His father, in his younger days, wanted to learn Carnatic music. But the situation at home did not permit it. Circumstances also made him migrate to Chennai from his native village of Simhadripuram in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh, where he was learning the basics of the flute from a harmonium master in the village. Later on, the father’s only dream was to impart Carnatic music education to his children. B.V. Raghavendra Rao’s musical journey in the violin was an offshoot of this dream of his father’s. While the father chose various musical instruments for his brothers, his sisters were taught vocal music and dance. “The house was, therefore, always bustling with Carnatic music and dance. This led me to take up and learn the violin seriously,” recollects Raghavendra Rao, who was in the Capital recently for a performance.
After learning the basics of the violin from Balan, Raghavendra continued to learn the art from Thiruvallur Veeraraghavan, Sangeetham Meera and T.N. Krishnan. He also learnt Western classical music from V.S. Narasimhan. “Right from the sitting posture, handling the instrument, to practising the rigorous gamaka-laden exercises, fingering and bowing techniques, all were moulded and shaped by Krishnan sir,” says a grateful Raghavendra.
Today, Raghavendra accompanies top-ranking musicians in the field of Carnatic music, which include T.N. Seshagopalan, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, O.S. Thyagarajan, Sudha Raghunathan, S. Sowmya, Bombay Jayashree, Nithyashree Mahadevan and the Priya Sisters.
His father, Raghavendra says, was a hard taskmaster. “Every day he would wake us up early morning and make us practise for two to three hours. After we were back from school too, he would make us practise another two to three hours. Later on, when we attained a certain level of proficiency in our areas, he took us to the leading vidwans and music directors.”
“I started performing when I was 14, when I was in the eighth standard,” recalls Raghavendra. His father took him to perform in every nook and corner of Andhra Pradesh. By the time he graduated from Guru Nanak College in Chennai, he was busy playing at concerts. There was no looking back for this young Commerce graduate as he started getting plenty of opportunities to play even for the senior artistes.
Raghavendra recollects another turning point in his career. Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, who recognised his talent, provided him an opportunity as his regular accompanist. “To me, Dr. Balamurali Krishna is a father figure, a guru and a mentor who even nurtured my talents on the stage itself,” avers Raghavendra.
Raghavendra, who also plays solo violin concerts, points out that a solo recital is like an examination in which the question paper is set by the one who takes the paper. He adds that playing as an accompanist is a challenging task in which one has to meet the expectations of the main artiste, anticipate what the main artiste is going to sing next, and give a fitting reply to the intricate kanakku, the difficult nadai pallavi or even the new raga. “I am proud to have fulfilled the dreams of my father.”