Farewell great one! Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi

Dance, indian music, Music, News, Odissi

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The Temple of Fine Arts Inc. Perth and Saraswati MahaVidhyalaya pays tribute to one of the greatest musicians and artistes of our time, Pandit Raghunathji.

He, together with his beloved spouse, the illustrious Sanjukta Panigrahi had personally infused their energy and talent in grooming some of our teachers here in Perth. They were not only visiting artistes who conducted workshops and performed but became loving mentors to the teachers, and devotees of our Guru and founder, Swami Shantanand Saraswati.
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Many wonderful story filled hours and dance and music filled days will forever linger in our minds.
Hari Om great gurus.
You will forever remain in our hearts and may your divine art flow through us to generations to come.
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Tribute Veteran vocalist musician Raghunath Panigrahi’s distinct identity stems from his love for art forms that transcended linguistic and cultural barriers. Shyamhari Chakra

On Sunday last (August 25), when the news of the passing away of Padma Shri awardee Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi was aired, people across the globe fondly remembered him as the better half of the Odissi legend Sanjukta Panigrahi. True, he himself loved being known this way. Yet, it would be a disgrace upon the veteran vocalist-musician to confine his identity thus; in the way the man of incredible humility used to project himself.
Arguably the lone musician to have a grip over India’s three distinct music traditions – Carnatic, Hindustani and Odissi – he had the unique distinction of being the only non-South Indian singer to lend his voice for Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam films as a playback singer. Little did many know that before sacrificing his career as a young and acclaimed singer in Chennai and Mumbai to be the accompanying Odissi vocalist for his dancer-wife, he had trained living legends like Yesudas and Ilayaraja and had even sung with Lata Mangeshkar for a Hindi movie.
Fondly referred to as “Geet Govind Panigrahi” for his soulful rendition and world-wide popularization of these immortal songs of Jayadev, he was conferred the coveted Grand Prix Award in France in 1982 for his contribution to Indian traditional music while he and his wife were India’s first artiste couple to share the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1976.
Excerpts from his last interview in Bhubaneswar.
Music, my natural choice
While I was quite fond of singing as a kid, my father Nilamani Panigrahi, who was an exponent of music, was my first music teacher. He had authority over Sanskrit, Odia and Telugu languages. So, he could groom me wisely. I was sent to the temple town of Puri known for its culture since ancient times, where I had eight years of training in Odissi music from the stalwarts. Then, I had training in Carnatic in Vizianagaram in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and finally I came under the tutelage of Hindustani music exponent D.V.Paluskar in Pune. All this happened more than 60 years ago.
Madras fetched me fame and fortune
In 1950, I accompanied my father to a national music conference being held in Madras. I sang all the 24 cantos of Geet Govind there and got instant recognition. A well-known music composer from the famous AVM Studios was present on the occasion and he asked me if I would be able to sing in Telugu. Since I was brought up in Gunupur town on the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh boarder where my music teacher was a Telugu, apart from my father being an authority over Telugu, I had no difficulty. The film makers were so impressed that they accepted me as a playback singer for the Telugu film Sangham . I lent my voice for N.T.Rama Rao. It was followed by offers to work as a playback singer for Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam films. It was during my days in Chennai that I met and married Sanju (Sanjukta Panigrahi).
Odyssey with Odissi
Though Sanju was well-trained in Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra and was known as a powerful performer, she decided to be back in Odisha to study, perform and establish Odissi as a distinct dance form along with her Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. So, as her life partner and her vocalist, I also decided to quit Madras after 12 years of my life in Madras to support her. I never regret my decision to quit Madras. I am rather proud that I could contribute in the making of a legend (Sanjukta) who was instrumental in establishing Odissi as an Indian classical dance style and put it prominently in the world map. I loved her so much that I was willing to sacrifice my prospects for her.
Unforgettable Madras memories
Meeting Sanju at Kalakshetra was a turning point in my life. I believe, we were made for each other. She suggested that I focus fully on classical music, on Geet Govind in particular; that made me famous later on. My association with Maa (Rukmini Devi Arundale) enriched my life. Sanju was like a daughter to her and I was staying at her brother’s house. So I had the fortune to be closer to her. Working with Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna at AIR, Madras was a rare relationship. He was the producer under whom I worked as a singer. I also cherish the memories of singing for Vyjayantimala Bali and Padma Subramaniam during their dance recitals.
When Sanju was no more…
People often ask me why I stopped singing for dance recitals. When Sanju was no more, for who could I sing? She had perfect understanding of my music. She knew how I used to sing in a meditative mood and improvise on stage instantly. Others cannot follow my temperament. She had good sense of music as at Kalakshetra dancers were also being trained in music. She was even able to guide me at times in matters of music.
I love music as a whole
I love listening to all sorts of stuff – both eastern and western. I even love Hindi film songs. But my favourites were those old numbers composed by people like Naushad, Roshan Kumar and Anil Biswas. I can, no more, enjoy today’s kind of film music. It lacks melody and decency of language.
Indian music is one
Indian classical music did not have divisions when I was a young student. The divisions came during the early 1950’s and that created confusion as well.
To me, Indian music is one. Its science is the same though the styles of rendition and application make it sound different. I am convinced that Hindustani music has its roots in the Carnatic.
In fact, Indian classical music and dance originated and flourished with the Dravidians civilization and not the Aryans who arrived in India much later.
I am convinced that Hindustani music has its roots in the Carnatic.

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