Mridangist Srimushnam Raja Rao-Margazhi Music Darbar 2017

Srimushnam, a holy town in Tamil Nadu which is one of the swayamvaktha kshetras in Vaishnavite tradition, has also found a place in the musical map of the world. Who is responsible for making this town as renowned as it is today? He is none other than the mridangam wizard, Srimushnam Raja Rao.

He is the scion of the great musical genealogy as his father and forefathers were musicians par excellence. Raja Rao’s prodigious talent surfaced when he made flutes while young. A bamboo forest near his house lured him to design flutes. And he started playing it himself. The legendary maverick Mali heard of Raja Rao’s flutes and also played them. What more recognition does he need?

But his father was keen on shifting the youth to mridangam. His musical odyssey began with his father S Venkatramana Rao who tutored the lad on the nitty-gritty of the art.

The senior Rao was himself a renowned mridangist. The nonagenarian living legend, Kumbakonam Rajappa Iyer, was his next guru. Rajappa Iyer honed Raja Rao’s skills and channelised his potential.

I used to practise for a long time, even at ungodly hours, close to midnight, declares Raja Rao. His interaction with Tamil Thyagayya Papanasam Sivan made him learn and explore the art to a great extent.

It was a treat watching Sivan composing music which made me swim in our rich heritage, reminiscences Raja Rao. A true nadopasaka, he used to regularly invite bhagavathars home to render kirtanas and he accompanied them which made him perfect his techniques.

This watchful guardian of music trains students at home now. Gurukula vasam is still in vogue here, declares one of his students who resides with him.

An acme of perfection in laya, he has accompanied almost all the titans of music - past and present. He is a great source of inspiration for budding artistes.

He opines that every concert is like appearing for an exam and the inputs will be audible on the stage. Raja Rao strongly feels that an artiste should always try to scale greater heights than remain contented with his achievements. No resting on your oars for this untiring maestro.

Though his schedule is packed throughout the year, it reaches a crescendo during the December music season when he plays 2-3 slots a day. This regular globetrotter has carried the torch of classical music to endless generations by organising the acclaimed Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana, USA, and is one of the founding fathers of the mega music mela abroad. He is involved in spreading our priceless treasure in India also.

He is a good vocalist and is adept at playing the kanjira also.

He has earned plaudits from the press, government and sabhas. His wife Padma is an accomplished vainika and his son Raghavendra is a budding vocalist.

Srimushnam Raja Rao

New No. 57/3 Moosa Street,

T Nagar,

Chennai – 600017.

Phone: 24346793/9444056792

E-mail srimushnam@yahoo.com

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