Vellore Ramabhadran never played for gallery but kept it tranquilized

By Ghatam Suresh
Chennai: 25-02-2020 9:59PM
Last Updated: 25-02-2020 9:59PM

It is undoubtedly phenomenal, establishing a unique style in Mridangam quite different from the renowned schools and their celebrated torch-bearers during their formidable reign and maintaining it undiluted for seven-long decades with a big fan following.

Ramabhadran sir did it so nonchalantly. He was one who never “played for the gallery”. Yet, he kept the gallery tranquilized with his feathery touches and caresses on the Mridangam. All through his career, he proved that virtuosity and mathematical expertise could be exhibited gently in brief spells. He knew almost every song he accompanied, treading along its flow. Some of the seasoned strokes and phrases he used suited every song, pause and occasion. The Mridangam loved his caresses and happily co-operated like a sincere friend suiting his requirements. I have never seen him struggling with tuning and fine-tuning nor complaining about the instrument or the climate. He also had the ability to tune the same Mridangam between remote keys when there was an emergency.

I had many great occasions of accompanying his Mridangam on my Ghatam for D.K. Jayaraman, my guru Shri T. V. Gopalakrishnan, Lalgudi Shri G. Jayaraman, Shri K.V. Narayanaswamy, Shri T.V. Sankaranarayan, Dr. N. Ramani, Shri T. N. Seshagopalan and many others. It was great fun and education about the restraint and unperturbed accompaniment when one sat beside him. He would comment in a lighter vein that he, being a bunch of fragile peacock feathers, was no `suit’ for me, who encountered karate and Sumo wrestlers frequently. I would retort saying, ``you prove to be a healer for this bruised potter!’’ Certainly it was very difficult matching his soft, serene and yet emphatic strokes. Kanjira genius late Harishankar used to concur with me narrating his own difficult moments of proving his presence while following Ramabhadran sir’s style.

It is proved beyond doubt that Ramabhadran sir’s style of Mridangam accompaniment is ideally preferred by most of the centre-performers today and many current generation Mridangam players of diverse schools have shrewdly taken the cue.

Long live Ramabhadran sir’s glory.
(This article was first published in 2010)