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Namagiri Pettai Krishnan

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This late master of carnatic music played a double-reed instrument called a nagaswara, which looks like an antique ship's captain spy glass, fully extended. It is one of the most fascinating-sounding instruments in a genre of music known for exotic instruments that buzz and tingle and performers who play with extreme virtuosity. Like many musicians in this genre, Krishnan started out young and under tutelage of a family member, in this case, his father, Chinnappa Mudaliar. As he became a more advanced player on the instrument, he began working in more detail with Arupukkottai Ganesa Pillai, who prepared him for a career that was launched by appearances at several prominent classical Indian festivals. This led to performances abroad and awards such as the Padma Bhushan and an honorary doctorate. He also studied vocal music with Malakshmi Ammal, a course of study that apparently resulted in an increased vocal ability on the reed instrument, an understanding of the way the voice works, and an ability to reproduce vocal effects on his horn. He performed frequent broadcasts on All India Radio and toured throughout the United States, Europe, Russia, Sri-Lanka, and various Southeast Asian countries.

Once he established his playing style, very little changed about his approach over the course of 35 to 40 years of performing. Other players of the classical nagaswara found this consistency to be particularly praiseworthy, as was also the master's love of practice and reputation for practicing long hours no matter how many prizes he'd received, or what prestigious height he might have reached in his career. He also was quite adept on violin and played both instruments on the soundtracks of many Indian films. One of his last albums was Nadaswaram on the Magnasound label.

Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '80s, '90s