Eschewing showmanship for scholarship, and assiduously working on their art, the Hyderabad Brothers have come to be counted among the best-known duo vocalists in Carnatic music. Daruri Raghavachary and Seshachary are called so after the city in which they have been born, brought up and where they are still based today.
Born into a family with a musical lineage, they began their musical tutelage under the guidance of their father, the late Dauri Ratnamacharyulu, and mother D Sulochana Devi. Their parents often performed together on special occasions. And their younger son, Seshachary, who had a flair for percussion, would sometimes accompany them on the ghatam.
“As a teacher, our father was a strict disciplinarian. But then we are grateful for that sound foundation he laid,” recall the brothers. Later, Raghavachary alone took advanced training under Susarla Sivaram, at the Government College of Music and Dance in Hyderabad.
For some time, they performed separately. But around three decades ago, at AIR, they first performed together at the suggestion of the flautist, A N Srinivasan. And the combination clicked. It was subsequently repeated at Thiruvayyuru to much appreciation. And thus began their journey as a performing duo. Today, they are recognised for their chaste classicism and widely acclaimed for their shruti-aligned voices, bhaava-soaked renditions, and sparkling manodharma. They have sometimes been compared to the legendary Alathur Brothers for their style and grammar.
Early in their career, they received the Best Young Talent Award in 1977 and 1978 by the Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, Hyderabad. The Madras Music Academy honoured them as The Best Vocalists for three consecutive years — 1990, 1991 and 1992. In 1993, The Music Academy gave them The Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer Award for the best rendering of rare Thyagaraja kritis. They were also honoured by the prestigious Krishna Gana Sabha as Best Vocalists in 1988, 1990 and 1991.
In 1992, the duo were nominated as aasthana vidwans of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham to mark the 58th birthday of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi. Last year again, they were bestowed with the ‘Senior Outstanding Vocalists’ award by the Madras Music Academy in Chennai. And early this year, the brothers received the Kalarathna award from the Andhra Pradesh government. The Hyderabad Brothers have about 50 CDs and cassettes to their credit. Besides a track record of performing at prestigious venues around India, they have also performed abroad to much critical appreciation.
Duo singing has always held a special fascination for Carnatic music rasikas. This perhaps accounts, at least partly, for the fact that there are more such musician-duos in this stream than in Hindustani music. Whatever the reason, the Hyderabad Brothers themselves have an appeal for connoisseurs for their wonderfully synchronised singing and individual styles which complement each other perfectly.
While Seshachary’s singing is more robust, deep and resonant, Raghavachary’s rendition is mellow and soft in comparison. The elder brother also comes across as more subdued and softspoken.
But both of them are equally passionate about their music. “We can’t imagine an existence without this art,” they say. “Music is our life. As Thyagaraja sang Naa Jeevadhaara, music is our jeevadhara.”
Each of them also performs individually on occasions. Says Seshachary, “I do not see much difference in solo or duo singing — after all, it is the same lyrics, same demands on manodharma, and the emphasis on feeling or bhaava in both cases. Only, when onstage with my brother, I have to be constantly alert about his presence and what he will do next.” Duo performers should be able to anticipate each other’s musical moves, he says.
The brothers attribute their current reputation to their father’s grooming, god’s grace and their own unrelenting saadhana. As they say, “We are constantly working on our art and trying to evolve. Unless a classical singer is also able to offer rasikas something new, they will tire of listening to him or her. Every artiste should also be a creator.”
Each brother is also a teacher with his own set of students and Seshachary says, “I am amazed at the talent and knowledge of the new generation. But it saddens me to see the various pressures on their time, because of which they are unable to focus on their art as much as they should. Also, not many seem to have the confidence that they can make a career of classical music.”
Raghavachary believes succeeding as a musician is all about persistent hard work. “I tell youngsters to be patient, industrious and completely sincere. One day the fruits will come. Our classical music has a divine power — it protects and sustains those who believe in it fully.”