Carnatic vocalist Pantula Rama says Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have contributed immensely to the growth of Carnatic music by preserving unique traditions.
You were initiated to the music by your father, and you were trained by guru Ivaturi Vijayeswara Rao. How did this grooming influence your music?
My father was one of the senior-most disciples of my Guru Ivaturi Vijayeswara Rao. With me, essentially, he was just carrying forward the tradition. So, the training methods were more or less similar. The difference, perhaps, was that my father taught me at a time when we were away from the active scene of Carnatic music; from different parts of India where he was posted. So he had the extra responsibility of creating a musical ambience at home.
With both of them (my father and my Guru), it was all very organic, rigorous and intense. My Guru shaped my musical persona on the whole. Both of them continue to influence my music greatly, in carrying forward our tradition while providing us with the freedom to adapt to the changing times.
You are a violinist as well. How has the training in violin helped your vocal?
I was already a vocalist of considerable merit when I started on the violin. Hence, I would not say my violin training has helped my vocal. However, my love for the violin has definitely challenged me in successfully and sensibly blending some violin specific expressions into the voice.
Your husband MSN Murthy is a reputed violinist and he accompanies you. How’s your equation with him on stage and off stage on musical affairs?
Our equation is similar to that of any regular set of artists. Not more, not less. We never practice together at home; that helps us retain the freshness on stage. Yes, we exchange musical ideas many a time. MSN is an established and much sought-after violinist in India who accompanied greats such as MS Subbulakshmi, ML Vasanthakumari, M Balamuralikrishna, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, TN Seshagopalan and many more. He would also accompany me for some concerts and it is obvious that he became my preferred violinist although I have performed with many other violinists. I can think of no minuses. The overall musical resonance between us is the major plus.
How much has Andhra (including Telangana) contributed to enriching Carnatic in the 20th century (from the times of S Pinakapani)? Do you think the region is under-recognised on the map of south Indian classical music?
Generations of musicians from united Andhra have contributed greatly to Carnatic music in the past two centuries with the quality of their music and preserving unique schools and styles. I cannot say the same about the other elements of the society, such as governments, sabhas, organizations and a section of rasikas. Yes, artists of this region are definitely under-recognized both by the locals and others.
Sadly, this has led to cynicism, lack of confidence and complacence in the next generation of musicians. It is only due to a handful of visionary musicians such as my guru Ivaturi Vijayeswara Rao, Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu, S Pinakapani, Nch Krishanmacharyulu and a few dedicated sabhas that Carnatic music still survives here. I am proud to say that a few musicians of our generation have been successful in inspiring the next generation of musicians through our success and global fame. It is heartening to see many are ready to take up music as their career and a way of life.
Who are the young-generation Carnatic musicians (including instrumentalists) you see promising from Andhra and Telangana?
There are many promising young musicians who are yet to be recognized properly. Naming a few in this small space will do injustice to the others. It is the responsibility of local organizers and governments to consult with senior musicians, bring to fore the deserving and provide befitting opportunities.
Ranjani Sivakumar is a Carnatic vocalist