Composers from Andhra Pradesh
Through out India, over the generations, many creative personalities have
enriched lives by contributing to literary works and music. In this article, an
attempt is made to document the efforts of some imaginative individuals like
vaggeyakaras (music composers) from Andhra Pradesh. This article while
attempting to identify the composers is by no means exhaustive.
A notable feature in Andhra Pradesh was the absence of patronage or support
given by kings to individuals distinguished in the fine arts, which was common
in other southern Indian states. The Tanjavur Maharajas in Tamil nad, Mysore
Maharajas in Karnataka and the Royalty of Trivandrum in Kerala nurtured and
nourished growth of fine arts. It is recorded that during the time of the
musical Trinity, the Tanjavur royal court had 300 vidwans and vidushis. Despite
the lack of royal patronage in Andhra, some support was given to the art forms
by zamindars and other wealthy men.
Some of the past distinguished composers from this region were the Tallapaka
.composers- the foremost being Annamacharya (1408- 1503?) among them. The other
celebrated composers were Bhadrachala Ramadasa (1622-1680), Narayana Teertha
(1675-1745 ?) and Kshetragna (17 th century). Their compositions which were in
the form of either padyams or keerthanas have been popular and are rendered in
almost all villages and towns of Andhra Pradesh. These composers lived many
years before the musical Trinity, (Shyama Sastri, Tyagaraja and Mudduswami
Dikshitar)- Tyagaraja being the most prolific among them.
Tumu Narasimha dasa (1753-1820), a contemporary of Tyagaraja, was a noted composer, who lived in Bhadrachalam on the banks of Godavari river. He composed about 500 keerthanas both in Sanskrit and Telugu. It is said that Narasimha dasa traveled all the way down south to meet Tyagaraja in Tiruvaiyaru in 1801. He was awed to see the enormous influence the bard of Tiruvaiyaru had transmitted to his disciples through his bhakti oriented music. He was inspired to compose a few padyams and keerthanas in praise of Tyagaraja. Bhajana chese vidamu in Sourashtra raga and Rama namamrutame neeku in Madhayamavati are a couple that can be mentioned.
Munipalle Subramanya Kavi (1730-1780) from the village of Munipalle in Krishna district was one of the pioneers in classical music. He was versatile in Telugu and Sanskrit. He received royal patronage from the ruler of Kalahasti, Damerla Timmappa Nayaka. Subramanya Kavi was supposed to have composed more than l00 keerthanas, out of which 60 or so are available with notations. These are retrieved largely through the efforts of Andhra Ganakala Parishad, Rajamundry .He is the author of Adhyatma Ramayana Sankeerthanalu.
Venkatadri Swami (1807- 1877) was from Alluru, in Krishna district was another gifted vaggeyakara. He was inspired into bhakti music at a young age. He traveled to various pilgrim centers like Bhadrachalam, Kancheepuram, Srirangam etc. Just like Tyagaraja, Venkatadri Swami too composed kritis on the presiding deities of the temples he visited. His compositions exude bhava and bhakti, some ofwhich are being rendered even to the present time. Kasturi Rangayya in Anandabhairavi and Mrokkeda raara in Shankarabharanam are fine examples of his compositions.
Narumanchi Janakiramaiah (1823-1890 ?) hailed from Tenali, Guntur district. As a young boy he was determined to learn music from none other than Saint Tyagaraja himself. Without his family's knowledge, he took off to Tiruvaiyaru walking all the way there, just to meet the great composer and get the benefit of his musical genius. Tyagaraja was already in his 60's and getting a little frail. He suggested that Janakiramaiah get his musical education from Veena Kuppaiyer, who was a senior disciple of Tyagaraja. Janakiramaiah spent 15 odd years in Tiruvaiyaru getting trained before returning home. Janakiramaiah was the fIrst musician to introduce the Tanjavur style of Carnatic music to Andhra Pradesh. His music was full of raga and bhava. However, he was better known as a music teacher than as a composer .
Coming to the 19th and 20th centuries, the following composers have enriched the
musical lore by their contributions.
Mahakavi Dasa SriRamulu (1846-1908) from Alluru in Krishna district was
considered to be a multi-faceted intellect. He was a man of letters, wrote
commentaries on Devi
Bhagavatam, Prabandhas etc. He composed several kritis, swarajathis, javalis and tillanas. Some of his compositions are being used in Bharatha-natyram and Kuchipudi
dance styles and also in music concerts too. His contributions to music and dance have been outstanding. Vanitaro e vanne (javali) in Anandabhairavi is one of his popular
Adibatla Narayana Dasa ( 1864-1945) was a self taught genius and a well known
Harikatha artiste. Primarily for his Katha-kaalashepams, he composed several
and keerthanas, which caught the attention of music lovers, not only for their literary beauty but also for their musical grandeur. He is considered the father of Katha-
kaalashepam in Telugu desham. He had an uncanny ability to compose verses in Telugu and Sanskrit extempore.
