Syama Sastri 1762-1827) is one of the most renowned composers of Carnatic music. He is the oldest among the Trinity of Carnatic music, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar being the other two.

Syama Sastri was born into a scholarly Telugu Brahmin family in Tiruvarur. His father Viswanatham was the hereditary priest responsible for the care and worship of the image of the goddess, Bangaru Kamakshi, whose temple is in Thanjavur. Syama Sastri's father was 25 at the time of his birth and his mother, Vengalakshmi, 20 years old. A family tradition holds that she had received a prophecy of his birth from a devout neighbor. The infant was named Venkatasubrahmanya, but came to be affectionately known as Shyama Krishna.

The family was comfortably settled and maintained a long tradition as devoted priests and scholars, but there were no musicians before Syama Sastri. Sastri's father ensured that he attained scholarship in Telugu and Sanskrit at a young age; his maternal uncle gave him a basic music education. When he was 18 years old, he moved with his family to Thanjavur. A sannyasin known as Sangita Svami (i.e. music svami), a learned musician skilled in both music and dance, was the family's guest during the chaturmasya period one year. Recognizing Syama's potential, he educated the young man on many advanced aspects of music during his four-month stay, and presented him several rare musical texts. He recommended that he listen to as many of the fine musicians of the area as possible, and suggested that he cultivate the friendship of the court musician Pachchimiriyam Adiyappayya.

Although Syama Sastri did not compose as many kriti-s as his two prolific contemporaries, his compositions are equally well known. It is said that he composed about three hundred pieces in all. He did not have many disciples to propagate his compositions, nor was the printing press an easy convenience during his time. More importantly, the scholarly nature of his compositions was not appealing to the layperson, they needed to be studied to be savored. He composed in Telugu and Sanskrit, mostly on goddess Kamakshi. He composed kritis, varnams and svarajatis with the ankita or mudra 'Syama Krishna'. He was probably the first to compose in a new form of the svarajati musical genre. Prior to this the svarajati was primarily a dance form, and was close in structure to the dance Varnam (padavarNam). His set of three famous svarajatis are intended to be sung in concert rather than danced, and are sometimes referred to as "Ratnatrayam" (Three jewels). They are in ragas Bhairavi, Yadukulakamboji and Todi, and are called Kamakshi Anudinamu, Kamakshi Padayugame, and Raave Himagiri Kumari, respectively. The former two are set to Mishra Chapu Tala, while the third is set to Adi Tala. He was renowned for his ability to compose in the most complex of Talas. He was as adept in composing in rare ragas as he was in composing with the popular ones.

Source : wikipedia

Featured Programs

Featured Videos