V.V. Ramanamurthy bagged Music Academy's ‘Senior best mridangam artiste award'.

It's a pleasure to see our regional artistes make it big at the Chennai music season (Margazhi festival) and bring home laurels! The latest is percussion maestro V.V. Ramanamurthy who bagged Music Academy's ‘Senior best mridangam artiste award'. No mean achievement considering the number of percussionists that reign over the music field of southern India.

Though born into a family of musicians and to Vankayala Narasimham, a veteran mridangam artiste of our region, Ramanamurthy's love for the instrument was more inborn than imbibed. It was an all-consuming love so that learning to play the mridangam at an early age was ‘child's play'. “My first concert was at the age of eight. And there was no looking back. My father was an artiste with a vision. He believed in developing individual talent among his disciples including me. He was not for Xerox copies. If we were five students at a time, we were like five fingers springing out of the hand (guru). He never prevented me from absorbing other styles if I wanted to. On the other hand, he always encouraged me to try out,” he says.

No small wonder that Ramanamurthy was received with a frown from the orthodox, as he himself admits, for adopting the pakhawaz style for certain kritis in order to keep in line with the melody. “Later of course, I'm being praised for this very new aspect,” he quips.

How do we know the stamp of your guru on your percussion play? “The base line technically is the same. The approach to tani avarthanam, the calculations, all testify to the Narasimham school. It is only the creative aspect that may set us (his pupils) apart,” he explains.

Once creativity stings you, experimentation is not far behind. The first fusion came out in the late nineties with an Austrian group. “I was 34 years old then,” he smiles adding, “I was the first to usher in fusion in the Visakhapatnam music circuit. I have till date never sacrificed the values of our music system at the altar of fusion.”

He has been accompanying the biggest names in Carnatic and Hindustani classical, not to talk of western instrumentalists with whom he shared the dais very often. Of late, his pairing with with renowned violinist L. Subramanyam is being received extremely well. . Their 2011 concert at United Nations where world ambassadors galore, created a record of sorts. “After M.S. Subbulakshmi, we were the only Indians from south India to have made it to the UN,” he says.

Known for his sensitive percussion style which holds both the raga quality and its finer nuances, Ramanamurthy believes in learning our classical performing arts only through a guru. “The Skype and the other electronic medium can at best be a supportive, but nothing can actually substitute a human guru. These traditional arts are so set, that it is not one-time learning but several repetitive exercises, each time being rectified and refined by the teacher on the spot. The creative output is also something that springs from the guru without a prior call and a sishya who is face to face with it is the most fortunate. What more can substantiate my view?” he asks.

The maestro, an AIR (A-top) artiste at Visakhapatnam with innumerable awards and distinctions to his credit, opines that the artist and his instrument are inseparable. “The instrument to me is my Rama; it is an embodiment of God,” he states as he signs off.