Unassuming and soft-spoken, Sathiraju Venumadhav tells vhe wants to be known as the classical singer India is proud of

Sathiraju Venumadhav comes from a humble background and had no singers in the family except for a grandmother, who learnt kirtanas. When he was 11-months-old, doctors performed a cleft lip surgery and assured the family that the little boy will talk clearly. The little boy not only spoke but also sang with precision. His voice oozed melody and his renditions delighted the Carnatic music aficionados. “God wanted me to sing. It’s all in my destiny,” he says when we meet him at his office in Srinagar Colony. “Even when I am talking, my mind is thinking of music,” he smiles.

Venumadhav works as a HR manager in Vijay Nirman Company Private Limited and juggles his time between music concerts and office work. “Earlier, I worked in Jet Airways for 11 years and my colleagues were very helpful. During my concert days, I would exchange my shifts with my colleagues and pursue music,” he says.

Venumadhav was just 13 days old when his mother passed away; he grew up under the care of his grandmother. She enrolled him at Guntur Music College and his initiation into music began with sarali swaraalu.

Venumadhav works as a HR manager in Vijay Nirman Company Private Limited and juggles his time between music concerts and office work. “Earlier, I worked in Jet Airways for 11 years and my colleagues were very helpful. During my concert days, I would exchange my shifts with my colleagues and pursue music,” he says.

“Music became an important part of my life. There was a gap of two years while I was learning but I picked up with every new level,” he says. In Hyderabad, he joined the music colleges at Ramkote and Secunderabad and was under the tutelage of Hari Priya and Vasa Padmanabham.

He took part in the talent show Paadutha Teeyaga in ‘96 where he reached the semi finals. “After the programme, SPB garu told me that my voice suits Carnatic music. He said: ‘You will be successful and earn respect if you stick to classical music.”

Unassuming and soft-spoken, Venumadhav got an opportunity to sing for dancer Ananda Shankar Jayant. Venumadhav’s melodic voice was in sync with the dancer’s rhythmic steps in her performances. But it proved to be a deterrent to his music career as he did not get offers to do concerts on his own. “There is a misconception among people that musicians who sing for dance concerts are not capable of doing kacheriskutcheris. Nobody would call me for concerts and it was quite a dull phase,” he says. As they say, talent shines despite hurdles, he was seen on stage giving musical renditions. He still continues to sing for Ananda Shankar for her shows. “Her dance and my voice blend well. Rendu baaga set ayipoyayiayipoyindi,” he says with a smile.

In 2007, he composed music to Annamayya kirtanaskeertanasand sang them at Thyagaraya Gana Sabha, Hyderabad. “I thought the kirtanas had never been composed before but I was wrong. Seeing my disappointment, Sitarama Sarma of Sujanaranjani gave me 108 new kirtanas of Annamayya. I composed and sang them all and we released a CD and book in 2010 called Annamayya Pada Mandakini,” he says.

As he improved his skills as a composer, he realised the importance of a good composition. “A music maker is a step ahead of a singer. The composer is able to conceive the way the song is to be sung and the singer is just following his imagination,” he says. Venumadhav is known for his diction, resonant voice and sense of grammar in singing the nuances of classical music. “In the past I would just sing a kirtana without any emphasis. Now, as I am able to understand the words, the experience is spiritual,” he says. The tone and timbre of a song is also very significant as a slight deviation will change the whole meaning. Giving an example, he says, “The line Naadatanumanusham is one word and has to be sung without any break. If the singer splits the word, the essence is lost,” he says.

He holds maestro Nedunuri Krishnamurthy’s appreciation in high regard. “He told me, ‘You sing well, I will teach you.’ Once Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna garu gave a certificate to me as a kid during one of the competitions and applauded me. One will always cherish these comments,” he says with gratitude. He is particularly grateful to his family, especially parents Parvathi Devi and Ramakrishna Rao, guru Raghava Chary and grandmother Rajyalakshmi. “It’s all because of their blessings,” he says with a mark of respect. He is married and has two sons who learn music from him.

He rues that some youngsters learn classical music only to participate in reality shows or to be a film singer. “Some of them have good voice and learn music but end up being chorus singers in films.”

Any dreams? “I want to take Carnatic music to the common man. I want to be known as a singer India is proud of. Whenever somebody takes my name, I want to be remembered as a singer who sings well.”

Talking about the merits of classical music, Venumadhav says “Classical music is related to body system. Thyagaraja swamy called it nada yogam – doing yoga with music. Classical music is also considered the easy way to attain moksham. Sangeetam aatmandam aatmanandam kaligistundi, anduloni sahityam, aatma gynanam istunidi. Music and lyrics are interlinked.