An artist and a guru who took his work forward, veena aficionado MV Satyanarayana was much loved in both his roles. His judicious career and demise yesterday has left an impact in the world of classical music. Yo! Vizag publishes this article, first published in our May-June 2017 issue, in memoriam.
The earliest interaction that Manapuram Venkata Satyanarayana had with music was when he was nine years old. His father MN Kanna Babu would sing and play instruments and went on to become his first Guru, continuing to inspire the young lad over the next five years. A performance at a Thyagaraja utsavam in 1980 caught his uncle MA Narsinga Rao’s attention, and soon the renowned teacher who was heading the Sri Ram Sangeet Vidyalayam decided to take him on board as a student. There was no looking back for Satyanarayana, who played the veena, the violin and even sang Carnatic classical songs with equal exuberance. By the age of 15, he was so well versed that he would even conduct classes, thus marking the beginning of his career in music, a line that would be with him for a long time to come.
While a degree in BCom at Bullayya and a PG Diploma in music, put him in the dilemma of choosing a line, his uncle DK Nageswar recommended him to pursue music. “It was very strange. While my guru warned me that music wasn’t financially viable, my other uncle advised that I was blessed by Saraswati, and there is no greater power.” Following his advice, Satyanarayana pursued music and continued not only performing, but teaching as well. He worked as a Veena lecturer at the Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu Kalakshetram and later as a Faculty in Music, Dept. of Dance with the Andhra University. Soon he set up the Subharathi Music Academy in MVP colony and heads it as the Principal.
Music has immense power, he shares adding that at a Psychology International conference in Andhra University, he expressed that soothing music when played at places like hospitals, can take away fear. In today’s world where stress is predominant, music can keep one calm, he adds. Not emphasising on any kind of music he says that one must listen to music that interests that person. Because Indian classical music is more devotional in nature, it calms the heart. “When you are troubled and you sing these songs, it is like sharing your troubles with someone, and that’s extremely therapeutic.” He adds that the beauty of classical is also that one who practices it can enjoy all kinds of music.
Along with teaching, he gives many performances, both in India and abroad. One of the programmes closest to his heart was at Bhadrachalam on a Vaikunta Ekadasi. “The dias was so beautifully decorated, and it felt like heaven as I sat at the feet of the Lord himself.” He shares that his performances often transport him to the world of the song he sings. “I often find myself transported to Gokulam when I render Krishna’s songs”, he shares. That complete involvement brings complete joy and is unmeasurable, he adds.
The scenario for music in the city and across the world is better too, he feels. There is more awareness and many people especially Indians in the US want to take the culture of music further. However, when a student comes to join classes at the Subharathi music academy, Satyanarayana advises that they learn for a minimum of four to five years, as this inculcates fundamentals while developing patience and respect in the learner. Performances with students singing selected kirtanas are encouraged as they build the student’s interest.
Much loved as a teacher, he has over 70 students whose age groups range from 4 years to 75 year olds as well. “Music is a unifier. There is no age group, no social status.” His students thus range from top cardiologists to commissioners, commoners and even young children. His passion in teaching is obvious in the fact that he takes his students for his various performances along with him. “I love to perform, but it gives me greater joy to perform with my students.” In fact, even his future plans involve this. Having been awarded the title of ‘Kalaa Saaradhi’ by Visakha Dance Academy and the Best teacher award by the Lions Club of Visakhapatnam, simply celebrate that fact. The awe his students have of their Guru is palpable, and it is heartening to see him, not just take culture forward, but create another generation of musicians in the process.