Namagiripettai K. Krishnan, the nagaswara maestro who passed away on 30 April at the age of 77, had earned a name as a distinguished practitioner of the traditional art and as a man of admirable personal qualities as well. Stardom in the arena of nagaswara music became a rarity after the regimes of Tiruvaduturai N. Rajarathnam and Karukurichi Arunachalam, but Krishnan carved for himself a special niche, a significant achievement particularly because his background did not confer any particular advantage on him.
Krishnan, born in April 1924 as the eldest of 10 children, hailed from Salem, a region not particularly fertile with reference to the nagaswara tradition. Moreover, his family had no claim to a special pedigree in music. He rose to prominence as an achiever through sincerity, perseverance and dedication, complemented by an attitude of reverence and responsibility towards tradition. He came to be lauded in his profession and lionised by his public, and yet this much decorated resident of Sendamangalam was always modest in disposition.
Kolanka Venkataraju, who passed away on 14 December 2000, was an outstanding mridanga vidwan who handled the instrument delicately and produced sweet tones and rhythmic patterns pleasing to the connoisseurs. In spite of the fact he accompanied almost every leading musician, he was known only to a few present day musicians and rasika-s.
Raju—to give his diminutive name—was born on 5 August 1909, in Tuni, in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. He belonged to a family of musicians, one in fact which had specialised in playing the mridanga. His father, grandfather Kolanka Venkaiah and uncle were all three well-known percussion experts of the time.