78-year-old ghatam artiste has a huge youth fan-base

Believe me when I say that a 78-year-old ghatam artiste has a huge fan-base comprising of youngsters in the neighbourhood of Madipakkam. He is Ernakulam Ramakrishnan, who resides at Sadhasivam Nagar and he has performed in more than 6,000 concerts till date, apart from working with renowned musicians. In 1986, he shifted to Madipakkam and has since been continuing his music venture here – not as a student, but as a guru – by taking music classes for students and performing at concerts organised in the neighbourhood.

News Today met Ramakrishnan and had a chat to know how he performs magic with an instrument, that is in essence, made of clay. “‘When I came to Chennai, I joined the sales department of a private firm and worked there for a while. At one point of time, I resigned and joined the administrative position of another private firm and all the while I kept practicing and performing at concerts,”’ began the vidwan.

When asked about his first stage performance, the Keralite took a while, recollected his memories and said, “‘My first public stage concert was held at Aluva at the age of 16. It took almost seven years for me to perform on stage. I would say, the time taken by me is less, since, usually it takes nine years for many. So, I think, I was blessed to have performed on stage at that age.’”

Ramakrishnan started his musical journey with N G Sharma at god’s own country at the age of seven and came to Chennai in 1961. Having settled in Triplicane, he became the disciple of T S Vilvadhri Iyer. For Ramakrishnan, who has been honoured with ‘Best Percussionist’ award in 1957-58 and many others since, making his fans happy is the highest honour that he can get.

But it is not often one stumbles upon a ghatam player for people are drawn towards other forms in music mostly. But Ramakrishnan begs to differ. He says, “‘I have seen many IT professionals and engineers learning ghatam. Even I have taken classes for a few.”’ Ramakrishnan has worked with leading musicians like Chembai Vaidhyanatha Bhagavathar, Palakkad Ramnarayan, Kunnakudi Vaidhyanatha Bhagavathar, Madurai Somu, Bombay sisters, Sulamangalam sisters, Neyveli Santhanagopalan, Balamurali Krishna, Magathi and so on.

Asked about his opinion on online music classes, Ramakrishnan said “It may be fine with other art forms, but for ghatam, one has to sit with the guru to learn it properly. ‘I had a student from Japan once. He came here to learn ghatam from me and returned to his home country after learning the basics. At our time, we had gurukulam, where we used to stay at the guru’s house and learn from there. Later came tuition classes and now it’s online classes. I prefer to take classes in person,.”

“‘I wish parents to encourage young minds to learn the musical instrument as it is rarely opted for. Of course, one will be needing more patience, concentration and dedication to master it. But when they do, it will help them a lot,’” he declared. Ernakulam Ramakrishnan can be reached at 7338911210.

Balamurugan Selvaraj