M. D. Ramanathan’s brevity of presentation and G. N. Balasubramaniam’s raga elaboration. He pays close attention to diction.

I remember him having demonstrating the pronunciation of ‘Ra’ in ‘Rama Nannu Brova Ra.’ ‘Ra’ in ‘Rama’ is different from ‘Ra’ in Ratish or ‘Ra’ in ‘Rava.’ “Rama’s ‘Ra’ is somewhere in between,” he explained.

His ability to feel the pulse of the audience is much talked-about. Be it a Sangeetha Sabha in Chennai packed with connoisseurs or a cutcheri in a Kerala temple with lay listeners, he relates instantly to the audience and takes them to heights of aesthetic pleasure.

As mridangam maestro Mavelikkara Velukutty Nair says: “Neyyattinkara Vasudevan is an extraordinary musician and teacher – absolutely one of a kind.”

Links of songs sung by Sri Neyyattinkara Vasudevan

Hope this collection of information on late Sri Neyyattinkara Vasudevan was useful to all of you and let us all join together collectively offering our regards and pranams to the departed soul of this musical maestro and offer our condolences to his family members. Music is immortal and he will continue to remain with us forever through his songs.

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