Ramachandran is proud that he belongs to the rich Maharajapuram school of music. He recalls the contribution of his legendary grandfather and father
For Bangaloreans it was goingback to the past. MaharajapuramRamachandran hadbarely started his concert andrequests just streamed in for "BhoSambho Sivasambho" in Revathiraga. Once he took it up, it wasdelivered in the same vibrant tempoand tone that his renowned fatherSanthanam was oncethronged for. What followed at theNadasurabhi concert were appealsfor the Kannada kriti that hismaestro-father always had an encorefor - "Govinda Ninna NamaveChanda" in JanaSammodini.
Begada, Natta, Harikambodhi,Varali, Darbar, Anandabhairavi,Kalyani and Neelambari weresome of the other ragas of the eveningand this package too seemeda sampling of his father's favourites.Ramachandran's voicetransports you to being a shockingSanthanam parallel and taking uphis father's hits occupies the secondhalf in most of his concerts.
How does it feel to dischargeone's duties towards family tradition?"It's not just Santhanam'smusic that I am taking across, I amproud to propagate the rich MaharajapuramSchool which has itsown style, approach and technique.If Veene Seshanna's Jhinjootitillana was a hit, it alsospeaks of the liveliness that mygrandfather Vishwanatha Iyer andmy father Santhanam had infusedit with."
He spoke of the distinct, cascadinggamakas in Mohana, the longphrases of Brindavana Saranga,the unusual shudha gandhara inthe rare Varamu or the specialisedhandling of Keeravani that takesyou to broader contours of the raga.Carnatic music connoisseurswill agree that the Maharajapuramschool is indeed unique. "I dobring in my originality in raga-improvisationsand swara-prasthara,but I also adhere to my schoolingin the Maharajapuram discipline."
And why not, the vidwans ofMaharajapuram had toiled, travelledand taken across a style sosingularly unique that they wereidentified with the places they belongedto more than their ownnames. The art is alreadyvibrant with the third-generationperformers now - Ramachandranand Srinivasan - and thefourth generation is being moulded- Vishwanath and Ganesh - byviolin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman.
In the early 1960s, MaharajapuramVishwanatha Iyer and Santhanamhad performed inColombo for the Sri Lanka Academy.The then Information andBroadcasting Minister was so impressedthat he requested them tobe at the helm of affairs of theRamanathan Music Academy inJaffna.
"After my grandpa's death, althoughI was employed in a bank, Iused to accompany my father inmost of his concerts. Those initialyears proved a perfect classroomfor performance-learning." Fromconcerts under the best bannersabroad to local ones Ramachandran'sprogress saw him accompanying his father and acceptingindividual concerts at thesame time. "What I cherish arethe times when my father, mybrother Srinivasan and me wereall together recording an album ofMysore Vasudevacharya kritis,"says Ramachandran. He vividlydescribes their concert when hisfather was made the Asthana Vid-wan at Tirupathi.
"Not just my father, our knowledgeis also because of my motherGnanambal's intrinsic musicalitythat had her comment on my father'sconcerts - correcting andadvising him on several occasions.Running 78 now,she is one of the best critics Ihave known," he says.
Individual cutcheris at theKrishna Gana Sabha in Chennaiand Bangalore Rama Seva Mandaligave him extra boost to tread anindependent path, although packagingconcerts and sensing the audience-pulse were directlyinfluenced with his associationwith the maestro. "My father neverbelieved in planning, I don't rememberseeing a list in a singleconcert. But there would be noreplication of ragas or repetitivekritis. Ragas were selected on thebasis of gandhara and madyamaand composers were taken up insuccession. Tail-enders were usuallyaudience requests. But I clearlyremember my father refusing totake up Begade once, as he felt theaudience wasn't serious enough toenjoy Begade."
At the moment, Maharajapuramis busy taking the artistic geniusof their style forward.