Shyama Shastri is one of the three musician
s who comprise the "Trinity" of Carnatic music
, the other two being Thyagaraja
and Muthuswami Dikshitar
. Shyama Shastri compose
d about 300 song
s mainly in the Telegu
language, even though he was a Tamil
. He also composed a few songs in Sanskrit
. Most of his songs are devoted to the Goddess Bangaru Kamakshi
On April 2, 1762, Shyama Shastri was born to Vishwanatha Iyer and Vengalakshmi. His real name was Venkata Subramanya, but he came to be affectionately known by the townspeople as Shyama Shastri, and the name stuck. At the age of seven, he went through the Upanayanam (coming of age) ceremony, during and after which he was given a sound education in Sanskrit and Telegu, as well as taught various devotional songs. In addition, he would accompany his father to the temple of the Devi, where his father was a priest. Shyama Shastri's own faith in the Goddess grew, and would later be reflected in his music.
At aound this point, Shyama Shastri's singing talent was noticed, and his mother asked her cousins to teach him the fundamentals of music, and Shyama Shastri soon became proficient and surpassed what they could teach.
When Shyama Shastri was 18, his parents moved to the town of Thanjavur (incidentally, this is near Tiruvayyaru, where Thyagaraja lived). A sannyasi, Sangita Swami, came to their house from Banares. Upon listening to Shyama Shastri, he was very impressed and offered to be his guru (teacher). After the Swami and under his recommendation, Shyama Shastri became the shishya (disciple) of Pacchimiriyam Adiyappayya. Following this, Shyama Shastri joined the Thanjavur court as a court musician. Shyama Shastri was also good friends with Muthuswami Dikshitar, and the two often sang for hours together.
Shyama Shastri's greatest work is the Navaratnamalika, literally, "nine-jewel garland". These are the nine songs he composed when he went to Madurai and sang to the Meenakshi goddess in order to receive her blessings. Shyama Shastri's style is neither as simple and purely devotional as that of Thyagaraja nor as complex as that of Muthuswami Dikshitar, although he is noted for his complex rhythmical patterns. On February 6, 1827, Shyama Shastri died, leaving behind him a body of work of some 300 songs and a place in the great Trinity of Carnatic music.