Epitome of humility and politeness, Padmashri Awardee Pandit M. Venkatesh Kumar
Born on 1 July 1953 @ Lakshmipura in the Dharwad region of northern Karnataka, Pandit M. Venkatesh Kumar is an Indian Hindustani classical vocalist. Also known renowned globally for his husk, vibrant classical singing style, he’s equally at ease and popular in singing Dasara Padas & Devotional songs.
Venkatesh Kumar’s father late Huleppa was a folk singer leather puppet artist . In 1968, when he was 12, Kumar was taken by his uncle Sri Belagallu Veeranna to the Veereshwara Punyashrama in Gadag (central Karnataka), run by Puttaraja Gawai, the religious saint and Hindustani musician. Kumar lived and learned at the ashram for the next 12 years.
Though he admits to the influences beyond other gharanas, chief among them being Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan of the Patiala gharan, Kumar unremittingly learnt Hindustani vocal in the Gwalior and Kirana gharana styles under Gawai, blending these styles effortlessly in his presentations, His guru was also trained in Carnatic music and as a result, there are traces of Carnatic elements – especially in his sargam patterns – in Pandit Kumar’s music
14 years after leaving the ashram, Kumar got his first major break in 1993, receiving a telegram-invitation from the Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to perform at the Sawai Gandharva Sangeet Mahotsav in Pune that year. He had established a significant local reputation by then, but the performance in Sawai was the first step towards national exposure. However, he had to wait for almost another ten years before he became a regular on the national festival circuit. Since then he has featured in many National musical programs, and has been an “A” grade Artist of All India Radio since 1988.
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was asked whom he would like to listen to, on the occasion of Maharashtra Government conferring the ‘Maharashtra Bhushan award’ in 2002, his first choice was Ustad Rashid Khan whose unavailability to perform pitch forked Pt.Kumar as his immediate choice. Such is the power behind Kumarji’s music.
Venkatesh kumar is gifted with a rarest blend of mellifluous, robust and vibrant voice,rich in tradition and deep in devotion. His vast experience and deep-rooted commitment has made him a name to reckon with through his performances at all major music festivals in India and abroad.
Pt Kumar was most acclaimed for his Kannada vachana and dasara pada Singin in devotional music. Most Popular ones include “smarane saalade” of Nada Varshini Album. He also has multiple Devotional and Classical CD albums to his credit.
Pandit Kumar holds a teaching job at the University College of Music, Dharwad. This commitment regularly forces him turn down concerts, but he refuses to quit the job that offered him stability at a time when concerts were hard to come by. He also received a post graduate degree in music from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.
If there’s to be someone so deserving for the coveted PADMA Award, it ought to be Pandit M.Venkatesh Kumar and we Kannadigas feel elated and honored ourselves as the Nation salutes him in awe of his dedication, devotion and commitment to lift music to parochial heights.
He has authored the text book of Music prescribed for the Examination conducted by the Govt. of Karnataka. Sri Venkatesh Kumar served as a faculty member at Music College, Dharwad University and taught Music to degree classes. Currently under retirement from the job, he is the proud recipient of several titles namely:
- Sangeet Sudhakara
- Sangeeta Ratna
- Karnataka Rajyotsava Award (1999)
- Karnataka Sangeet Natya Academy Award (2007)
- Vatsala Bhimsen Joshi Award 2008
- Krishna Hangal Award (2009)
- Kendra Sangeeth Nataka Akademi Award (2012)
- Honorary Doctorate from Karnataka University, Dharwad (2014)
- Swara Laya Samrat (2014)
- Padma Sri Award by Government of India (2016)
Our Nation has many such proud sons. Honoring these great men who have turned their lives into live examples by legendary herculean efforts fighting poverty and lack of education through utmost dedication. We, the Nation honor ourselves by honoring these men of steely resolve and utmost humility.
It’s matter of great pride for me listening to his heavenly music for more than 3 decades. He’s travelling to Sirsi for a concert while I called, but sooner he reverted to me on bang to accept my hearty wishes. Such humility from an Iconic person floored me. May their tribe grow in zillions.