Music

A family’s bond with the MLV bani

 Trichur Ramachandran with Charumathi and daughter Subhashree

Trichur Ramachandran with Charumathi and daughter Subhashree

It was Trichur. The legendary M.L.Vasanthakumari was in concert. A huge crowd had gathered to hear her. Sitting among them was a 10-year-old boy. Suddenly the lights went off, engulfing the pandal in darkness. Undeterred, MLV sang, ‘Radha samedha Krishna,’ and the lights came back to a huge applause.

The little boy enjoyed the whole experience, hardly realising that he would one day become a well-known Carnatic vocalist and a disciple of the inimitable G.N. Balasubramaniam. That boy is Trichur Ramachandran.

Such wonderful memories surfaced in an online event organised recently to mark M L Vasanthakumari’s 92nd birth anniversary. It featured veteran musicians Trichur and Charumathi Ramachandran and their vocalist-daughter Subhashree. They were in conversation with Rohit Dhamankar, co-founder of Austin-based organisation, Antarnaada.

M.L. Vasanthakumari

M.L. Vasanthakumari

Infectious energy

Besides interesting anecdotes, Charumathi, one of MLV’s prime disciples, rendered her guru’s favourite compositions such as ‘Sri Viswanatham Bhajeham.’ MLV’s infectious creative energy and her sense of humour also came up during the conversation.

Trichur Ramachandran, who opted music over a career in medicine, came under GNB's tutelage. After GNB passed away, he approached MLV and remained her student till her last years.

“MLV’s bani was unique. Her wonderful extempore Revathi raga RTP at a concert still lingers in mind,” says Trichur Ramachandran. “A dynamic musician, her raga explorations were like lessons in understanding the nuances of Carnatic music. She could perform difficult pancha-nadai pallavis, and collaborated with greats like Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer and Alathur Brothers.

Charumathi recalled how she, at age 12, met her guru. “I was accompanied by my mother Alamelu Viswanathan. My mother requested MLV to accept me as her disciple." Two years later, Charumathi accompanied MLV on stage.

Talking about singing kalpanaswaras at concerts with MLV, Charumathi said it was a challenge as it was mostly extempore.

“She would often say, ‘Observe me closely and you will imbibe the style.’ She used to make me take turns in niraval for ‘Badari vanamula’ in the kriti ‘Akshayalinga Vibho’ (Sankarabharanam), and that interaction became popular.” Thus, she saw up-close the genesis of MLV’s manodharma. Charumathi sang snatches of Mohanam to explain spuritam (repeating notes in twos), and ravajati brigas (intricate speed phrases). She then rendered phrases of Abheri in true MLV style and said, “Her bhavam on the gandharam was incredible.”

MLV’s mastery over tanam singing was unparalleled. Demonstrating a few beautiful phrases from MLV’s favourite Hindustani ragas such as Behag and Tilang, Charumathi also demonstrated how unforgettable was MLV’s unexpected manodharma in kalpanaswara for pieces like ‘Mokshamu Galada’ (Saramati). She also exhibited the MLV touch in rare ragas like Varamu.

Joining in the conversation, Subhashree Ramachandran recalled her memorable interactions with MLV at concerts and at home, “In her bani, you have everything. She rendered ‘Kalyana Gopalam’ (Sindhu Bhairavi) to show how her music is soaked in the beauty of the bani.


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 7:23:55 am | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/a-familys-bond-with-the-mlv-bani/article32106054.ece