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Updated: February 28, 2012 01:11 IST

Mridangam maestro no more

Special Correspondent
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A file picture of veteran Mridangam vidwan Vellore Ramabhadran during a concert in Chennai. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao.
The Hindu A file picture of veteran Mridangam vidwan Vellore Ramabhadran during a concert in Chennai. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao.

Veteran mridangam vidwan Vellore Ramabhadran, who enriched the world of carnatic music with his sensitive percussive technique, passed away here on Monday. He was 82.

Born on August 4, 1929, he was introduced to mridangam-playing by his father Vellore Konnakkol Gopalachariar, a noted laya vidwan. Ramabhadran's journey as a performing artiste began in 1943 at the Jagannatha Bhakta Sabha, Chennai, when he got to accompany the legendary Madurai Mani Iyer.

In his career that spanned nearly seven decades, Ramabhadran accompanied doyens, including Chembai Vaidyanatha Bagavathar, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Madurai Mani Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Musiri Subramania Iyer, G.N. Balasubramaniam, flute Mahalingam and Maharajapuram Santhanam. His performances with seasoned artistes such as Lalgudi Jayaraman, T.N. Krishnan, T.V. Sanakaranarayanan, T.K. Govinda Rao, T.N. Seshagopalan, N. Ramani, B. Rajam Iyer and P.S. Narayanaswami are cherished by rasikas.

Ramabhadran was known not only for his nuanced understanding of music that reflected in every stroke he played, but also for his professionalism. Colleagues and associates fondly remember him as a very loving person.

I remember many of his concerts during Rama Navami Celebrations in Bangalore. He would never overtake his main artist but at the same time would leave an indelible impression behind at the end of the concert. He was so talented that his instrument produced only music and not noise. Many Vidwans would be handicapped with his passing away.

from:  V. Raghunathan
Posted on: Mar 18, 2012 at 14:41 IST

His style of playing is very nice and soft to hear. We lost a great artist.All of us pray for his athmasanthi.

from:  Sriram S
Posted on: Mar 4, 2012 at 15:59 IST

A great loss indeed. His style was simple and shadowed the main artist. He took the complexity out of laya with ease. Only a real vidwan can do that. To me Shri VR's accompaniment to instrumental music is unbeatable. I have a 3.5 minus thani of his in misra chapu played after an elaborate Thodi by Sangeetha Kalanidhi Veenai Shivanandam. It is the best thani I have heard. It has all the sounds that a mridangist can produce. I suppose brevity was his middle name.
Shri VR was also a great promoter of carnatic music. May his soul rest in peace.

from:  Shivakumar
Posted on: Feb 29, 2012 at 23:48 IST

I was always wondering how his Mridangam alone could produce such a
sweet, melodious sound compelling me to focus more on his Mridangam than
other accompaniments.

from:  Venkatachalam
Posted on: Feb 29, 2012 at 14:37 IST

Continued from previous email:

VR was nondiscript in appearance. He wore a plain white dhothi and a white short sleeve shirt showing that his art is more important and the clothing should also not attract undue attention. Perhaps he showed Dharma in his appearance too. A great life lived, we all benefitted.

from:  Sundararajan
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 19:52 IST

When great artistes complete life, it is irreperable loss to rest of humanity. During the course of their lives, each one of them entertain, soothe and provide meaning to the existence of ordinary folks which all of us are. In the cat. of great artistes, Sangeetha Kalanidhi Vellore Ramabhadran Iyengar stands almost alone because of his humility as well. Whether you meet him in his morning walks around Chitrakulam and Periakulam tank in Mylapore, in the company of other artistes (Flute Ramanis sister, Papanasam Sivan, for example)or meet him after an expose at the Harbouorfront in Toronto, VR remained his simple self. VR left an impression that he played, with reverence, the mridangam, because he loved doing it and because his followers, the rasikas, loved every moment of it and he gave it to them unstintingly. In a sense he cared so much fo the rasikas as much as they loved him and his performance. Lastly, even his physical presentation of himself for the concerts,(pl see next email)

from:  Sundararjan
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 19:45 IST

Vellore Ramabhadran was a great soul. His artistry and the command on the rhythm
was impeccable. He will be very fondly missed. I still remember my dad telling us
how in the middle of the night he along with Flute Vishwanathan ended up in his
house and they jam through the night. 25 years later when I met Vellore
Ramabhadran he could still remember that incident. It's amazing how he could
remember nuances when there are so many things happening on a daily basis. That's
a quality of a GREAT artist. No wonder his laya was so precise to the minutest detail.
He is a FABULOUS artist and will be missed.

from:  Ram Sethuraman
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 19:16 IST

He was not only nuanced in laya play but the rendering had a "nadham" in it that Rashikas cherish. Incredible that he is no more. He made his presence felt by "Sukham" in his play and transmitted to the heart of listeners. Connoisuers will always remember his way of playing to the different masters in a different way but in his own ethos. Unparalled, unmatched and unforgettable. With moist eyes and heavy heart I cherish his renderings.

