An inimitable musician

Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma who turns 75 on Wednesday has a style of his own in musical performances. That style, particularly in the `raagalapana' and `niraval' are inimitable and inexplicable. They are to be experienced directly from him as words fail to describe them in full. The nobility, sublimity, depth, pathos and exuberance of his concerts remain esoteric and reveal his scholarship, authority and authenticity.

He has a royal legacy. His maternal grandfather is none other than A. R. Rajaraja Varma better known as `Kerala Panini'. His father is nephew of the famous artist, Raja Ravi Varma. Thus when art and literature joined hands, music was born.

An ardent fan of Prabhakara Varma, A. K. Sreenarayana Bhattathiri of Eroor in Tripunithura says that that he is considered an authentic scholar and exuberant performer of our times.

Varma passed out with distinction from the Swathi Thirunal Academi, scoring the Gana Bhooshanam degree way back in 1950. His debut performance was at the Chengannur Mahadeva temple and he has been entertaining the cognoscenti for well over a half a century.

In 1957, he was made assistant professor of music at the Swati Thirunal College in Thiruvananthapuram. Later on, he became professor. In 1980, he became principal of the RLV College of Music and Fine Arts in Tripunithura.

He has a host of distinguished disciples including Neyyattinkara Vasudevan, M. G. Radhakrishnan, K. Omanakutty, Kumara Kerala Varma, Pala C. K. Ramachandran and Sankaran Namboothiri.

Awards and accolades came his way. They include the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy award of 1985, Travancore Devaswom Board award of 1996 and senior fellowship of the Culture Department of Government of India.

He was the Visiting Professor of Music in 1988 and 1989 at Pittsburg and has held renditions and concerts at New York, Washington, New Orleans, Toronto and other cities in the U.S. and Canada.

All India Radio has been broadcasting his voice ever since 1947.

Now he is an `A' grade artist of AIR and Doordarshan and has done many national programmes on both.

He stands apart in today's world of high competition and conflict, with his soft-spoken and unassuming nature.

Music is a passion for him and he is wedded to it. At 75, he is teaching music — both to septuagenarians and tiny tots — and is enjoying it .

By Venkiteswaran K

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