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Dedicated to his guru

G. JAYAKUMAR

Ramesh Narayan on being Pandit Jasraj's disciple, Hindustani music and direction.



MUSICAL SADHANA: Ramesh Narayan. PHOTO: C. RATHEESH KUMAR

There is no denying credit to Ramesh Narayan for popularising Hindustani music in Kerala through film songs, ghazals, fusion music, concerts and devotional albums. Be it khayal, thumri or any other musical form, Ramesh Narayan does not resort to gimmickry or technical wizardry. Here is Ramesh Narayan in his own words.

Beginnings

Both my grandfathers - Kunjirama Vaidyar, a violinist and Kathakali artiste, and Apavu Bhagavathar, an exponent of Carnatic music - were musicians. My father, Narayana Bhagavathar, was a drama actor and singer. Mother, Narayani, used to teach music. Then, the place from where I hail - Koothuparambu in Kannur district, was a place where music was appreciated. We had a neighbour, Khadar Sahib, who knew Hindustani music and popular Hindi songs.

On education

I had my first lessons in Carnatic music under mother's guru, Kanan Bhagavathar. After matriculation, I joined the Chittoor College for Music in 1979-1980. In 1981, I went to Pune without completing my graduation. My brother Ramdas, told me about the sitar and encouraged me to learn the instrument. I enrolled under Pandit Satchidanandaji, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Sankar. And I began my Hindustani vocal lessons under Ustad Khan Sahib Mohammed Hussain. This was only for a year.

Then, I enrolled at the Akhila Bhartiya Gandharv Maha Vidyalaya, under N. V. Dewanji.

I was always fond of Hindustani sangeeth. On the radio, I used to listen to Begum Akhtar, thumris, gaths, tabla and of course, sitar. I was fascinated by the sitar. It was rarely used in those days, 25 years back, except in Babukka's (Baburaj) songs.

The turning point

Ustad Alla Rakha's disciple, Sunil Phadhya, helped me get introduced to Pandit Jasraj. He insisted that I meet Guruji (that is how I address Pandit Jasraj), as he felt that my rendition was similar to that of Guruji. So, I went to Rajkamal Buildings at Dadar (Mumbai), where Guruji was staying. Quite frightened, I sat in a corner where the chappals were kept. After an hour, Guruji came out and asked me, "Kya Chahiye?"

Training under Pandit Jasraj

My reply was that I did not want anything. I only wished to study music. He asked me to sing. I sang both Carnatic and Hindustani compositions. Guruji remarked that I sang the Carnatic compositions very well, and to concentrate on that. He could put in a word with Balamuralikrishna, who was his friend, to teach me. Then I told him that what I wanted to learn was Hindustani sangeeth, and that too, under him. He said he did not have time.

Tears welled up in my eyes. Quite moved, Guruji asked me to meet him when he was in the city on a later date. And, also, if I was prepared to stay in Bombay. My answer was in the affirmative. He then asked me to if I knew to salute in obeisance. With folded hands, I said that my mind was pure. His reply was that one should be able to express outwardly whatever that was in the mind. Otherwise it is of no use.

I prostrated before him. Then, he said that he would consider accepting me as his shishya. That was the beginning and the turning point in my life.

For almost two years I was a mere listener. Guruji was observing or rather studying me, to know if I was really interested in studying music. In between, he would mention some ragas. This was Guruji's method with all his disciples. After three years, he announced that I was his shishya.

It was the gurukula system. One had to do all the work, including cleaning the feeding bowls of the dogs. My studies continued till 1990, after that I used to keep contact with Guruji every now and then. After my 30-hour concert in 2004, I went to meet Guruji in Mumbai. He was very pleased and garlanded me.

Besides, when I shared a stage with Ganghubahi Hangal and others, Guruji was gracious enough to come onto the stage and present me with a `pattu.' As usual, when I tried to clean the used plates at his residence, he dissuaded me saying that there were others to do it. "You are now a singer in our gharana and the torch bearer of Mewati Gharana."

In 1995, Guruji came to my house in P.T.P. Nagar and performed `gurupuja.' Besides, he inaugurated the Pandit Mothi Ram Narayan Sangeeth Vidyalaya and the Mewati Sangeeth Prachar Sabha.

In fact, my house is named Jasarangi. It is an `ardhanareeswara swaroopam' composed by Guruji - where in one scale, the basic shruthi, the male and female singers sing different ragas, but, when we hear it is one.

Other branches of music

Yes, music direction for films. It is really a sort of `sangeetha sancharam.' I have so far composed music for more than eight movies - `Maghgrib,' `Elayum Mullum,' `Jeevan Mashai,' `Garshom,' `Megha Malhar,' `Makalku,' `Anyar,' `Silavathy.'

I have also done fusion music for Soorya. `Pranamam' - a tribute to Mohammed Rafi was one such venture, which was highly appreciated all over the world.

His favourite ragas

Some ragas seem to get into our bloodstream. It is not the `krithi' but the delineation of the raga that is important. The `bhava' of Mia Malhar is devotional; there is a divinity about it and a `samadhi' state. It joins with nature. There is also `virahom' in it.

New assignments

We will be staging Soorya Krishnamoorthy's `Bible' in London soon. Then, I will be composing music for K. S. Chitra's ghazals in Hindi and Malayalam.

I am also scoring the music for P. T. Kunju Mohammed's forthcoming film.

And, as usual, `Gurupoornima' will be held this year on July 21. It will be the tenth year of `Gurupoornima.'

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