/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": "Samaja Varagamana" : Vidwan M.D. Ramanathan

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Samaja Varagamana" : Vidwan M.D. Ramanathan

April 13, 1971
Vidwans: M.D. Ramanathan, Trichy Sankaran, M. Chandrasekharan, M.S. Manjunath

Vidwan M.D. Ramanathan, known as MDR to all music lovers, is a rare star in the Carnatic firmament. His creativity and unique interpretations always earned Oohs and Aahs from the knowledgeable.

Jon Higgins, who shone briefly and impactfully in Carnatic music, was once asked why he, as a westerner, had not chosen western music for a career. His answer was insightful and, paraphrased, stated that in Carnatic music, your musical idea is more important than your voice. In western classical music, if you don't have the right kind of voice, you will not succeed as a vocalist. This is not true in Carnatic music.

But what if one were endowed with a baritone voice that would be the envy of a Pavarotti or a Bocelli? And were also blessed with a delightful musical sensibility and the creative instincts of a composer? And inherited the lineage of Thyagaraja-Patnam-Poocchi-Tiger? That was MDR. The first and foremost alumnus of the Kalakshetra Shiromani course, he was anointed by Tiger Varadachar as his successor and was a favourite of Rukmini Devi. He taught for many years in Kalakshetra, and came across to his students and others as a high soul who dwelt in the far orbits of musical creativity and shunned pettiness. He was a scholar and composer of delightful, nuanced kritis like “Thyagarajagurum Ashraye” in Kedaram.

This chronicler ( R. Sachi and click to see companion post on MDR ) first heard MDR in Mysore's famed venue Bidaram Krishnappa Ramamandiram in the mid-sixties. A childlike personality, MDR bowed down before the Pattabhi Rama picture, touching his ears with crossed hands (as one does traditionally in front of Ganesha), tucked the “Sevanthige” flower into his tuft, and got ready to serve a great feast of music in the company of Lalgudi and TVG. MDR fans always found ample humour in his concerts, what with his mannerisms, his surprisingly deep voice, and his tendency to toy with musical ideas creatively.

MDR invariably attracted “class” accompaniment. His low sruti was a challenge much like inclement weather to the violin and mridangam, but accompanists delighted in his truly rich sruti-aligned idiom and the measured gait of his music. The apt words to describe his magnificent laya would be “Samaja Varagamana”- words Thyagaraja uses to describe how Krishna (Thyagaraja has composed VERY few songs on deities other than Rama) walked with the dignity of a caparisoned elephant.


"..Sri M.D.Ramanathan was of course a fond disciple of Tiger Varadachar,and he followed the tradition set by his guru... always keeping his sruti low... his style of singing always had a great fan following..."

"... during MDR's visits to 'Parvathi', I would drive him
on a few occasions to the Chamundi Hills, for Goddess Chamundeshwari's darshana in the mornings...One morning... in Parvathi... MDR decided to just sing informally, with no accompaniment... 'Mukhari' Raga and 'Ksheenamai' kriti... this informal rendering was simply an unforgettable experience for me...his rendering of Kharaharapriya ( which is featured in the posted concert ) is indeed excellent..."

"...It appears Sri Maharajapuram Santhanam and others contacted Sri Yesudas for his benefit concert for MDR when MDR was unwell... but before it could happen, MDR passed away..."

" now, I am thinking about Trichy Sankaran, too, who has accompanied MDR, here...
he has made his great mark in mridangam playing... carrying on the excellent and soft mridangam playing style of his guru Sri Palani Subrahmanya Pillai. He had started to accompany quite a few senior artistes at Parvathi during the Ramanavami music festivals in the 70's ... but he decided to depart for Canada and settle down there as a distinguished Professor of Indian music... in this context, I must also tell you of a very touching thing about Sankaran's guru Sri Palani Subrahmanya Pillai...during one of his informal visits to Parvathi, he expressed his desire to take rest in Mysore for a month, and wanted to stay in the adjoining guest house of Parvathi... but it was not meant to be...as we were trying to make arrangements ... he just passed away...very very sadly..."


In many a picture of "Parvathi" posted on our blog (including the one above), one may have likely seen a familiar figure, ever wearing a white turban and found generally seated in the front row of a concert. To the uninitiated and at a cursory glance the person would appear as a self-effacing individual, at best a hard core Rasika. But not to those who knew of him. As the popular news paper The Hindu remembered him in an obituary "He was one of the greatest minds in Indian Philosophy and Sanskrit Literary traditions". He is none other than Mysore's famous Sanskrit scholar Prof.G.N.Chakravarthi, a recipient of the Sediyapu Award, Veda Rathna Award, a national award instituted by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and Kannada Rajyotsava Award. Ever a fixture in "Parvathi", including being friend and teacher to many of its members, he was always affectionately referred to in his lifetime as 'Meshtre' (the quintessential teacher!).


[ 01. Vanajakshi – Atatala varnam – Pallavi Gopala Iyer 02. Rama nipai – Kedara – Thyagaraja 03. Angarakam ashrayamyaham – Suruti – Muthuswami Dikshitar 04. Samaja Varagamana – Hindola – Thyagaraja 05. Lekana ninnu – Asaveri – Thyagaraja 06. Tatwameruga tarama- Garudadhwani – Thyagaraja 07. Pakkala nilabadi – Kharaharapriya – Thyagaraja 08. Sringaram Kshitinandini – Navarasa Sloka Ragamalika/Kadaikan-Begada 09. Paripalaya paripalaya – Reetigowla – Thyagaraja 10. Rama Rama – Nilambari – Thyagaraja 11. Jojo Sri Rama (utsava sampradaya) – Reetigowla – Thyagaraja 12. Mamava Pattabhi Rama – Manirangu – Muthuswami Dikshitar 13. Nati mata – Devakriya – Thyagaraja 14. Tillana – Hindustani Kapi – M.D. Ramanathan 15. Mangalam – Sowrashtra- Thyagaraja ]