By S. Janaki
|Photos : Yoga|
Born on 15 June 1929 in Tanjavur to Krishnammal and Rathnam Pillai, Ramamurthy hails from a family steeped in music and dance. His father was a violinist and direct disciple of Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer. Aunt Veenabhashini was a famous exponent of Sadir/ Bharatanatyam, and father-in-law Tirukadayur Chinnayya Pillai a versatile tavil vidwan.
Ramamurthy’s mridangam classes began at the age of nine with Bhairavam Pillai and he made his debut when he was 12. In a year’s time he got opportunities to accompany stalwarts like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, and flautist Palladam Sanjeeva Rao. He later received advanced training from mridangam maestro Tanjavur Vaidyanatha Iyer. He joined All India Radio, Tiruchirapalli on 5 September1945 and served there for a record 44 years. He joined as an A grade staff artist and retired in June 1989 with the distinction of being a Grade I Artist. During his tenure he played for several eminent musicians and participated in many National Programmes of All India Radio, Akashvani Sangeet Sammelans, musical features, and laya vinyasam presentations. On special request from AIR-Delhi, he played the mridangam for a vocal recital by Sathoor A.G. Subramania Iyer in March 1950 for the External Services Division. This distinguished former staff artist of AIR is a simple man who shuns publicity.
Ramamurthy has more than 70 years of experience as a mridangam artist; and was preferred by many senior vidwans for his gentle and dignified mridangam accompaniment. As he started accompanying musicians at a very young age, Ramamurthy says he has had the rare distinction of playing for several generations of musicians. The list reads like a veritable who’s who and ranges from Marungapuri Gopalakrishna Iyer, Karur Chinnnasami Iyer, Semmangudi Narayanaswamy Iyer, Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer, Palladam Sanjeeva Rao, Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai, Alathur Brothers, Chembai, Musiri Subramania Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, GNB, T. Chowdiah, Dandapani Desigar, MS, DKP, MLV, Madurai Somu, S. Balachander, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Lalgudi Jayaraman, M.S Gopalakrishnan, M. Balamuralikrishna, D.K. Jayaraman, T.M. Thiagarajan, K.V. Narayanaswamy, N. Ramani, T.N. Seshagopalan, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, Geetha Bennet, Mandolin Shrinivas, to T.M. Krishna. He also recalls with pride how the Kanchi Paramacharya asked for an encore of his tani avartanam when he played in his presence at Kaladi.
Ramamurthy is the recipient of several awards including the prestigious Kalaimamani award from the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram (1981), Isai-k-Kadal from Karaikudi Tamil Isai Sangam (1983), Mridanga Selvam from Muthamizh Peravai (1987), Laya Vadya Ratnam from Sri Sadguru Tyagabrahma Aradhana Trust, Tiruchi (2002), Madhura Kala Nipuna from Laya Madhuraa, Chennai (2011), and the TTK Award from the Music Academy, Madras (2013).