Prayaga Rangadasa (Gudimellarika) (1859- ?) was well reputed for his rendition of 'Adhyatma Ramayana Kirtanas', Narayana Teertha's ashtapadis and tarangams. He was a
good exponent of harikathas. He was a composer of merit, whose compositions had special appeal for every one. Two of his compositions mentioned here are:.
Rama rama enarada in Sindhubhairavi and Rama ninnu vina in Chenjuti.
Tumarada Sangameshwara Sastri (1874-1931) from Bobbili was known primarily as a
veena vidwan. He traveled to Madras, Tanjavur and other centers of music in
nad and Karnataka. He was fascinated by the music of Veena Seshanna of Mysore. He has composed several tana varnas and kritis.
Kocherlakota Ramaraju (1878-1950) from Thaatipaka, a small village in the East
Godavari district has authored 'Srirama Keerthana Karnamrutham' and has composed
varnas, kritis and swarajatis. His three compositions are Daya radu naapai in Todi, Dayachudamani koridi in Bilahari and Balakrishna mohana (Swarajati) in Mohana
are well known.
Hari Nagabhushanam (1884-1959)(Machilipatnam) was a practising lawyer, a
violinist and a composer ofkritis. While studying law in Madras in his youth, he
opportunities to listen to the violin stalwarts like Tirukkodikaval Krishan Iyer, Tiruchi Govindaswami Pillai and others. He has composed several kritis. His kriti, Madhava
priye mahima- Madhavamanohari is well structured.
Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sharma (1893- ? ) from Ananthapur was a well known
scholar in both Telugu and Sanskrit and a composer of keerthanas. He was a
Bidaram Krishnappa of Mysore. His name is more commonly associated with Vetturi Prabhakara Sastri in bringing out the keerthanas of Annamacharya. These keerthanas,
which had been inscribed on copper plates, were unearthed in the compound of Tirupati Devasthanam. Sharma has tuned several Annamacharya keerthanas. Two of the popular
ones that come to mind are: Alarulu kuriyaga-Sankarabharanam and Brahma kadigina - Mukhari He was honoured by the Music Academy with the title 'Sangita Kalanidhi' in
It is interesting that a few kritis of Tirupati Vidyala Narayanaswamy
Naidu's(1897- ?) have become popular in other regions too. His repertoire
include kritis and javalis. The
following two kritis -Ika naina na -in Pushpalatika and Paraakela Saraswati in Nattakuranji are rendered by musicians of Tamil nad also.
Munuganti Venkata Rao Pantulu (1902-1964) (Kakinaada) was precocious and was
quick enough to grasp the intricacies of Carnatic music at a young age. He was a
popular performing artiste. He was known to be a dedicated music teacher and also for promotion of classical music in Kakinaada area. Amongst his many disciples, Emani
Shankara Sastri and Voleti Venkateshwarulu were prominent. He took to composing kritis at much later date. The following kriti, Neeve gati Bhavanipati is set in the rare
Mahendravada Bapanna Sastri (1905-1968) studied music under the tutelage of
Regella Jagannatha Sastri and was a good concert artiste. He has composed
several tana varnas,
javalis and kritis. His compositions have appeared in his book "Kritimanjari"
Ogirala Veera Raghava Sharma (1908-1989) from Kovvuru has composed over 150
kritis. He being a devotee of Devi, many of his compositions are in praise of
The following is on Devi too -Sri Gayatri devi sanathani- Valaji. He became a sanyasi when he turned 60 years of age.
Nori Nagabhushanam Pantulu (1905-1984) (Secunderabad) was a disciple of Hari
Nagabhushanam. He served on the faculty of the Music College in Secunderabad. He
has composed varnas and swarajathis.
Mulukutla Sadashiva Sastry (Tenali) was known for his harikatha kaalashepams.
His katha-kaalashepam on Ramadasa, Tyagaraja and Tumu Narasimha dasa was popular
amongst the masses. His kriti, Rama dasam ashraye in Ritigoula is appealing.
Patrayani Seetharamaiah (1900-1957) (Vijaya nagaram) was the son and disciple of
Patrayani Venkata narasimhaiah. He was a noted composer and has composed about
kritis. Two of his kritis, Iha para saadhaname-Smruti ranjani and Naada nanda mura- Mukhari are listed here.
