Considered to be the greatest among the living maddlegaras (percussionist) of Yakshagana, Nedle Narasimha Rama Bhatta (1913) is a complete artist of Yakshagana instruments. He is highly respected as an artist, as a person and as a guide.
Born at Nedle near Vittal of Bantwal, he belongs to the Gurikar family of Havyak Brahmins. (Gurikar is a social – religious position in the community). He inherited Yakshagana from his forefathers, who all were artists in their own way. He got the initiation from his uncle Gurikar Kehsava Bhatta, and brother-in-law Panjigadde Govinda Bhatta. Later he came into contact with ‘greats’ like Kukkila, Balipa Bhagawath, Mambady and Shiva Madlegar, which made him a top class artist.
Having had a stint as an agriculturist, and laster as a farm supervisor, Narasimha Bhat gave up agriculture, gifted his share of property to his brother, and became a full time artist. He served the field over six decades with distinction, before retiring at the age of seventynine, quite a long art innings indeed.
He has served in various melas. He served the Dharmastala Mela and Kateel Mela for long periods. He has ‘beaten’ the chande and maddale for three genenrations of actors and Bhagawathas, with rare success.
His partnership with music with Balipa, Agari and Kadathoka Bhagawatha are considered to be his best periods. When the great Yakshaganacharya Kuriya Vittala Shasthry gave a new dimension to Yakshagana dance, with his creative abhinaya – Agari and Nedle had to redesign the himmela (background) which they did with great success. Agari – Nedle – Kuriya Shasthry combination is considered to be the finest ever seen on Yakshagana stage. He continued to give good accompaniment to Kadathoka Manjunatha Bhagawatha, another creative singer with whom Nedle made new experiments.
Narasimha Bhat is considered an authority of Yakshagana music. He is also a Bhagawatha, an expert in traditional stage convention, direction and story ‘anubhava’. Though not a dancer himself, he has guided and corrected many actors in dance, gesture and stage systems (‘Krama’). He is considered to be a person to be consulted on various aspects of tradition.
His fingering and stick work (beating) is traditional, lively, clean, systematic and perfect in rhythm. He lends excellent support to singer and actor, without causing any disturbances by his ‘own way’. His beating does not hinder the singers voice and expression, come so aptly, that he is rightly called the master of the Chande. When a singer of dancer thinks of a new line, Narasimha rises to the occasion and follows immediately improvising the beating.
A friendly, soft spoken mand and lively conversationalist, Nedle is know for his dedication to duty and dignity. At the age of 86, Narasimha Bhat is a happy man, living with his only son Ramesh, who has set up food products industry at Mangalore named ‘Narans’ – including in it his name ‘Narasimha’. He is a partner in the CD venture.
Nedle Joke: Nedle Narasimha Bhat, popular as ‘Narasimhanna’ and ‘Narasimhajja’, is well known for his sense of humor, harmless joking, full of punch. One such joke is:
Once Nedle appreciated a singer (not so good) and said that he deserves to sing for radio programmes.
A friend asked ‘Why did you say that, when he does not deserve it?’
Nedle said, ‘What I said was very correct. It is better if he sings for the radio. You are free to switch off the radio!’.
Dr M Prabhakara Joshy