from:  S.Sundaresan
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 15:59 IST

The real loss.......to music lovers. Did he achieve the due recognition?
A great performer....wonderful follower who accompanied the singers sans any ego. The memory lanes are still in myself very vividly-a superb concert of Maharajapuram Santhanam at Sirifort with V Thyagarajan and the Great Velloore sir.His late arrival to the stage by changing the local boy who accompanied the varnam... This was in late 80s.....My heartfelt condolences to all his family members

from:  Dr Udai balram
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 12:42 IST

Sri Vellore Ramabhadran is a great personality and good human being. His death is a great loss to music lovers. I used to be his neighbour in Mylapore and i know nim from my childhood days. Pray for his soul rest in peace. My condolances to all his family members.

from:  KANNAN
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 10:32 IST

Ramabhadran was the last of the great three maestros who strode the
Carnatic music scene(Mani Iyer, Subramania Pillai and Ramabhadran) and
the inevitable has happened. It may be due to his self-effacing nature--
it is my feeling he did not receive due recognition in his life-time. He
will be sorely missed.

from:  Ram Venkat
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 10:00 IST

It is a great loss to carnatic music.Vellore Ramabhadran was a highly
accomplished artist for years. Having accompanied on the mridangam for
many stalwarts, he was a down to earth person. He never aspired for any
laurels or awards and was dedicated to music.May his soul rest in peace.

from:  Seetharam
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 09:20 IST

I have been watching the great mridangam playing vidwan,who is no more, since the Binny Subbarao Ramanavami kutcheris in 60s at Coimbatore. I have numerous kutcheris of him playing to all top vidwans and his playing style was always unique and delightful to hear. He came to Melbourne several years ago accompanying Delhi Sundararajan and his simplicity was beyond description. Will definitely miss him and his playing style.. May HIS soul RIP and deepest condolences to the bereaved family memebrs.

from:  Bala Balachandran
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 07:26 IST

Vellore. Ramabadran lived as a great Carnatic idol He got a good number of Rasikas. He had got a very good value of Carnatic stream. I had a very good opportunity in listening to his music in Canada.

from:  Raman
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 06:05 IST

Irrecoverable loss to the world of Carnatic Music. He was a 'Nadha Badhran'. May his soul rest in peace.

from:  Paraankusam Ramaswamy
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 03:18 IST

Indeed a great loss to the music world. May his soul rest in peace.

from:  Kala Iyer
Posted on: Feb 28, 2012 at 01:26 IST

I was blessed to meet Shri Vellore Ramabadran in Sydney when he
accompanied Neyveli Santhanagopalan at a chamber concert soon after
the sabha program. I also heard him sing and it was as melodious as
his mridangam accompaniment. I gave a copy of the review I had written
of the program to Shri Santhanagopalan who shared it with Vellore
Ramabadran and he accepted my compliments with a smile.I saw him last at a program to mark the book release on MKT in Shastri hall and although he was not very active, one could see that his mind was agile and sharp.We have lost one more maestro!!

from:  Badri
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 23:17 IST

The "Special Correspondent": There is noting special about him when he
excluded the greatest Carnatic vocalist: Shri MD Ramanathan. I have
in my collection atleast 45 kutcheris where they joined together in
pesenting purely delightful music surrendering to perfection! Back in
1996 in Queens, NY I had had the privilege of driving the eminent trio
of KSG, Kaniakumari and the deceased in my tiny 1992 Honda Civic. I
played a trick on Ms Kaniakumari:After relentlessly pursuing the
question: "Madam, what is your favourite raga?" for about 10 minutes
on the crowded Long Island Expressway she sat silent. I playfully(Only
Sri Ramabhadran (my fellow front seat passenger) and I knew it was a
light game to ease the pressures of maniac drivers on the
highway)pulled the car over to the shoulder, and parked the car
nonchalantly and proclaimed that the car wouldn't move until the
answer came. Then --- she declared "Madhyamavati". All of us cheered,
as Sri VR sang :"Ramakatha sudha..." Ha Ha Haa!

from:  Kantikumar Narayanakurup
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 20:03 IST

It is very sad news for the Carnatic world that Sri Ramabhadran passed away recently.

