Vidwan Neranki Vishnu Murthy, a first-generation percussionist, shaped his life and career with optimism and determination. Born on 23 February 1922 as the seventh child of Krishnayya and Parvatamma in Puttur, Karnataka, Murthy was orphaned at a very young age. Even with his elder brothers taking up the role of breadwinners for the family, poverty struck hard forcing him to discontinue school from the eighth standard despite his stellar grades. He turned to music and trained in tabla-playing with Ramakrishna Prabhu, Narayana Pai and N.R. Bantwalkar. His quick learning abilities saw him entering the local concert platforms quite early in life. Later, on the advice of his tutor Ramakrishna Prabhu, he left for Mysore in search of a guru who could guide him in the intricacies to a greater degree. His passion was such that he pawned his tiny earrings for 3½ rupees with his family jeweler and left without informing his family.
In Mysore, Murthy went to the house of Gopannayya, a family friend, who promptly introduced him to tabla vidwan D. Sheshappa of the Mysore Palace. Sheshappa accepted Murthy as a disciple and also had one of his students offer him a day job at a hotel to help him make a livelihood. Despite his busy work schedule, Murthy managed to attend the concerts of all the musicians visiting Mysore. It was on one such occasion that Murthy, yearning to attend a concert by the famed Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar with Palghat Mani Iyer and T.S. Chowdiah, scaled the fence of the concert hall trying to evade the security guard and injured himself. The compassionate Chowdiah who happened to witness the incident was impressed by the determination of the blooddrenched boy and arranged a special VIP pass for him for all the concerts in the hall that day; a turn that the boy remembered with gratitude for the rest of his life.
As earning a livelihood became increasingly difficult, Murthy decided to pursue mridangam as it seemed more lucrative in light of the bustling Carnatic music scene at that time. Murthy requested Mogur T. Puttaswamy, a regular visitor to Mysore, to teach him to play the mridangam and was readily accepted as his disciple. In 1947, on Puttaswamy’s recommendation, Murthy moved to Madras and began teaching tabla to the children of Kadandale Krishna Bhat who owned Krishna Bhavan Hotel (now Woodlands Hotel) and K. Seetharama Rao who owned Dasaprakash Hotel. Murthy was offered food and a room to stay by the former… read more