KADAPA: Even in the modern age, there are families, who continue the tradition of making arts and crafts their primary source of livelihood. One such family is that of Kondapalli Chidambara Nataraja. While their primary source of income is music, they have also been contributing towards conserving their culture and traditions to pass it on to the next generations.
Chidambara Nataraja is a well-known Mridangam artiste, hailing from the famous Paravathi Nagar in Mydukur mandal of Kadapa district. The 45-year-old is the son of Hamsa Awardee Kondapalli Veerabhadraiah Bhagavatar. He has gone on to create a unique name for himself in the field of Mridangam.
Videos of his unique performance while playing 18 tablas at a time have been sent for consideration into the Guinness Book of World Records under the name Navaraga Tarangini. He performed the feat at a programme organised at the Ravindra Bharathi Auditorium in Hyderabad on November 17. He performed Sri Thyagaraja Kriti -- Samaja Vara Gamana -- in nine different ragas.
Chidambara Nataraja’s grandfather, Kondapalli Bikshapathi, was also a well-known musician, who earned his fame through playing the harmonium. However, it is Bikshapathi’s illustrious son Veerabhadraiah, who brought great fame not just to his family, but to the whole of Kadapa district. He performed on Radio, TV and was equally well-versed in Harikatha and Burrakatha besides Yakshagana. He was also a rare talent who excelled in folk songs along with traditional music.
Veerabhadraiah promoted various government schemes for years through Yakshagana, Burrakatha and folk songs. Parvathi Nagar in Mydukur materialised in 1988, as he aspired to bring all the musicians and artists in one place living in harmony. With the help of donors, an auditorium worth Rs 20 lakh was constructed in Parvathi Nagar and in a short time, the village became an inspiration for many.
Walking in the footsteps of his father, Kondapalli Chidambara Raja decided to take up music as a career. When he expressed his desire to be a Mridangam artist at the age of 12, his father encouraged him to begin practise. At 15, he took Akashvani employee Bhaskar Bhatla Krishmaurhty as his teacher. In 1995, Gopavaram Ramachandran taught him to play the percussion instrument at Sharada Government Music College in Kurnool where he earned his diploma. From 2000-2002, he pursued his MA (Mridangam) at Potti Sriramulu Telugu University in Hyderabad under Padma Shri Awardee Dr Yella Venkateswara Rao.
Currently, he is working as Mridangam artiste in Annamayya Project of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. He is also a Mridangam programme artiste at All India Radio in Kadapa. He has performed at several shows across the country and was presented with Mridanga Bhaskar by Adibhatla Narayana Dasu Vari Sabha.
Chidambara Nataraj’s guru Yella Venkateswara Rao had performed Nava Mridangam by playing nine different Mridangams at the same time. So, five years ago, an idea to play 18 tablas at the same time occurred to him while his master Yella Venkateswara Rao sang nine different ragas. It took Chidambara Nataraj five years to prepare the instruments he required as the 18 tablas would cost him Rs 2 lakh.
Tabla is normally used in Hindustani classical music as well as in Carnatic music. However, playing in nine different ragas is a very difficult task which Chidambara Nataraj achieved on November 17 this year.