Kadri Gopalnath was born in 1949 in the city of Mangalore to Thaniappa and Gangamma. He acquired a taste for music from his father Thaniappa, a nagaswaram vidwan. In an interview to Sruti he sais “On a visit to Mysore when I was about 18, I happened to hear Lakshmi Narasimhaiah playing the saxophone in the Police Band. The Police Band used to play Carnatic classical kriti-s and other similar compositions. I was immediately taken up by the sound of this instrument. A lot of people, gifted and talented, were already into nagaswaram-playing but the saxophone was then still unexplored. So I decided I would take it up”.
Gopalnath learned to play the instrument under Venkatappa Dogra of Puttur, South Canara and later from N. Gopalkrishna Iyer of Kalaniketana, Mangalore (TVG’s brother in law). In Madras, he came in contact with the T.V. Gopalkrishnan, who identified the youngster's potential and first full-length concert in 1976 at the Chembai Memorial Centre in Madras. He taught Gopalnath, concert techniques and how to open impressively
Saxophone gained a new protagonist in Carnatic music during the decade. His ability to play the instrument in a manner that enabled him to bring out some of the many nuances of Carnatic music quickly earned both recognition and popularity for him. The conservative Music Academy of Madras gave space for him on its platform, thus giving his career a boost. Recording contracts and invitations to give performances were forthcoming also. It was not long before he became a very busy performer.
Kadri Gopalnath has carved a niche for himself in Carnatic music by taking up the saxophone instead of his family's traditional instrument of nagaswaram.
He was awarded the Padmashri in 2004 and SNA Award in 2003.