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Devi Ramana MurthyMalika-E-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazals) Devi Ramana Murthy - a popular and a performing Ghazal singer who has experimented and learnt the intricacies of rendering ghazals, is in a chat with Jayanthi Subramanian. She recalls the highs and lows of her journey in Music for the past three decades. She hails from an illustrious family, a great patron of fine arts, though she is born in a traditional Vainika (Veena Vidwans) family. She nurtured herself as a ghazal artist and later learnt the finer techniques of ghazal singing from her mentor Dr. P. B. Srinivas, the cine playback singer of south India. The father’s love for his daughter was so immense and recognition of the talent was great too, but yet he believed that her talent should be recognized from the person who is a master in this field of music. The day wasn’t far when Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, the Sarod maestro heard her singing ghazals and appreciated from the core of his heart, for the rare talent Devi was gifted with.

Jayanthi Subramanian (J): Did you always want to be a ghazal singer?
Devi Ramana Murthy (D): Yes. That’s been my ambition right since my childhood. Quite a difficult task though I belong to a traditional family influenced by Carnatic music. I had to really work hard to learn the language Urdu and also to know about the concept of ghazal rendering in the Muslim culture as a whole.

J: The music scene in India has changed a lot. What kind of music do you appreciate?
D: Music by itself is divine and the influence of the seven musical notes in any form of music may be it classical, Carnatic, Hindustani, Western or its magical effect in jazz, pop or light Indian music has always been a celestial experience. The change in the recent times is always welcome as great musicologists have added new dimensions to it. Precisely I love music as a whole.

J: Does Ghazal still attract people.
D: Yes of course! The best part of the Ghazal is that it is a fine blend of poetry and musical composition enriched by expression and feeling. It certainly attracts a person and influences the mental state of an individual. As far as I know a majority of people love ghazals.

J: Who are the celebrities you adore?
D: I have always been a great fan of Pakistani singers - King of ghazals Mehdi Hassan and Hussain Baksh though most of the people have not heard him. A very great artist who has always been very modest and gentle, not too much in the public - Smt. Madhu Rani.

J: Any Mentor?
D: None other than Dr. P. B.Srinivas, the cine playback singer of the south. His appreciation for my style of rendering, diction and pronunciation of the Urdu syllables is called ‘Talaffuz’ bears no bounds. Yes. He is my Mentor!

J: Hmmm. Your other interests?
D: I have always loved to be with the people, for the people and made by the people. Definitely its public relations.

J: You sing Sufi Music. Was it just an experimentation?
D:  Sort of. Infact some ghazals by nature are known as “Sufiana Kalaams” - Virtue of the poet’s imagination and devotion to the almighty. Yes, I have certainly taken this as a different segment and established a style of trance and eternal sublime.

J: Tell us about your inspirations.
D: Inspirations! Many. I am always inspired by things that touch my soul and poetry is one such form. Where ever there is love, bondage and human values my mind takes shelter inadvertently and ghazal has all those qualities.

J: What makes Ghazals different from other genres? Why is it still popular?
D: As I have told you it is a typical blend of poetic verses and scintillating musical composition quite different from other genres. Both poetry and music and the designed format is given equal importance and attention. Quite different from the free style singing. Of Course! I am talking about the authentic ghazal rendition. If its just sing like other geet of film songs, then I can just say its just to the reach the common man. Then why call it a ghzal? Why not a geet?

J: Do you also compose?
D: Well I keep trying and I have succeeded in composing some good tunes which have become quite popular and adorable by the audience.

J: You belong to a traditional family of Vainikas (Veena vidwans). How is it that you are influenced by ghazal which is just different to traditional Cartanic music.
D: Well, that is a good question. In fact I should say I have gone tangent to my family tradition of Carnatic music, the Veena sampradayam. Nevertheless, I feel I am immensely blessed to be born in a music family and imbibe the knowledge of swara and taal. My father who was a child prodigy and genius with a versatility of Carnatic, Hindustani and Western form of music, has reached the pinnacle not only as veena maestro but also was a music director for the Gemini films. According to him, music is an ocean with vast scope of exploring the various nuances in music. May be I imbibed a speck of it where as my sister Emani Kalyani Lakshmi Narayana inherited his Veena techniques.

J: The audience reactions in India verus Abroad?
D: I must say both in India and Abroad, I have had very discerning audience, who have a great knowledge of Urdu language and poetry. Audience abroad are mostly invitees and thus they form an elite gathering. Where as in India most of the concerts are for general public. Therefore, we have a mixture of audience

J: Your experimentations, when it comes to singing ghazals?
D: Basically ghazals have to be rendered in a particular style and it has a definite format. Experimentation can be done only in expression or by the way of improvisation. If you are aiming at fusion, I haven’t thought of it yet.

J: Happiest Moment?
D: This is when I could sing in the place of Mehdi Hassan! It was a big gathering of nearly 5000 Audience and a stage set for Shukla sisters, Ghulam Ali and Mehdi Hassan and due to certain reason, Mehdi Hassan could not come for the program! Well, I got a call from ITC requesting me to sing in the slot given for Mehdi Hassan. Not a Joke! Audience would never like a substitute. But Yes, I dared to face the audience and a pleasant surprise, they accepted me. It is the happiest moment.

J: Your message to upcoming talent.
D: To have a good foundation of the basics of music. Knowledge of swara stanas, basic taal, identification of ragas and above all extensive listening to various forms of music with utter devotion and dedication.

Month: July 2010.

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