Dr. Kadri Gopalnath is one of India’s most famous saxophonists. He is known the world over for playing classical Carnatic music on the Saxophone. He has achieved tremendous success for his unique sounds and has been awarded the Padma Shree by the Government of India.
His Early Days and Musical Fascination
Born in 1950 into the Jogi community in Mangalore to Shri Thaniappa and Shrimathi Gangamma, Kadri Gopalnath learned the traditional instrument, Nagaswaram from his father. He took a fascination to the Saxophone after hearing it being played in the Mysore Palace Band set. His father encouraged him to study Saxophone under the band’s saxophonist, Lakshmi Narasimhaiah.
Gopalakrishnan Iyer of Kalanikethana of Mangalore then became his Guru and taught him to play Carnatic music on the saxophone. Combining this with the training given to him by T.V. Gopalakrishnan of Madras, Kadri Gopalnath modified the saxophone to play the sounds of Carnatic music perfectly.
When East Met the West
Kadri Gopalnath has ventured into a sphere which no other Jazz musician has been able to master. Playing the nuanced tunes of Carnatic music was not easy on a brass instrument, which is predominantly only played in western compositions.
However Gopalnath has used various techniques to innovate and produce classical Carnatic music and compose unique versions of Hamsadhwani, Pantuvarali, Kalyana, Vasantha and Brinshavani Ragas.
His Commercial Collaborations
Kadri Gopalnath made his debut in 1980 at the Jazz festival in Bombay and merged western sounds with eastern tunes to create tremendous music. He has teamed up with various international artists like James Newton and American Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa to record albums. He has sold many of these including Southern Brothers and Kinsmen, and the audio-visual fusion project titled ‘East-West’ was a commercial rage and gained huge success.
He has even combined the compositions of classical musicians from India like Thyagaraja to western composers like Beethoven on the Saxophone. He became a tremendous hit internationally when he performed at the Jazz Festival in Prague, The Berlin Jazz Festival, The International Cervantino Festival in Mexico and The Music Hall Festival in Paris.
Kadri began his film career with the famous A.R. Rahman for director K. Balachander’s Tamil film ‘Duet’. The saxophone was used in every song and this made Kadri an overnight success with the masses.
Recognition and Fame
Kadri Gopalnath has been given various distinctions like Saxophone Charkravarthy, Nadapasana Brahma, and Sangeetha Vadya Rathna amongst others. He has been honored with the Asthana Vidwan title from Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Sri Sringeri Sharadha Peetam and the Sri Pillayarpatti Temple.
He has been given many awards like the Tamil Nadu State Award Kalaimamani and Karnataka Rajyotsava Award in 1998, and he’s received an honorary doctorate from Bangalore University.
The BBC Promenade Concert invited him to play in 1994 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. With the help of sponsorship from The Asian Music Circuit in the U.K, Kadri became the first Carnatic musician to play at the prestigious event.
In 2004, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in recognition of his tremendous contribution to the field of music.