/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": The Master Flautist: Vidwan Dr. N. Ramani

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Master Flautist: Vidwan Dr. N. Ramani

"Parvathi", the hallowed musical conclave in Mysore that hosted many a maestro year after year, was a wellspring of inspiration for the artistes as much as it was a haven for the rasikas. The famed flautist Dr. N. Ramani ( b. 1934) was one of those who came and performed many times in Mysore.

The mantle of the leading flautist in Carnatic music fell on his shoulders quickly after his own guru 'Mali' (T.R. Mahalingam) reduced his concert appearances. Ramani not only stepped into the role readily, he also gave a wholesome dimension to the flute concert, enriched with a great vocal technique of his own and a fine repertoire. His mastery over the instrument as well as his gayaki manodharma ooze out from the word go in every concert. He exults in collaborating with top-notch accompanists and his concerts always leave the listener satiated.


" ... you know how I've spoken to you many times about our traditions in Parvathi ... it was the same way when Ramani performed (so many times) ... after the concert, the performing artistes, we, the inmates of Parvathi and a few close friends would all have a leisurely 'Kannada Oota (meals)' together .... this would go on till about midnight, what with the anecdotes, jokes, mimicry, discussions and recollections on music and other musicians ...

... after this particular concert of N. Ramani (re-played below) ... dinner was ready and everyone was waiting for Ramani to join us ... but he didn't show up? ... I went in search of him ... and guess where I found him?... you know that stone bench in the front garden of Parvathi... next to that 'champaka' tree... I found him in the subdued garden light there, all by himself, lost in his own contemplation. The superb music of the evening ... his own rendering had so mesmerised him ... he was rewinding it in his own mind and enjoying the ethereal waves that had come out of his own flute in the past few hours.... I tell you, such is the power of his music! ... and what a noble personality too ... perfect gentleman ...very few words ... "

Ramani was born the city of Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu (the birthplace of the Carnatic trinity). In a city blessed with rich musical traditions, the young Ramani was exposed to almost every corner of Carnatic music. Ramani's grandfather, Sri Aazhiyur Narayanaswami Iyer, was his first guru and was a well known flute artiste and singer himself. Well aware of young Ramani's keen interest in the Carnatic flute, Ramani's initiation to Carnatic music began at the age of five.

[The following excerpts are from the Hindu -Friday Review, Hyderabad Jun. 23, 2006]

As on his flute, he is soft, restrained and gentle. We caught up with N. Ramani, renowned flautist and disciple of the legendary T.R. Mahalingam, who spoke about what makes for great music. Ramani began learning from his grandfather, more as an informal routine than a strict regimen. And it was all vocal lessons than on the flute — but this helped familiarise Ramani with sahitya. "The vocal exercise is an important facet that strengthens the foundation for any musician," says Ramani. "Today, unfortunately, several instrumentalists don't concentrate on lyrics. They focus only on swaras, which is bereft of sahitya bhava."

"A good teacher should be open to learning from his students too," avers Ramani. "Mali learnt Aahiri raga from me, which I had learnt from T. Vishwanathan, Balasaraswathi's brother," recollects the artiste.

Actually, Ramani was amongst the earliest Carnatic artistes to attempt jugalbandis. He also took South Indian classical music to the West. This not only fetched recognition for his own self, but also to the art. "Jugalbandis with Hariprasad Chaurasia gave me valuable insights into the Hindustani style, with Lalgudi Jayaraman, it was music education."

Mali would constantly throw challenges at his students says the flautist which would help uncover a student's potential. "Mali would demand an extempore pallavi. Or ask me to play Bhairavi varnam in thrishra nadai. Tough, but I would manage!"

Ramani also learnt from Mali his famed techniques of cross-fingering. He himself is renowned for producing fast gamakas on the flute. "The Indian bamboo flute can produce superior gamakas compared to the western or metallic flutes," he says. He strongly commends yoga for playing the flute, which packs power over one's breath — a vital requirement for flautists.

He stresses that technique is undoubtedly important but equally vital is the sangeeta gyaana or scholarship which distinguishes the outstanding musician from the average one. "Technique is something the teacher gives you." After that, it is up to the student to gather gyaana (developing the discipline of listening to more number of artistes more and more) and benefit from the experience and wisdom of vidwans by asking them for their insights/advice. Studying music-theory and constantly welcoming a feedback are but the last features of a good classroom revision," opines Ramani.

Many recall with delight the Venu-Vina-Violin trio of Ramani and Venkataraman with Lalgudi.


We reproduce the April 17, 1973 "Parvathi" Concert of Dr. N. Ramani (Flute) with Vidwan M. Chandrasekharan (Violin); Vidwan Vellore Ramabhadran (Mridangam); Vidwan K.S Manjunath (Ghatam)

[ 1. Viriboni-Bhairavi Varnam-Pacchimiriyam Adiyappayya 2. Vallabha Nayakasya-Bebade-Muthuswami Dikshitar 3. Saamaja Varagamana-Hindola-Thyagaraja 4. Paridaana Micchite-Bilahari-Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer 5. Gaanamoorte-Ganamoorti-Thyagaraja 6. Vaasudevayani-Kalyani-Thyagaraja 7. Sarasa Saama Daana- Kaapi Narayani-Thyagaraja 8. Mokshamu Galada-Saaramati-Thyagaraja 9. Ragam Tanam Pallavi-Keeravani-Ragamalika Swaras 10.Krishna Nee Begane-Yaman Kalyani-Vyasaraya 11.Magudi ***12. Tillana-Sindhu Bhairavi-Lalgudi Jayaraman 13. Mangalam. ]

[Post Script: In the context of our Flute music, we would also encourage listeners after they listen to the genius of Ramani to go to our 'Mali' posting of January 20, 2010 and listen to the Abheri piece towards the end, which, too, would afford a simultaneous testimony to the brilliance of the Guru ]