Notes from his life

Radha Vijayan  

With the looks of an actor, Radha Vijayan could have followed in his famous father M.K. Radha’s footsteps, but he chose to become a guitarist instead. Passionate about music, he worked with well-known composers before moving to Singapore. He is now the director of Mirra Fine Arts in Singapore. At an event held in there recently, he spoke to this writer about his growing up days and how he took to music.

The song ‘Maanum Mayilum’ (‘Aboorva Sagaodarargal’) became the starting point of our conversation. The highlight of the song, which featured his father and P. Bhanumathy was the playing of the piano by the actors to match the background music.

“Those days one had to be an all rounder. My grandfather, Kandaswamy Mudaliar, ran the Original Boys Company, a drama group, of which my father too was a part. Many greats such as T.S. Baliah, M.G. Chakrapani, MGR and K.A. Thangavelu were part of this troupe.

“Being a task master, he used to cast my father as a substitute whenever an actor/musician failed to turn up for the day’s show. This was apart from enacting his assigned role. That is how he learnt to play many instruments, sing and act.”

His father, recalls Radha, named him after one of the characters (Vijayan and Vikraman) that he played in the film.

“As a young boy I loved playing the harmonica, especially the song ‘Konji Konji Pesi’. Seeing my flair for music, singer-composer Manicka Vinayagam gave me an old guitar. I tuned the strings and began strumming.”

His parents were keen that he pursue his studies. However, Radha learnt more about the guitar when his friend’s father gifted him one. His classmate Sumanth goaded him to join Dhanraj master’s class, where he befriended guitar artist Sadanandam (son of music director Sudarsanam).

“We used to have several practise sessions. I further honed my guitar playing skills by listening to the popular instrumental bands of the Fifties and Sixties, The Ventures and The Shadows. Hank Marvin, the lead guitarist of The Shadows, and Nokie Edwards, the lead guitarist of The Ventures, were my inspiration. However I consider Guitar Philip as my ‘manaseega guru’.”

Such influences helped Radha develop a unique tonal quality and he began playing for many music directors, including M.S. Viswanathan.

He also formed a western music group, Bluericks, during his college days.

“As we were a formidable combination with Sada (lead), S. Chandrasekar (rhythms and founder of the band), Ramjhi (drums), Johnny Menzes (sax) and myself (bass), we gave the ‘Missiles,’ another western music group, a stiff competition. I was also part of Manicka Vinayagam’s light music group ‘Starlings’ which had musicians and singers who were children of actors.”

He made his foray into film music under music director S.M. Subbiah Naidu (SMS).

His first electric guitar was again a gift from actor E.V. Saroja who was also related to him. “She encouraged me to pursue my passion.”

From MSV, Ilaiyaraja to V. Kumar and Thayanban, Radha Vijayan has worked with most of the leading music directors of that time.

His playing for Gangai Amaren’s films brought him closer to ‘Guitar’ Philip. Amaren is one of the most cheerful composers I have worked with.

“From Philip I learnt a lot about harmony and musical arrangements.”

Padma Subrahmanyam, a close family friend, gave Vijayan an offer to arrange music fusing western tunes for a dance drama she was planning to stage in Singapore. He had to travel a few times to Singapore for this project.

K.P. Bhaskar, president of Nrithyalaya, Singapore, offered him the position of a composer in their institution.

“And I decided to move to Singapore permanently. Radha Vijayan formed the first Singapore Tamizh choir group. Mahakavi’s ‘Manadhil Urudhi Vendum’ was the first song he presented as a cappella.

“After almost nine years with them, I founded MIRRA Fine Arts. I train students in Western music. I am happy that I am doing what I love the most — music.”

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 3:16:29 PM |

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