Indrakanti Venkata Lakshmana Sastry is a man of contradictions. Though short in height, he stands tall in the world of Carnatic classical music and though mild spoken, he is the firebrand personality who single-handedly took the Visakhapatnam culture of classical music forward, initiating thousands of people in the line of music.
‘When I first attended the Tyagaraja kirtanam sabha in Vizag, I was surprised to see that only 6 people had come. Saddened at the turnout, I vowed to myself to change those figures.’ He set up the Sangeeta Janakulam in 1979 which even today teaches music and its appreciation to people for free. ‘As a result, today Sangeeta Janakulam has 4 centers in Vizag and one each in Delhi, Manguru and Penugollu. Tyagaraja kirtanams are held at Kalabharati and the hall stays packed for the whole ten days.’
His initiation into the world of music was as natural as a bird to flight. Born to parents who were great vocalists themselves, they would constantly be part of music events. ‘We would be extremely regular at events like ekaham (24 hours of music recital without a break), saptaham (seven day-night music recitals) and sapta saptaham (50 days of music recitals without a break). It would give me great opportunity to meet wonderful singers. Alternatively, great singers would keep coming home.’ And so, at a very early age IVL Sastry began practicing music. After an education up to 10th Standard, he took up a job in the railways, but continued to take classes whenever he could. He soon founded the ‘Sangeetha Kalasamithi’ in 1974, as a musical organization that contributed to classical music.
On being asked where his first concert was, he replied Calcutta. And then he added in the same breath, ‘For me, teaching has always been closer to the heart than concerts. Even today, I try to teach music rather than give concerts. It gives me greater satisfaction.’ For a well endowed person with titles such as ‘Sangeeta Vachaspati’, ‘Sangeeta Praveena’, ‘Kulapathi’ and ‘Sangeetha Kala Tapaswi’ to decorate him, calling himself a teacher at heart only shows how humble he is.
While he learnt vocal music from his parents, it was sheer interest that took him to learning the mrudangam, kanjira and flute. ‘I learnt Mridangam from the renowned ‘Mridanga Kesari’ Sri Mullapudi Lakshmana Rao. It is easier to carry the flute around and with it music can easily travel with you wherever you go. So the flute and kanjira were more of a self effort. ’
83 years of age, IVL Sastry still continues on his crusade to make the world more musically aware. He enjoys the status of being the president of Samskara Bharati, an expert committee member at the Department of Culute of the Union Ministry of HRD, secretary of the Tyagaraja Aradhana Trust, cultural advisor to central schools in Vizag and the examiner for MA Music of Telugu University. But more than all these, and more importantly, he continues to be a promoter for learning.
The Sangeeta Janakulam holds classes at different levels for different people. Events are conducted too and people are encouraged to participate. His entire family too is dedicated to the cause. His son Kali Prasad is a flutist of repute, while his daughters Prof Saraswathi and Sharada Subramanyam work with the AU Music Dept and as radio top grade artists respectively. Taking it to the next generation, his grandchildren too are steeped in music with Lahari, being recognized as a child prodigy who could tell the names of ragas even at the tender age of two years.
More than being a culture, music is perhaps the way of life for IVL Sastry garu, where not a day goes without it. From 4am to 6am he practices music every day. After regular prayers, he takes classes for students from 10am to 12am. ‘A prominent section of people losing out on this culture is the youth. Our students too see good number of children and adults, however a significant percentage of youth are missing out.’
But maybe they are attracted to the other forms of music, we say. ‘To find the beauty of Carnatic classical music, you have to come seeking it. If only these youth would make it a point to attend few of these sessions would they be able to know what our music holds and the beauty in it.’
IVL Sastry also defines for us whether music is an art or a science. ‘It is a form of art or kala with scientific principles underlying it.’ Music is important for religion too. When mantras are recited with particular intonations, they help in generating vibrations that bring us peace, calm and enhance concentration. True, in times such as hours, it is the power of music that can generate vibrations to reduce negativity, release stress and restore peace.
Published in Yo! Vizag, November 2013