Creative spaces Society

On the music beat

Mridangam artiste Mavelikara R.V. Rajesh Photo: Liza George

Mridangam artiste Mavelikara R.V. Rajesh Photo: Liza George  

Mavelikara R.V. Rajesh sets his inner musician free in his music room

Mridangam artiste Mavelikara R.V. Rajesh is seated cross-legged on a mat on the floor of his living room. A showcase behind him holds pictures of him and his family. He turns to open a closed cabinet of the showcase and pulls out a mridangam. The living room, he says, is where he fine tunes his mridangams before any performance, a habit he had picked up from his late grandfather, mridangam maestro Mavelikara Krishnankuttty Nair. “My grandfather would tune his instruments before every concert. I imbibed his practices from watching him over the years. I have a concert today. That is why I am busy tuning the mridangam I am carrying with me tonight. I also occasionally practise the mridangam in this room. See this small door to my left? It opens to the pooja room. I leave the door open as I practise. My music thus becomes an offering to the Gods. Playing here gives me a sense of calm.”

Rajesh who grew up at his grandfather’s home at Press Road, Statue, says his grandfather was his first guru. The porch was their practice space. A shelf in a corner of the porch held his grandfather’s collection of mridangams, while the walls displayed pictures of Krishnankuttty Nair’s various concerts and one of the late maestro’s guru, Palani Subramania Pillai and that of Palakkad Mani Iyer. There was also a thulasi maadam in front, recalls Rajesh.

After teaching both Rajesh and his younger brother Rajeev, the basics of mridangam, Krishnankuttty Nair, handed over the training to Professor Kadanad V.K. Gopi. Rajesh then went on to train under Professor Mavelikara Velukutty Nair and with his father, Cherthala A.K Ramachandran’s encouragement, travelled to Chennai to polish his skills under T.K. Moorthy. “One of my greatest moments was being able to play with my guru, Dr. T.K. Moorthy at a concert at Navarathri Mandapam in 2003. He was accompanying P.S. Narayanaswamy.”

A huge “bhakthan” of music composer Ilayaraja, Rajesh, an A-top grade staff artiste of All India Radio, Thiruvananthapuram, who has accompanied various Carnatic greats such as Parasala Ponnammal, Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, K.J. Yesudas, N. Ramani and Neyyattinkara Vasudevan, says it was the maestro’s music that inspired him to try his hand at music composing. “I don’t know any form of vocal music. I didn’t know the ABC of Western music or how to play the keyboard, yet I bought myself one. I started playing it by ear.”

When he decided to build a house in Thirumala, he asked the architect to design a music room for him on the first floor of his residence, far from the hub of the house. The room is spacious and well ventilated. The room is a laboratory for his experiments with music. A computer table holds his computer and speakers. There is a microphone on its stand and a pedestal fan beside the table. A clock and a few photo frames adorn the walls. He points to a photo on a wall. “Lyricist R.K. Damodaran knows I am a fan of Illayaraja and invited me to the recording of Siddique’s Friends in Chennai. That picture of Illayaraja and I was taken then.”

He turns on the computer to play some of his music. A familiar song starts playing but to a different tune. “It’s Sita Kalyanam. I have also done something similar to the bhajan Vaishnava Janatho. This is the room where I let my inner music, all its whims and fancies flow,” says Rajesh, who has composed scores for short films such as Nombaram - An Unrealised Story Of Love, Life and Zohreah’s Gandhi. “Nowadays I spend most of my time here as I am working on a music album. If you pay close attention, rhythm is a forte in my music. The album, which is tentatively titled Roots and Routes, will contain six songs and should be out next year,” he says signing out.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 3:47:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/On-the-music-beat/article15546056.ece

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