Ramabhadran visited Ottawa, Canada, and stayed in our house and we had a lot of dicussions about music. I remarked that whenever he played mridangam, it sounded so great and differently from other renditions.
He said that mridangam 'adikkakoodadhu", but "Vashikkanam".A very modest man with such a great talent is a rarity.

from:  DR V.S. Ramachandran
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 19:30 IST

He was a great humanist. I have moved with him very closely. He would never ask for anything from any one. A very warm hearted person. It is a great loss indeed. -- B.R.Kumar, former Deputy Director-General, AIR and DD, Prasar Bharathi, Chennai.

from:  B.R.Kumar
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 18:38 IST

A great loss to carnatic music world.

from:  M. Srinivas Dixit
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 18:18 IST

A Great loss to carnatic music! His style of accompaniment was quite
unparalleled! His enchanting percussion will be missed!

from:  sahara
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 18:08 IST

I like these columns giving the past -- reviving my memory but are there many great artistes like these in the present too? or articles will come out only after their fading away. These artistes will be thrilled to see such write-ups.

from:  Mani Iyer
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 17:55 IST

A great loss. He lived a long and active life. Was known for his gentle behaviour and carried his fame with humility. Such persons are rare to come by.

from:  Dr S.Srinivasan
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 17:55 IST

Extremely sad to learn of this - we had the pleasure of hosting him in upstate NY about 27 years ago and taking him to Niagara Falls, etc. Extremely nice gentleman, very nuanced style and ability to adapt to different artistes, and of course, a witty humor. Very sad news!

from:  Venkatesh
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 17:42 IST

A very big loss to the carnatic music world. I have attended innumerable concerts - some times just to listen to his 'tani'.
A very sad day for music lovers. May his sould rest in peace.

from:  Murali Krishnamurthy
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 17:40 IST

He was a perfect gentleman among musicians and a musicians' musician as well..... He was a complete artist, both on stage and off stage. I recollect with pleasure all the conversations I had with him during his several visits to Toronto, Canada.

from:  Pasupathy
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 17:32 IST

Indeed a great loss to the World of Music ! May his Soul rest in Peace !

from:  K. Balaji
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 15:50 IST

Vellore Ramabadran Sir was one of the most preferred mridangist by many
senior vidwans. Such a wonderful and humble person. His way of handling
mridangam was so effortless and the nadam he brought out of that was
simply out of the world. I attended so many of his concerts and enjoyed
his mridangam playing a lot. RIP Sir.

from:  Gopinath
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 14:52 IST

Great loss to the music world. He is JUST SIMPLICITY PERSONIFIED as a matter of personality. His contributions are enormous to the music fraternity from the point of accompaniment and thani style. He was indeed a King of Laya.

May his soul rest in peace.

from:  S Krishnarajan
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 14:39 IST

I have attended many of his live recitals, the last one being where he accompanied late Sri Maharajapuarm Santhanam. His sarva laghu patterns which he played during that recital, while accompanying the vocalist and the violinist are still ringing in my ears. A real accompanying artiste, who does not disturb the main performer. His passing away is indeed a great loss for all music lovers. It ia very unfortunate that I have not met him personally. I pray to the almighty for his soul to rest in peace.

from:  Haresh Prahlad
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 14:38 IST

Big loss to the music world. Will always be remembered for his unique
and divine style of playing.

from:  Ram Ganesan
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 14:37 IST

Indeed a great loss to the world of Carnatic Music! Heartfelt
condolences.

from:  rmsganesan
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 13:52 IST

This is a big and monumental loss to Carnatic Music. His simplistic style was highly appreciated by one and all. His concerts with Sri Madurai Mani Iyer will always remain in the minds of all Music Lovers. May his soul RIP. God Bless.

from:  Jayadev Menon
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 13:18 IST

I have attended several of his live concerts and he was a pleasure to
listen to.. Never attempted to steal the thunder from the main artist
and his soft playing style would be a refreshing change.. RIP Sir..

from:  karthik
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 12:57 IST

Ramabhadran's style was refreshingly original,the way he used to adapt his accompaniment style to suit different artistes, and doyens they were, was amazing. And his thani used to be a treat, elegant and soothing to our ears, with surprising embellishments, elevating experience to the soul. One more great master is going away from our midst.

from:  Mahadevan
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 12:47 IST

Indeed a great loss to the world of Carnatic Music! Heartfelt
condolences.

from:  Sri Raghava Kiran Mukku
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 12:05 IST

It is a great loss to the world of music. Shri. Vellore Ramabhadran
was a highly accomplished artist - i still recollect the
(Sri.Ramanavami) concerts at Bengalooru given by late Dr. M D
Ramanathan, where Shri. Ramabhadran was a fitting accompanying
artist. Only a highly accomplished artist could play for Dr. MDR. May
his soul rest in peace!! Om-tat-sat!!

from:  P Kumar
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 12:02 IST

Demise of "nadabhadran" Vellore Ramabhadran is a great loss to
Karnataka Sangitam, particularly its laya sphere.

from:  Mayuram G. Swaminathan
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 11:35 IST

I once had the opportunity to witness Vidwan Vellore Ramabhadran Sir's concert at Bangalore.He was accompanying Mandolin U Srinivas.He was uncomparable with anybody.It's great loss for Carnatic Classical Music & Music lovers. May the Divine soul rest in peace.

from:  Ramachandra Rao G.N.
Posted on: Feb 27, 2012 at 11:31 IST
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