Of magical melodies

In Tune

Of magical melodies

Armed with a doctorate in Commerce, she would have been an IAS officer today. Instead, she followed her instincts and made her way into the world of music. Jayaprada Ramamurthy is the first ‘girl flautist’ from Andhra Pradesh, who has given solo performances both at the national and international stages.

She is the youngest and the first female recipient of ‘A-grade’ in Carnatic flute from All India Radio and Doordarshan. She has also been acclaimed as the first flautist among women, to use the base (long) flute and the ‘western key’ flute on the concert platform. She has also innovated a new raga called Uma.

According to the soft-spoken flautist, listening to music was solely her learning process, aided by the musical atmosphere at home, as her mother would do her morning riyaaz everyday. She calls it sravanam (listening), which she says is similar to the process of learning the Vedas. “So in a way, I am a self-taught flautist and a self-made professional musician,” she makes her point.

“My mother, Prema Ramamurthy, is a classical musician, I’ve probably been absorbing her musical vibes subconsciously.”

A crucial start
Taking up flute was purely intuitive. Jayaprada had a strong calling as a youngster to take up the flute. She saved on her pocket money and secretly went on to buy the instrument, which costed Rs 50 at that time. “However, my family believes that I have inherited flute playing genes from my great-grandfather Srinivas Sastryji. He was a prolific flautist,” she tells.

Before going on to become a flautist in her teens, Jayaprada would sing at various concerts and even won several prizes at competitions. “I would accompany my mother on stage at times. I would even perform as a support singer rendering the easy parts of the kriti, and the chitta-swara passages etc. It was not a planned exposure.”

There is a special place in her heart for her guru, N Ramani. She went to Chennai to learn advanced techniques from him, even though she had already been graded by All India Radio. She recalls, “He was insistent that I continue to be a top quality full-time artiste, particularly as a female flautist, since there were not many in the country.”

For Jayaprada, who has been conferred with many prestigious awards, there is one thing which matters most — her audience. She is a thorough performer, keenly interacting with her audiences and engaging them with her music.

“I go into a trance while playing and hope the audience too enjoys the same while listening to me play. Whenever I wield the flute, there is a certain truthfulness I face within myself, and it’s a conversation between me and the instrument,” she explains.

New directions
Speaking about her performances, Jayaprada says, “I only give solo performances now, and do not play as an accompanist anywhere. I have recently been offered to score for short films, and this gives me extensive scope to explore genres other than classical music. I do delve into jugalbandis and fusion at times.”

Music has been her strongest asset, she says. “I have earned my identity as a solo flautist after a lot of hard work and determination. It is hard to sell classical music, particularly a unique art form such as the flute, but once people hear me, they change their opinion, and I find takers subsequently.” Nothing can completely decimate classical music, she believes. “I feel classical music will sustain the onslaught of any other art form.”

Indian classical music needs young performers like Jayaprada to survive and thrive — and she takes her responsibility seriously. She firmly states, “Apart from my pursuits in traditional music, I’m working on several innovative albums such as Music for Children, Carnatic Ragas in Sufi Music, and the like.

She has taken a step further in the realm of music therapy. She is presently researching on ‘the therapeutic value of flute music’ and ‘flute playing as a natural pranayama’.

“I don’t predict things for myself. I do my work and leave the results to time. I’m trying to find my inner tranquility through my music. My aim is to spread universal love and peace through my flute.

I’m not sure what I would eventually achieve in my lifetime as a musician, but that doesn't hinder my persistent and continuous pursuit of the art form,” she rests her case.  

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