Ronald A conducts a `one-man ganamela' to make ends meetThe song `Sandhya Mayangum neram' came as a fitting tribute to the setting sun. The lone singer with his crude equipment (a speaker, a microphone and CD player) is a curious sight for many gathered at Shanghumugham beach. But the regulars know the man, Ronald A., better known as Ronald Regan for long. "When I began anew as a singer, people asked me my name and I would say Ronald. They would then add Regan and somehow the name Ronald Regan stuck," says Ronald.
One-man troupeA street performer, Ronald, a native of Vettukad, has been performing in the city for many years. As you watch the crowd around him, it seems the concept of a `one man ganamela' is gaining popularity among the city folk. For Ronald, singing is serious business. "It sustains my family," says the artist. Born in a low-income family, Ronald had an accident in his childhood that left him crippled for life. "People all the world over turn a blind eye to people who have disabilities. I have suffered a lot, but the sea would keep me company. I felt so lonely during rainy nights that I used to sleep on the beach under a plastic sheet, communing with nature."But young Ronald had a penchant for fighting the odds. Plumbing, electrical works, welding, Ronald has tried his hands in many a job before signing off his youth with a brief stint as a watch mechanic. "All of them were futile exercises. I had to earn something for my family."So as a last resort Ronald turned to his childhood dream of becoming a singer. "However, no known ganamela troupes were ready to accept an invalid like me," recalls Ronald. He has no formal education in music. No teachers can claim his share of glory now. An ardent fan of old melodies, Ronald tries to imitate the great maestros in music. "K.S. George, Kamukara... I can reproduce their voice while singing."You can find a rich blend of mimicry and song as the artist performs. Ronald made his mark as a street singer with his unique skill of emulating the voice of classic singers. He can even sing duets, rendering male and female voices at one go. His imitation of S. Janaki and P. Suseela are a favourite among the audience who often ask for an encore. The echo effect, which is Ronald's specialty, adds to the drama. "I don't know whether anyone else in the field uses this technique," says Ronald.As a singer, Ronald likes melodies with meaningful lyrics. However, he says he does not enjoy the music of Gen-Y. "There is no meaning to the lyrics." A fan of K.J. Yesudas, "I like Yesudas for his precision in pronunciation." Accompanied by music from his CD player, Ronald says that he often finds sceptics among his audience. "They feel it is not I who is singing. Many have snatched my microphone thinking I'm lip-syncing to the music. Now, I often cough, splutter or deliberately mess up with the music, so that they know that it's really my voice."Travelling in his autorickshaw, Statue Junction, Museum junction and Shankhumugham are some of his favourite haunts to perform. Passers by pause a minute or two to hear him perform. As they leave, some leave him a tip as others walk away while Ronald sings his heart out.