The world of Indian classical and folk music mourns the loss of Leela Omchery, a distinguished classical musician and accomplished musicologist, who recently passed away at the age of 94. Her lifetime was devoted to an extensive body of research work encompassing various facets of Indian classical and folk music. This article aims to celebrate her life and contributions, shedding light on her remarkable journey.
Early Life and Multifaceted Musical Prowess:
Born in Thiruvattar, Kanyakumari, in 1929, Leela Omchery spent much of her life in Delhi. Her legacy is marked by her versatility in multiple music traditions, including Carnatic music, Hindustani music, Sopana Sangeetham, and folk songs. While her research predominantly focused on Carnatic and Hindustani music, she also dedicated herself to bringing lesser-known musical forms to the forefront. These encompassed Thevaram songs, Kathakali Sangeetham, and various dance forms, notably Krishnanattam.
Academic and Teaching Journey:
Leela Omchery’s academic journey was equally illustrious. She served as the head of the music department at Delhi University, where her tenure spanned 28 years. Her influence and guidance left an indelible mark on the students she mentored, shaping the future of Indian classical music scholarship.
Leela Omchery’s literary contributions are vast and impactful. Some of her major publications include “Immortals of Indian Music,” “Gleanings in Indian Music,” “Indian Music and Allied Arts” (in 5 volumes), “Abhinayasangeetham,” “Keralathile Laasya Rachanakal,” and “Leela Omcheriyude Pathangal.” Beyond music, she extended her talents to short stories and translations from Tamil, including a translation of Kalki’s “Parthivan Kanavu.”
Recognition and Awards:
In 2005, the nation recognized Leela Omchery’s invaluable contributions to the field of music by conferring upon her the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honors. Her pioneering work and dedication to music and research made her a revered figure in the world of Indian classical arts.
A Family of Artists:
Leela Omchery was part of a family deeply rooted in the arts. She was married to the renowned playwright, poet, and writer Omchery N.N. Pillai. Her younger brother, the popular playback singer Kamukara Purushothaman, added another layer of artistic talent to their family.
Condolences and Legacy:
Her passing has left a void in the world of Indian classical and folk music. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan offered his condolences and acknowledged her significant contributions in popularizing Swathi Tirunal krithis and her role in evolving the sequences of Mohiniyattam. Leela Omchery’s legacy lives on, not only in her music and scholarship but also in the countless lives she touched and inspired through her remarkable journey.