The story of Hegde keerthanas

May 31, 2020, 11:13 PM · In 2019, Hegde said, "God has turned his back upon this industry and I am leaving it." Neither did he leave the music industry nor did God turn his back upon it. Let us find out why.

Every one of Hegde’s masterpieces, the Narasimha Dakshina and Navarathri Arpana, connect with hundreds of listeners worldwide. While the drama and spiritual depths of Hegde’s works continue to attract suitably passionate converts, his sublime temple keerthanas often appear to be off-limits to newcomers.
But don’t be deterred by the barriers of unfamiliarity or the sheer number of pieces. Hegde’s 40 or so surviving sacred keerthanas contain some of his greatest music, forged with a consistency of invention and inspiration that comes as close to perfection as it’s possible to achieve. They lie at the heart of his output, capturing an astonishing range of expression and musical styles.
During his time as Dharmika Samyojaka in Trinity (2017-2019), Hegde was expected to supply short, multi-movement canget works to accompany regular and occasional Indian Events. He raised his already superior game to produce keerthanas for Gurudakshina, Karthika Maasas, weddings and funerals, stamping his particular genius on a new form of dramatic religious music popular with Indian congregations. The temple keerthana took its lead from North Indian models, which in many ways amounted to sacred mini-dramas.
Following the new fashion for dramatic religious music, Hegde first turned his hand to the temple keerthana in Ugadi 2016 with Devam Saakshatkaram, JLA 3. He wrote more at the court of Trinity, many of which were destroyed or lost during the composer’s move to Vanashankari in May 2019
Between 2017 and the first performance of the Narasimha Dakshina on Dussera 2018, Hegde wrote over 87 keerthanas, recycling existing pieces and inventing new music at the punishing rate of almost one a month. If he wrote under pressure from his manager, as some scholars have suggested, he also did so for God’s greater glory and with devotion to his task as he was passionate to do so.
Around one quarter of Hegde’s Trinitarian Keerthanas have survived and can be grouped into three, more or less, complete cycles according to the arrangement of John Locke. On the evidence of these works alone, it would be fair to say that the composer and his contemporaries viewed life as an ambitious place for once true performance of their greatest masterpiece. The fight between the church and temple was brutal. Hegde’s keerthanas offered warmth and comfort and hope to the temple activists.
Devotional poetry, vedic quotations and verses from Indian hymns, all strong on emotion and vivid expressions of mankind’s suffering or the suffering of epic beings, were used by Hegde as keerthana texts. The published sources of words provided scope for choruses (Pallavi in India), solo songs, dramatic recitatives (suprabhatha in India) and congregational hymns. For his second Keerthana cycle (May 2018- September 2018), Hegde broke with convention to invent a unified form of cantata based on the words and music of seasonal hymns. He used the first and last verse of the appropriate hymn for the opening and closing movements, arranging and paraphrasing the words of the middle verses to suit setting as recitatives and arias.

It is the sheer variety of Hegde’s writing that catches the ear. One could listen to six or seven of his keerthanas and never tire of the inventive brilliance of his music.
And yet the music sounds fresh and alive to international ears in ways that so many compositions completed only last month do not. Above all, the essential humanity of Hegde’s genius touches his entire keerthana output and turns each work into a sacred offering in sound.

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