Music

Living by values

Annavarapu Ramaswamy.  

“I am not a ‘nidhi' (treasure) in sangeetam, but I am in the ‘sannidhi' (treasure house) of sangeetam,” quips veteran violinist Annavarapu Ramaswami, referring to the titles bestowed on him. .

In one of his visits to the twin cities, Annavarapu speaks on the status of music today juxtaposed to that of his day, his love of teaching and his musical roots. “As an accompanying artist, I always followed the vocalist on stage and bowed my violin to suit his style. For one, this does not mean, I have no individualistic style. But, it has been my principle to merge with the artist in question so that there is a good blend in style. I will play my solo space also in tune with that of the vocalist. It's my forte to capture the mood of the artist and reflect the same on my violin. When it comes to my solo presentation, I will naturally display my own style,” he explains. He is sensitive to the thin line that divides a solo violin programme from an accompanying violin play and never allows for blurring of this division.

On the importance of lyric and musical notation, he says, of late, the latter had overtaken the former which is a sad state of affairs. “When our great composers penned the lyric, it was emotion first, followed by flow of words and then a raga with notation that suited both the feeling and the lyric was brought to envelop the song. For instance, ‘ vandanamu Raghunandana…' a Thyagaraja kriti in Sahana begins with the lower note shadjam (sa) as the saint-poet envisages the divine feet of Sri Rama as he prostrates in a ‘vandanam'. Today, everyoneis a composer who would bestow a raga each upon ‘unearthed' rare compositions of some ancient poet and declare his new avatar as composer-singer.

When it comes to some youngster rendering the kriti as per the notation, all that you can hear is a ruthlessly broken flow of the lyric with no soul whatsoever. There are no questions asked,” he laments. He adds as an after thought, “it is necessary to keep the grammar intact, but not at the cost of feeling and meaning.”

Annavarapu stresses on the Telugu language as best suited to classical music compositions. “Telugu alphabets are 56 in number encompassing a wide spectrum in diction and meaning. Its rich vocabulary popularised it to a large extent so much so, in Thanjavur, the nerve centre of Tamil Nadu, Telugu thrived in the royal court as well as among the erudite. Even Tamil composers like Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar and Patnam Subramania Iyer wrote in Telugu. No other language has so many music compositions like Telugu. Its grandeur is par excellence,” he declares with pride.

The veteran violinist loves teaching in his guru's parampara.

He is never tired of lauding his guru Parupalli's yeoman service to music in our state. “My guru had many offers open to make it big in Madras those days. But he never budged. He wanted to propagate music among the Telugu people. He belonged to the shisya parampara of Thyagaraja. He would celebrate a five-day music festival annually in memory of his guru and give his pupils stage space. Like many others of my time, I lived on charity, getting food from a house a day through the week. Now, my way of paying back to my guru was to construct a school in his name in my village and renovate the dilapidated Rama mandiram under whose roof my first music lessons began.” Having been with the AIR Vijayawada as its staff artist for 38 years (from 1948), Annavarapu Ramaswami is now into solo katcheris or else is busy teaching aspiring students free of charge. “Swara siddhi is the hallmark of a real musician. M.S. Subbulakshmi has proved it,” is his last word on music.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 12:39:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/living-by-values/article2050481.ece

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