‘When I listen over again to Ramnad Krishnan, I am convinced of the power of his music that spread over time, which was original in its charm’.
Now and again, commemoration functions come recall musicians of the past. Ramnad Krishnan (1918-1973) would be in his hundredth year if he were alive. Here was a musician that I knew purely through his music. Those cassettes laden with music and mystery would wheedle their way into my home through diverse sources, the primary one amongst them being my music-loving uncle Narayan.
A mystery because there were hardly any printed song lists on the cover and these were collections shared lovingly from one music lover to another. You had to play the cassettes meticulously and discover the wealth within. Known and unknown voices would emerge as you spent time near the cassette player unearthing the music.
One such singer was Ramnad Krishnan. Even before I knew who the singer was, I was more than familiar with his amazing rendition of the javali Modi jese velara, replete with sensuality, bhava and melody. Over time, Kamas became one of my favourite ragas and Krishnan’s haunting rendition had left me spell bound from the first instance itself.
Parulanna mata in Kapi, another inmitable javali Krishnan sang was mesmerising to say the least. I soon realised his liking for padams and javalis having heard several of them. I doubt if Rama Rama Prana Sakhi, the monumental padam in Bhairavi would sound as moving or stately if sung by anyone else. Devagandhari, a not oft-ventured into raga was another of my favourite of Krishnan’s delineations.
Like Kamas, this was a raga that was indescribably beautiful, bearing that elusive nature, those inflexions making it both unpredictable and surprising at moments. These gems took on an immensely beautiful garb through Krishnan’s rendition. When I listen over again to Ramnad Krishnan, I am convinced of the power of his music that spread over time, which was original in its charm.
A line or two sufficed to evoke the flavour of a raga. Unhurried in his presentation, the kritis were model renditions with clarity, simplicity and the stamp of what is referred to as ‘traditional’ and ‘pure’ in today’s music circles. His music had the capacity to touch your heart before you even knew what the raga or the complexity was all about. Is that not the hallmark of a great musician? With the musical maturity I enjoy today, I discern through the music, his pedagogical skills, which undoubtedly many of his disciples would have prospered from. He could be a model design for an aspiring Carnatic music.
There was no ambiguity, no over-arching desire to succumb to anything else but the melody of his self-created music. Over the time, I became familiar with Ramnad Krishnan’s music in a larger way. He occupied the music space I inhabited alongside my other influences.
I know Ramnad Krishnan solely through the music and through the pictures that I have access to today. What warmed my heart best was some years back in Chennai after a concert, the mridangist asked me —Were you Ramnad Krishnan’s disciple? No, I have never even seen the person, but perhaps there is a deeper connects surely.
Dr Vasumathi Badrinathan is an eminent Carnatic vocalist based in Mumbai. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org