“Lessons I learnt from my guru”

Tanjavur Ramadas was born in a musical family and it was but natural for him to play the mridangam from a very young age. Initiated into mridangam-playing by father Ramamurthi Iyer, he was fortunate to come under the tutelage of the doyen Palghat Mani Iyer.

Ramadas has played the mridangam for leading musicians of two generations, including Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, D.K. Pattammal, D.K. Jayaraman and Sanjay Subrahmanyan. An ‘A Top Grade’ artist of All India Radio, Ramadas has travelled and performed in India and abroad. The asthana vidwan of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, he is the recipient of several awards and titles like Nada Laya Siromani, Laya Kalanidhi, Nadhakanal and Sangeeta Seva Nirata. He was the first recipient of the Palani Subramania Pillai Award and Sangita Kala Acharya title for 2018 from the Music Academy, Madras.

In conversation with Mannarkoil J. Balaji

Please take us through your music background?

My father, Ramamurthi Iyer, was a student of mridangist Kumbakonam Kothandarama Iyer. He accompanied stalwarts like Flute Mali, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Sathur A.G. Subramaniam, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and a host of other musicians in concerts besides being a regular performer at nama sankeertana festivals. My mother passed away when I was very young, so I do not know much about her.

How did you come under the tutelage of Palghat Mani Iyer?

We were living in a village called Anandagudi near Tanjavur. Like my father, I used to play the mridangam for numerous nama sankeertana performances. When I was about 12 years old, a distant relative advised me to go to Valangaiman, where Sakottai Rangu Iyengar lived. I learnt from him but for a very short time as he became weak due to ill health. I then learnt from Arupathi Natesa Iyer at Kumbakonam for a brief period. I returned to my village and was taking part in a big nama sankeertana utsavam where Mani (a close relative of my father) heard me play the mridangam. He immediately suggested that I should learn from Palghat Mani Iyer who was then living in Tanjavur. He even undertook the responsibility of taking me to the doyen and persuading the master to accept me as his disciple. Initially Palghat Mani refused saying he was busy travelling for his concert engagements and would not have enough time to teach any student. But the other Mani was somehow able to prevail upon Mani Iyer who eventually accepted me as his disciple. I did gurukulavasam with master in the traditional sense, a great blessing… read more