After joining my guru GNB at Madras, I was regular in my classes and soon began to assist him in kutcheri-s. By attentive listening and observation I quickly adopted his style. GNB Sir used to explain the intricacies of producing sound diction and the importance of aesthetics in music. I practised in my room after listening to concerts of my guru, remembering the way in which he presented the raga-s. I had to capture the nuances from memory. Those days we had no tape recorders.
My colleague Someswara Babu, a disciple of T.R. Balasubramanian (senior sishya of GNB), was also learning from GNB. Both Babu and I often practised together from evening till midnight. I was a bachelor then. My only ambition was to equip myself with different aspects of music and not merely concert opportunities. While at Trivandrum I practised almost daily at the residence of T.G. Viswanatha Bhagavatar (T.V. Gopalakrishnan’s father) to the accompaniment of violin and mridangam.
After the demise of my guru, I continued to learn from vidushi M.L. Vasanthakumari in Chennai. I stayed in a rented room. Violin vidwan M. Chandrasekaran was kind enough to join me for long hours of practice. On my visits to vidwan S. Kalyanaraman, we often discussed music and practised together. Mridanga vidwan Karaikudi Muthu Iyer invited me and Charumathi to his house for practice. He used to explain how to sing kalpana swaram, niraval and pallavi, and taught me a few songs. Maharajapuram Santhanam happened to hear my music, and we instantly became close friends. We did a few jugalbandi concerts.
I had the good fortune to interact with many senior vidwans like Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao, T.K. Govinda Rao, Calcutta K.S. Krishnamurthi, S. Kalyanaraman, Maruthuvakudi Gopu, D.K. Jayaraman, T.M. Thyagarajan and S. Rajam and learnt many kriti-s and nuances from them. Charumathi and I frequently called on Semmangudi Mama, and he too visited us on and off. He used to call us ‘Ramachandrini’ and ‘Charumadhan’, interchanging our names with a touch of humour. MLV was like a family member and used to drop in very often. Veena S. Balachander was very fond of us and included us in his radio feature and Charu in his TV show. I like Hindustani classical music also. Krishnanandji trained me for full-fledged concerts. He was a great guru. All the accompanying artists are very fond of me and I am fortunate to have their affection.
Vidwan T.N. Krishnan played for me at the Music Academy in 1971 when I was in the subsenior slot. It was a great gesture and that year both Charu and I won prizes at the Academy. We received them from Rukmini Devi Arundale. M. Chandrasekaran and T.K. Murthy also accompanied me in the three o’clock slot. The great Palghat Mani Iyer played for me in about 12 concerts, notably in a mikeless engagement at Shanmukhananda Hall, Bombay to full houses for two days.
Charumathi and I listened to all the concerts of senior vidwans. This helped us to enrich our musical knowledge. The likes of DKP, MS Amma, DKJ, MLV, TMT, and Semmangudi praised Charu for her gnanam and vidwat. I felt very proud. Charumathi and I discuss all aspects of music and analyse them. For many years now, our daughter Shubasree has been attending Carnatic and Hindustani recitals with us without fail. Shubashree has very good ‘kelvi gnanam’, and her style is based on saukhyam and raga bhavam with melody entwined.