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It took Kadri Gopalnath (born: Kalaimamani Kadri Gopalnath) nearly twenty years to adapt the saxophone to the intricacies of Indian classical music, but, his acclaim has continued to grow. In a review of a concert by Gopalnath, The London Times wrote, "(Gopalnath's) soft, legato, flurries meshed perfectly in an unusual grouping of violin, Jew's harp and mridangam drum". The Illustrated Weekly Of India took a similar view, claiming "(Gopalnath's) music would make a stone melt". Born into a musical family, Gopalnath initially followed his father's footsteps and played the nadhaswaram, an Indian instrument similar to the clarinet. He also studied vocal music for five years in Mangalore. A turning point in Gopalnath's musical development came when he attended a concert by a brass band at a place in Mysore. Fascinated by the group's saxophone player, he swore to learn the instrument. With his father's encouragement, he began studying with the band's saxophonist, Lakshi Narasimhaiah. Relocating to Madras, in 1975, he continued to study the saxophone under T.V. Gopalakrishnan. Within two years, he was proficient enough on the instrument to perform his debut concert. Gopalnath's first major break came when he was invited to compose and perform on the soundtrack of a highly successful film, Duet. Attracting international attention, he began to tour throughout the world, performing at jazz festivals in Berlin, Prague, France and Mexico. In 1994, Gopalnath became the first South Indian classical musician to perform in the BBC Promenade concert.
Dr. Kadri Gopalnath (Tulu: ಕದ್ರಿ ಗೋಪಾಲನಾಥ್) (born 11 December 1949) is an Indian saxophonist and one of the pioneers of Carnatic music on the saxophone.
Early life 
Kadri Gopalnath was born in 1949 in the city of Mangalore to Thaniappa and Gangamma. He acquired a taste for music from his father Thaniappa, a nadaswaram vidwan. As a child, Gopalnath once saw the saxophone being played in the Mysore palace band set. Upon hearing the vibrant tone of the saxophone, Gopalnath decided to master it. It took him nearly 20 years to conquer the complex western wind instrument, and he was eventually crowned as the "Saxophone Chakravarthy".
Gopalnath had to make certain modifications to the conventional alto saxophone to play Carnatic music. So successful has this adaptation been that the great musician Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, the doyen of Carnatic music, has acknowledged Kadri Gopalnath as a true Carnatic music genius.
Gopalnath learned to play the instrument under Gopalkrishna Iyer of Kalaniketana, Mangalore. In Madras, Gopalnath came in contact with the mridangist T.V. Gopalkrishnan, who identified the youngster's potential and tutored him.
His maiden performance was for the Chembai Memorial Trust. The 1980 Bombay Jazz Festival was a turning point for Gopalnath. John Handy, a jazz musician from California was present at the festival. Hearing Gopalnath play, Handy asked if he could go on stage and perform alongside with him. So well did the two mesh, Handy in the jazz style and Gopalnath in the Carnatic style, that it became an instant hit with the audience. Gopalnath has participated in the Jazz Festival in Prague, the Berlin Jazz Festival, the International Cervantino Festival in Mexico, the Music Hall Festival in Paris, the BBC Promenade concert in 1994 at London, and has toured all over the world.
He has cut many albums and has recorded a number of cassettes and CDs. Together with jazz flautist James Newton, he recorded Southern Brothers. His production called 'East-West' is an audio-video presentation that, as the title suggests, is a fusion of Western and Indian music. This album took 6 months to produce and has compositions from Saint Tyagaraja, Beethoven and the likes.
Film director K. Balachander used Gopalnath's services in his Tamil film Duet. The film had music composed by A.R. Rahman and all the songs had saxophonic instrumentation by Gopalnath, mostly in raga Kalyana Vasantam. He once said about this album: : "I played some 30 ragas for Rahman. He wasn't satisfied. Finally I played Kalyana Vasantam, and he said, "Thats it!". After that movie I became known. I was in all the papers. It became difficult to travel in buses and trains. Of course I enjoyed the mass appeal."
In 2005, Gopalnath began a collaboration with American saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa, which resulted in the 2008 album Kinsmen (Pi Recordings) and supporting US tour.
Awards, titles and tributes 
Titles and honors have come his way, the most cherished being the Asthana Vidwan of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pettam, Sri Sringeri Sharadha Peetam, Sri Ahobila Mutt and Sri Pillayapatti Temple. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2004.
Gopalnath has the distinction of being the first Carnatic musician to be invited in the BBC Promenade concert in 1994, in the Royal Albert Hall at London. The Asian Music Circuit, U.K, sponsored his recital.
Among his other distinctions are: Saxophone Charkravarthy, Saxophone Samrat, Ganakala Shree, Nadapasana Brahma, Sunada Prakashika, Nada Kalarathna, Nada Kalanidhi, Sangeetha Vadya Rathna, Karnataka Kalashree in 1996, Vocational Excellency Award from the Rotary of Madras, Tamil Nadu State Award "Kalaimamani" and Karnataka Rajyotsava Award in 1998.
He received an honorary doctorate from Bangalore University in 2004.
The 2008 album Blue Rhizome by the New Quartet features a tribute to the saxophonist called "Gopalnath" (composed by Karl E. H. Seigfried).