Jayaprada Ramamurthy's flute spells melody and music means the world to her

A festival is no occasion to unwind for a performing artiste. Flautist Jayaprada Ramamurthy had a packed schedule performing at two concerts, after receiving the Ugadi Puraskar award recently. Her day ended well past midnight following the evening concert. “Being a performing artiste is not a time bound job. I've been having such schedules for nearly three years now. I've learnt to take each day as it comes,” smiles the soft spoken and the only reputed woman flautist in the state, talking to us on a balmy afternoon post Ugadi.

This schedule has become her way of life despite choosing concerts with care. For Jayaprada, music is an art and not just a means to earn livelihood. “I turn down requests to perform at marriage concerts, unless I know the people very well. The intent of performing should be in making the music reach the listeners,” she says.

Self-taught musician

A performing artiste for two decades, Jayaprada emphasises that music is in her genes, a statement that's tough to argue with. Born to acclaimed vocalist Prema Ramamurthy, Jayaprada remembers her mother doing riyaaz as early as 3 a.m. when Jayaprada and her brother were young children. “Years later when I started practicing, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasiaji told me that practicing early morning helps you sustain the music through the day. Flute is a tough instrument to control and requires stamina and patience,” she says.

Thanks to her musical lineage and inherent ability to grasp the nuances, Jayaprada learnt the basics and honed her skills simply by listening to music. It was much later that the self taught musician fine tuned her skill with the help of artistes like maestro N. Ramani, Sudharshanacharya and B.R.C. Iyengar.

She compares her ability with that of students who learn the Veda. “The students never write down the Vedas. They chant the Vedas and over a period of time, master them. In my school days, I never did rote learning. I could assimilate things quickly and scored well. Music too came naturally to me,” she states.

Till date, she remains the only accomplished woman flautist in the state and rues that young women who learn to play the flute do not sustain. “Sustenance is everything. You cannot call yourself a cricketer if you gave up the sport after school days. The same logic applies to music,” she feels. She should know. As a guru who teachers young girls and boys, Jayaprada sees a few committed students inclined towards making music a way of life and others who learn it as a hobby. “Sometimes old students resurface and express their interest to learn further,” she says.

Jayaprada started performing young, at 13. “Money was not the motive but I started earning through concerts since then and have been financially self-sufficient. All that exposure in the public domain made me mature,” she says.

Losing her father 12 years ago was a blow. “My brother had moved to the US for studies and was not able to come in time. I had to perform the last rites. It was a tough time for me and I was depressed,” she recalls.

This day, that age

Her mother has been a source of inspiration and support throughout. “My mother, despite being recognised as one of the finest vocalists, was not lucky to have a strong backing. And she didn't know to promote herself after moving from her hometown Bellary to Hyderabad. In her days, very few women musicians managed to shine. My mother supported my passion for music but didn't want me to face the hardships that she did. She was particular that my brother and I complete our education. My brother played cricket in his school days and later was part of the Hyderabad team. Later he made a choice and went to the US for higher studies,” she says.

On her part, Jayaprada studied business management and followed it up with an MCA. She does a tightrope balancing act now, juggling music performances and her Ph.D in commerce. “My professor (Osmania University) suggested I do a thesis on Marketing of Performing Arts and intellectual property rights. To my knowledge, only Philip Kotler and a few foreign researchers have researched on similar topics,” she shares.

The real picture

It helps that she has an insider's picture of the music industry. “In the course of data collection, when I ask performers whether they send their bio-data to organisations requesting opportunities to perform at concerts, they tend to answer in the negative. But the organisers will present a clear picture. And being in this field, I know what really happens,” she says.

Talking of the ways of the industry, she reveals that it is still tough for women artistes, who at times have to tackle ego issues from organisers and male co-artistes. Added to that, certain established artistes try to stall the growth of younger artistes. “I don't think I would be insecure when I am 60. If I reach a stage where I cannot perform, I will become an organiser,” she says.