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P Kalingarao

August 21, 2013
P Kalingarao
Hail to thee, blithe spirit! 

Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

These are the immortal lines from Shelley's poem, To a skylark.
One could apply these lines to P. Kalinga Rao as well, whose immortal singing of Kannada lyrics and folk songs thrilled a generation of audiences throughout Karnataka. He was verily a skylark, a nightingale, and a cuckoo of Karnataka.
“In the golden lightning of the sunken sun, over which clouds are brightening, thou dost float and run, like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun,” — And the cool, gentle evening breeze would carry the sweet strains of the Kannada song — “Barayya Beladingale.” Hail to thee O! Sweet moonlight, our town's milk - like moonlight! Instantly would the audience go into raptures and would 'fade far away, dissolve and quite forget what the singing bird 'has never known!'


Magical effect:

Kalinga Rao's singing would herald the coming of spring; whatever might be the month of the year. The trees would be in blossom and spread their fragrance in the evening air. Such was the magical effect of Kalinga Rao's music. If our romantic poets of the early years of the last century wrote beautiful lyrical poetry, it was Kalinga Rao and his tribe who came later that spread it far and wide and reached out to the masses. Kalinga Rao was the undisputed monarch of light music in Kannada.

“Kalinga” means King Cobra! His name was misleading. When he entered the light music scene in Karnataka, he practically sang his heart out. “Spring, the sweet spring, the year's pleasant king, blooming each thing, the maids dancing in a ring, the pretty - birds singing, cuckoo, jug - jug, pu - we, to – witta - woo!”
And Lo! Listen to Kalinga Rao, as if his song comes from the throat of the woods: words mingling with music and producing a sublime effect. “The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet, young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit, in every street these tunes our ears do greet, cuckoo, jug - jug, pu - we, to – witta - woo!”
Which genre did Kalinga Rao's singing belong to — Hindustani? Karnatak? Or folk - tunes? It was a confluence of all the three styles, and more — oriental and occidental. East and west — the twain did meet in him! His music would at once take off from the ground and reach transcendental heights.

Quick in learning:

Kalinga Rao's full name was Pandeshwara Kalinga Rao (1914 -1981). He was born in Arur, a place in the present Udupi district. His father Narayana Rao was a Yakshagana artiste. His mother was Nagamma. As a boy, he was very quick in learning all the poems in the prescribed books, whereas the lessons in prose were beyond his comprehension. He was participating in the local Bhajans.

He had a sweet tongue and sang psalms and shlokas on such occasions. He was more interested in music, drama and Yakshagana performances than in studies. Kalinga Rao joined a drama company when he was a student of the sixth year class. The company had on its rolls reputed artistes like R. Nagendra Rao, Gowri Narasimhaiah and Ramachandra Buva. They were all highly appreciative of the boy's melodious singing.
He later joined the Gubbi Company and provided music for Dashavathara drama. He acquired proficiency in the Agra Gharana style of Hindustani music. C. Rajagopalachari, popularly known as CR or Rajaji liked his music and as per his suggestion, he went to Madras (Chennai).

Glittering rainbows:

Kalinga Rao continued to be a theatre artiste and continued to take part in dramas. Later he evinced much interest in movies and appeared in Rayara sose, Vasanthasena, Krishnaleela, Jeevana Nataka, Mahananda and Sashidharan. Kalinga Rao was on very intimate terms with Kanagal Prabhakara Sastry, Kanagal Puttanna and G. K. Venkatesh. In due course, Mohan Kumari and Sohan Kumari joined him and lent sweetness to folk singing.

The trio travelled through the length and breadth of our land, like glittering rainbows and took the audiences to great heights of ecstasy. Kalinga Rao's rendering of Huyilagola Narayana Rao's popular lyric “Let my beautiful Kannada Nadu awake!” thrilled the audiences and made them aware of the need to unify Karnataka.
The three decades of the mid-twentieth century was verily the golden age of Kannada light music. Kalinga Rao with Mohan Kumari and Sohan Kumari carried the message of our poets to the teaming masses who for the first time enjoyed the beauty of our beloved language, when expressed in tunes.
The richness and variety of Kannada folk - songs reverberated in the minds of the common folks. Those were the days when there was no accompanying orchestra drowning the literary beauty of the songs with a plethora of cluttering noises.

Lover of books:

Kalinga Rao generously sprinkled mirth and music. He would always attend performances with a suit on and mingle with all and sundry. A lover of books, he was on talking terms with scholars. Among his intimate friends were poets, playwrights, philosophers, novelists, sculptors, painters, actors and publicists. R. S. Naidu was one of his best friends.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, was an admirer of Kalinga Rao. After listening to Rao's singing, he went to him, patted his back and said, “You have got a gold mine in your voice!”
Kalinga Rao was not blessed with long life. Meenakshamma was his wife. He had four children. Mark their names: Prema (love), Vasantha (spring), Sharat (autumn) and Santosh (Joy).

His music?

Still alive in our memories and in the cassettes.



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