In the year 2007, Telugu Association of Cleveland, celebrated the 600th birth anniversary of Annamacharya, a renowned Carnatic Composer from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. At that time I served as the Vice President of the association. In honour of Annamacharya, I wrote a small booklet titled “Remembering Saint Annamacharya”, got it printed and distributed to the audience present on the occasion. It was well received.
On the occasion of the Annamacharya Aradhana program, I found myself drowning in fresh enthusiasm to discover and welcome the saint composer into my life in a special way. I listened to many of his compositions and I thoroughly enjoyed the profound meaning in the devotion and philosophies in them. His background and the fact that this composer was not discovered until recently was far more intriguing. I could not control my desire to know more about this mysterious musician, saint, devotee and poet philosopher about whom the entire world appears to have just woken up to. There is a new wave of literary and musical awareness that is spreading around the world and more importantly around the compositions of Annamacharya. In spite of not having any formal training or knowledge of carnatic music, I must confess that I am completely absorbed by the wave.
Annamacharya’s compositions present a very unique puzzle to all the musicians around the world. The challenges are two fold. One, for each of the compositions discovered to date, the inscription tells us what raga was used – but neither the tala nor any notations. Two, some of the ragas mentioned are either obsolete or very little is known about them. Add to this the fact that there is no guru-shishya parampara that would have thrown some clues on the authors style. For many a carnatic musical genius, ready to run the gauntlet, there are enough compositions left to figure out the correct talam and render it to the best possible melody. The next time you listen to bhavayami gopala balam or chalada hari nama, you will appreciate the complexity.
Several good books and a host of web sites dedicated to this cause have provided me with an easy access to tons of information, some of it very useful and some mostly repetitive or contradictory. This condensed story of Saint Annamacharya would not have been possible if not for the tireless research done by scores of people ever since the discovery of thousands of sankeertanas written on the copper plates.
In a series of articles that follow, I will present the story of Annamacharya, the mystery behind his discovery, his compositions, his devotion and some of the literary works published about him. This series is an attempt by a novice who is learning about the great composer. In researching Annamacharya, I prepared my own notes and this series is a simple organization of the notes from my search. It is my desire that what I know must be shared with others who are also curious, so that it may raise an awareness of and an appreciation for the musical endowments of a saint who changed the cultural landscape of an entire region.
The same booklet, that I wrote in 2007, is now altered and expanded to make it suitable for this blog site. It is also a time for me to revisit, relearn, polish, and showcase my first book. In the process it is my desire to present Annamacharya to the entire world in a new light.