Vinjamuri Varadaraja Ayyangar (1915-1991)(Guntur) was a student of Tiger
Varadachari. He has tuned many compositions of Purandara Dasa, Annamacharya,
Sadashiva Brahmendra, Tumu Narasimha dasa and others. He himself was a composer of varnas, kritis, javalis and thillanas. His javali, Kanti saigachesene -Manirangu is
Sripada Pinakapani (1913- )(Karnool) is a retired Professor of medicine. He is
also a musician of merit, besides being a composer of varnams and kritis. He has
set tunes to
several keerthanas of Annamcharya. Two examples are Vandeham Jagatvallam in Hamsadvani and Vaade Venkatadri-Vasantha.
Parama dayakari -Varali is a representative of his own composition. He was honoured with the title of Sangeeta Kalanidhi from the Madras Music Academy in 1984.
Voleti Venkateswarulu and Srirangam Gopalaratnam were his well known disciples.
Tadepalli Venkatasubramanya Sasti (1918-1989 ?) was a noted scholar in Sanskrit
and Telugu. He was a prolific composer-more than 600 kritis. Two of his kritis
Idi kadasaari-Hamsanandi and Advaitasaara- Sourashtram. He took to sanyasa at his advanced age. His son, Dr. Tadepalli Lokanatha Sharma is a well known musician.
Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana (1928- ) from Hyderabad has been on the Music
faculty of various Universities in Andhra. He has composed some kritis. His
composition, Srinivasa varadayaka-Nattakuranji is heard sometimes.
NCh. Krishnamacharyulu (Vijayavada) (1929- ) is an eminent scholar in Telugu, a
musicologist and a good composer of kritis. He developed the concept of 'garbha
kritis', wherein the same lyrics of a kriti could be set for more than one tala
structure. The following two kritis,. Gouri sukumari- Vasantha and Maarajananim
ashraye- Natakapriya are mentioned here.
Because of Bala Murali Krishna 's(1930- ) own efforts, his compositions -varnams,
kritis and thillanas are currently in use. Being a concert musician himself, he
makes it a point to present his own compositions in his concerts. He is one of
the few musicians, who has composed kritis in all 72 melakartha ragas. He is a
recipient of the title, Sangeetha kalanidhi from the Madras Music Academy in
1975. Two examples of his kritis are Vadamela- Kokilapriya and Shyamalambhike in
Dr. Sree Ramachandra murthi Sistla (1938- )is from Guntur Dt originally and now
he is based in Ottawa, Canada. He is an engineer by profession. He has been a
prolific composer of Telugu keerthanas. He is the author of Sriharidasa
Sankirtanamulu, Sriharidasa Padamulu, Sri Vishnu Sahasranamamulu and Srihari
Gitananda Lahari. His keerthanas are laden with bhakti and bhava and music for
the lyrics is set by other musicians. Nila megha shyamuni in Sama and Jeevan
muktulamu in Saranga are two
keerthanas come to mind.
Komanduri Seshadri, (Secunderabad) (1949- )is a performing artiste and a
Professor of music at a few Universities in Andhra pradesh. He has composed
several kritis and
padyams. He has also composed a few 'garbha kritis'. His two kritis are listed here: Paramatmuni in Kalyana vasantham and Harihari ena rave in Kedaram.
Dhenuvukonda Subba Rao (Ongole) is a versatile composer. Compositions of his, Daivalalama- Tilang and Gajamukha deva-Sri ragam are popular.
Mulugu Sivanandam or Mulugu Sivananda Sastri hails from Tenali. He has composed
the following kriti, Tyagaraja gurudevam-Aarabhi besides a few more.
Paarupudi Chalamaiah from Rajamundry has composed some 30 kritis or so. One
example is, Hey Kapaalini in Behag.
TNCV.Narayana charyulu(Guntur) was a vainika and musicologist. He has edited 'Gandharva
Vedamrutham', 'Annamacharya Swara kusumanjali' and authored
'Padmavati Nakshstra ragamalika' and 'Ranganatha Keerthanalu'. The following kriti is popular. Tamasamu elanayya-Bhavapriya.
S.S.Rajasekharam (Bapatla) is primarily a composer of varnams. Among his few
kritis, Sabha chesi muchata- Kharaharapriya is more commonly rendered.
KVN.Sastry (Karnool) is a Sanskrit scholar, a violinist and a composer. One of his compositions mentioned here is Bhajare Hanumantam- Hindustani Kapi.
Pappu Someshwara Rao (Hyderabad) has been active in composing kritis. One example of his kriti is, Bhargavam in Bhairavi.
M.S.Balasubrahmanya Sharma (Ongole) has composer of kritis. The following is
listed. Saraswati namostutue in Saraswati.
There are a few women composers like Gidugu Lakshmikantamma, Burra Suramamba,
Kakuturi Padmavathi and Smt.Chandolu Raghava narayana sastri have made a mark.
It is gratifying to note that so many vaggeyakaras from Andhra Pradesh have
contributed significantly to the musical treasure of Carnatic music.
Footnote: Details regarding the birth and death of some composers are not available and hence they are not included.