Music

A teaching method of their own

B. V. Raman and B. V. Lakshmanan at a concert

B. V. Raman and B. V. Lakshmanan at a concert

Every student who trained under the twin brothers, B.V. Raman and B.V. Lakshmanan, cannot forget their gentle voices and ever-smiling faces along with the encouraging words, “With practice you can sing” ( paada paada varum ), that boosted the confidence of young learners.

Our beloved gurus had many disciples and their teaching method was very unique.

We still remember the day when we first attended Raman Sir’s class. We were in our teens and were straightaway taught the pallavis of one varnam and three other kritis. Sir then said, “This is all for the day”.

Since this kind of approach to teaching music was unheard of, we were worried and tense. Looking at the expressions on our faces, he understood what was going through our minds. He assured us that we will soon get accustomed to this method. He took away our notebooks saying that he would write the lyrics himself (both the brothers had beautiful handwriting) and give it to us in the next class.

While leaving the class, we tried to recollect the songs he had taught, at least a few lines. We felt nervous without the notebook in our hands and wondered how we would practise at home.

The next class, sir had written down the songs sans notation, but did not give the notebook to us to take a look at the lyrics.

With his encouragement and support, we learnt for 15 years without any notes, notations and recordings. Even today, every disciple of the brothers will be able to recall whatever they were taught without referring to any notebook.

In 1938, the brothers at the age of 17, began their formal music training under S. Srinivasa Rao. They also learnt from Veena Krishnamachariar and Kulitalai Krishnaswami Rao. Their lessons in Kathakali padas were under Venkatakrishna Bhagavatar, the elder brother of Palghat Rama Bhagavatar.

It so happened that once Tiger Varadachari had a chance to listen to the brothers sing, and suggested that they join the Sangeeta Bhooshanam course in the Music College at Annamalai University in Chidambaram, of which he was the principal. With support from Tiger Varadachari, who allowed the brothers to stay with him apart from offering them scholarship, the brothers completed the course in 1943. It was also the same year when Varadachari relinquished his post to join Kalakshetra in Chennai.

While in college, the brothers had the privilege to learn from Tiger Varadachari. They came to Chennai after completing their Sangeeta Bhooshanam course to work with Varadachari at Kalakshetra.

From 1943 to 1945, the brothers played an important role in assisting Rukmini Devi in many of her productions.

Unique approach

The brothers were unique in whatever they did. For instance, they began learning music only at the age of 17 and performing at the age of 35. They would make every performance stand out — a full fledged concert of Muthuswami Dikshitar’s rare compositions, a concert of just Thiruppugazh songs, a concert featuring post-Trinity compositions, or a Vinayaka Chaturthi concert with all songs, including the mangalam , in praise of Vinayaka.

Even their All India Radio concerts were theme based, like the one with all Gowla ragas or the one that featured rare compositions of Yogi Suddhananda Bharathi.

They set to tune all the 4,000 verses of the Divya Prabandham, around 27 kritis of Anayampatti Adi Seshaiyyar, and some Tarangams of Narayana Tirtha. They have composed varnams and thillanas.

Sathya Sai Baba learnt music from the brothers, which he openly acknowledged in many forums. The brothers stayed in Puttaparthi for about four years, during which period B.V. Raman composed as many as 37 songs on Sathya Sai Baba, which includes the famous aarti song, ‘Om Jai Jagadeesha Hare’.

For 40 years they conducted the aradhana of Sadashiva Brahmendral at Manamadurai with sincerity and commitment.

They believed in simple living while their music was a reflection of their devotion to the art and their spirituality. As much as their music, it was the personal qualities of the brothers that endeared them to the public as well as to their peers. They were generous in their appreciation of their accompanists, contemporaries and younger artistes.

At a special event organised for his centenary at Chennai’s Ragasudha Hall, the vidwans Anayampatti Ganesan and N. V. Subramanian, who were closely associated with the brothers, performed a tribute concert.

The writers are well-known Carnatic vocalists.


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Printable version | May 20, 2022 4:42:23 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/a-teaching-method-of-their-own/article34045308.ece