Music that tugs at heartstrings

Gifted: Folk musician Ramaiah rendering a song. Photo by Satish Badiger

As Ramaiah walks around playing musical instruments and rendering mystical compositions, a large crowd gathers within no time to listen to him. What captivates the audience, apart from the rich diversity of folk songs, is his deft use of folk instruments. Kamsale, a brass musical instrument, taala (cymbal), gejje (a tiny bell) and ektari (one-string instrument) are some of the instruments Ramaiah generally plays.

He creates a meditative mood and spirit around him with his mastery over the musical instruments, both folk and traditional, and intonation while rendering voice to compositions. Ramaiah’s proficiency has made people recognise him by the very instruments he plays ­— ektari and tambura.

It’s a different Ramaiah when he goes out riding his old bicycle. The tambura or ektari hangs around his left shoulder, kinnari (one of the oldest string instruments) on his right shoulder, while pungi (a folk instrument played by snake charmers) is hung on the bicycle’s handle. Tamate (a leather instrument) is tied on the bicycle, while jolige (a long, traditional wallet made using a piece cloth) hangs across his shoulder.

He gets lost in the world of music as he rides the bicycle, rendering folk songs and philosophical, spiritual and metaphysical compositions. He has been a celebrated exponent of tambura, ektari, pungi, tamate and kamsale.

He is also known for his mastery over preparing the tambura and popularising it in the rural areas. He travels from village to village popularising folk music and teaching the instruments to children. As a result, he has a large number of disciples in the rural areas. His students are also spreading the knowledge of music.

Ramaiah hails from Kenchanapalya in Gollahalli hobli near Kengeri, off Bengaluru. He was an agricultural worker employed by Kadirappa, a folk singer. Ramaiah would attentively listen to Kadirappa when the latter sang his own compositions. Without his knowledge, Ramaiah’s heart and mind completely embraced the music. After mastering basic concepts and techniques under Kadirappa, Ramaiah learnt the art of philosophical songs under the guidance of another folk-art exponent, Motappa. Motappa also taught Ramaiah the art of preparing the tambura. Now Ramaiah makes this instrument for sale as well.

The making of tambura has been a source of his livelihood. Regarding the cost of tambura he prepares, Ramaiah says, “I don’t price the tamburas I prepare as I don’t view them as a commercial product.” However, the cost incurred to prepare one tambura is around Rs 1,500. “Some pay the production cost, some others pay more,” he adds. Ramaiah has also distributed many tamburas free of cost. “It is not the price of the instrument, but its value, significance and worth should matter,” he explains. “I want to see the tambura at every house.” 

Apart from music, he does farming for a livelihood. He grows finger millet in two acres land. “There are many ways to make a living and the God shows the path,” he signs off. Ramaiah may be contacted on 9008831169. 

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Music that tugs at heartstrings

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