Mysore Doraisamy Iyengar is a venerated veena vidhwan hailing from a family of musicians. His father Venkatesha Iyengar was also a veena vidhwan in the court of the Mysore Maharaja. He performed in the court of the Mysore Maharaja at the age of 12.
His performance even at that tender age caught the Maharaja’s ear and Doraisamy was tutored by the great Venkatagiriappa under the Maharaja’s directions.
His Early Years
Doraisamy’s natural talent, when properly nurtured, won him accolades everywhere and he was the youngest musician to be appointed as the asthana vidhwan by the Maharaja of Mysore. His first public performance was in the Bangalore Gayana Samaja, at the age of 23, after he had graduated from the Maharaja’s College in Mysore.
He was also acquainted with the brothers R.K. Narayan and R.K. Laxman. Though they were from entirely different fields, they managed to strike up a friendship and remain lifelong friends. This was because they hailed similar backgrounds and shared a common love for the veena.
In fact, R.K. Narayan once recalled how he used to learn varnams from the great Doraisamy Iyengar for years, informally, in exchange for providing English lessons to the vidhwan.
His Career Highlights
Doraisamy gave his first concert at the age of 14 in Mysore along with great artists like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Chembai Vaidhyanatha Bhagavadhar.
The Padma Vibhushan, the Sangeeta Kalanidhi, the Chowdiah National Memorial Award, the Sangeeta Kalaratna from Bangalore Gayana Samaja, and the Sangeeta Kala Shikamani are just some of the awards bestowed on him by various fine arts societies.
His style of playing the Veena was different when it was introduced as parted the index and middle fingers of his left hand slightly, ensuring that the transition from one note to the next was smooth, unlike other styles where the transition was not so subtle. This style came to be called the Mysore style.
His Achievements and Work
Though his style of playing the veena was different, he was also a purist because he refused to use the contact microphone unlike the other well known musicians of his day. He was also a revolutionary in the sense that he conducted jugalbundhis where musicians from different traditions played together, bringing together the cultures and musical traditions and enriching the experience.
He has played with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and he has also written the music for many dance dramas, usually stories of historical importance that are narrated with dramatic scenes interspersed with dance sequences. These were very popular amongst the people in the older days. Doraisamy Iyengar has also been credited with composing the music for a number of Kannada films.
His contribution to traditional Indian music will never be forgotten, and he remains one of the major icons in the field of music in Karnataka.