DEBATE - Myths and misconceptions by Chitravina N. Ravikiran
Oothukadu Venkata Kavi needs no introduction to Carnatic music lovers across the world. As Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer wrote, “His works are comparable to the output of the hallowed music Trinity – Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Sastry”. While much of the music world has been soaking in the brilliant, scholarly and imaginative works of Oothukadu Venkata Kavi, some artists and musicologists have expressed doubts about whether these were by a real person who lived around the 1700s. In the 1940s and 1950s, this was understandable and even justified – since not much had been heard or written about Venkata Kavi in mainstream music circles till then.
Till almost my 18th year, the only Oothukadu song in my repertoire was Alai payude Kanna, an abysmal record considering I had learnt over 1000 compositions of other composers fairly early on. However, around 1985, I learnt from veteran jalatarangam exponent Seetha Doraisamy that Venkata Kavi had composed Kamakshi Navavarana kriti-s, Saptaratna kriti-s and numerous other kriti-s in Sanskrit. I requested her and her daughter Visalakshi to sing some of these. It was immediately obvious to me that here was a treasure trove of glittering compositions of solid substance hardly known in mainstream music, even though they were common in bhajana, Harikatha and other circles.
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