His music touched the soul.
On Sunday last, Hamsadhwani of Chennai paid tribute to M.D. Ramanathan, whose birth anniversary fell on May 21. T.V. Gopalakrishnan presented a concert in memory of the legend and among those present was Mrs. Visalam Ramanathan. R. Sundar, secretary of the sabha, delivered a speech on the occasion. Excerpts:
“MDR stood for Music, Depth, Resonance or may be Music, Divine, Repose. It is a travesty of justice and fairness that MDR ‘s musical accomplishments did not get celebrated adequately and honours did not pour in when he lived – but then he resides in our hearts as a musician who was a true embodiment of pristine purity and a quintessential Nadopasaka. MDR created a world of his own and lived in that world unaffected by the lures of times. Well-versed in Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu, MDR practised bhakti through singing.
“I wish to quote Prince Rama Varma here: ‘When M.D. Ramanathan sang ‘Amba Kamakshi,’ Syama Sastri’s immortal Bhairavi swarajati for instance, he would seem to metamorphose into Syama Sastri to begin with. The transformation would continue magically till he became the song too… and Bhairavi itself. And finally things would come to a state where M.D. Ramanathan, his accompanists, the sruti, Syama Sastri, the Swarajati, Bhairavi ragam, Goddess Kamakshi herself and the sensitive listener, all fused together to become one single entity, brimming with music, completeness and perfection. It is this experience that I had in mind when I talked about seeing God and showing God to others.’
“A soft and tender mood created by his vilambakala style made a Sahana, a Ritigowla, or a Kapi an experience by itself, beyond words, beyond mundane comprehension. He introspected through song and sahitya and we introspected ourselves in that inspired musicscape.
“We owe it in our family to my grandfather who would exhort us to listen to MDR’s radio recitals and my father, R. Ramachandran, a great fan of MDR taking us to his concerts when we were 8-10 years. We liked MDR… something in his music that had us surrender to his rendering – no building crescendo in fire cracking swaraprasthara or pacy style… yet it appealed! Once when one of our relatives wondered how we took a liking to MDR’S music at such a young age, my father retorted – ‘ivaalukku chinna vayasuleye gnanam vandirukkunnu artham.’
“Mrs Visalam Ramanathan was kind enough to share interesting nuggets about her husband: he enjoyed the company of children; laced with humour and wit, he narrated stories from epics… he liked crisp snacks… favourite ragas were Nattai, Yadukulakhambodi, Kapi, Kalyani, Sahana… sang songs only after fully understanding the meaning of the song… checked from the panchaangam on the day of the concert for any auspicious festival, kizhamai and presented songs to suit the occasion… when singing in marriages he ensured that he selected songs seeking the blessings of God for the couple… was averse to chatting… had a daily puja routine and while travelling to a concert hall would recite Lalitha Sahasranamam or recite slokas… serious about his art… child like at home, his only ideal was music itself.”