Speaking through the Strings of Veena

Posted By : Editor

Ramana Balachandhran, a 16-year-old Vainika from Bangalore, is one of the most promising stars in Veena rendition. His talent for music was noticed when at a young age he could identify ragas and point out nuances. Ramana has been performing from the age of 12. This Veena prodigy is mesmerising his audience whenever his magical fingers touch Veena. With so many accolades and awards to his credit, Ramana is indeed a Vainika of the highest calibre. Ramana speaks with Advantage Karnataka about his musical journey.

Adherence to the dictates of classicism, loyalty to the traditional contours of ragas, unobtrusive plucking, the fine tonal quality, and skilful modulation displayed in the recital, predict well for the development of a young artiste into a consummate performer. Here is one such youngster from Bangalore who is taking his audience to a state of trance through his Veena rendition. With so many accolades and awards to his credit, Ramana Balachandran is indeed a Vainika of the highest calibre.

Ramana was hardly 100 months old, when he first stroked the strings of his mother’s veena to play a complex note, which in the hindsight is not beginner’s luck. He had undergone formal training briefly before he took off as one of the most promising classical musicians of our times. Veena Ramana is one of the infinite stars that twinkle each time an angel points a finger to make a beautiful drawing, joining them-all.

Born into a musical family, Ramana, at a very small age, has shown that he was much more than a playful child by trying to mimic the music around him. “A few things I remember include me imitating musicians, being awed by music in general, developing ideas about what appeared musical and what didn't. I also remember noticing nuances but not having the vocabulary to express or discuss those. My earliest memories are of playfully upsetting the tuning pegs on the veena while my mother played on it. My parents used to make me identify ragas when I was very young. Music was there at home, but it was not until when I was 7 or 8 that I really started to understand or rather started to appreciate music with a certain amount of zeal,” says Ramana.

Later, he has made yet another bolder step by quitting regular school. The reason he was de-schooled had been the dissonance his parents felt with the current education system despite Ramana being a decent student. They noticed a distinct lack of space towards pursuing certain deeper things beyond academics. “Being home-schooled, I get my own time to learn anything. It might be academics, music, magic, or other hobbies. I also got to spend time in interesting places and with interesting people. There's also this exploration and deep-dive possible. In my case, music became intense after I was home-schooled,” he says.

All the early achievements of Ramana make good sense about how much of hard work and parenting went into this young artist’s making. They pull off a dual responsibility as both a parent and guru. Ramana says that being a parent and guru is much like being a chameleon on two different surfaces; like a natural blend of motherly/fatherly concern and the sternness/stoniness of a guru. “I don’t really think about my parents as being gurus and ‘parents’ separately, but when I do think about it, I think what they do in any situation is the most natural thing to do for that particular situation,” he says.

While talking about his gurus who drive his to excel with a powerful blend of instruction and encouragement, Ramana says that he has had wonderful gurus who encouraged and kindled interest. “My parents keep me on track, both musically and morally, making sure that I don’t go astray. There can be no better mentors than them. I also like it when someone points out a glitch in me because you get to learn something new that was unnoticed. Overall, things being what they are, I feel I’m the luckiest person on the planet, and I thank Bhagawan (Ramana Maharshi) for that,” he says.

Apart from getting dissolved in his Veena, Ramana has other activities to keep him engaged. “I do get hooked on to my tablet sometimes. It is mostly when I surf YouTube for some wildlife videos, magic tricks, or some funny videos of animals, etc., apart from music of course,” he says. Ramana loves to spend time composing melodies etc. Mridangam holds a deep fascination for him, as also vocal music. “I also like playing football, badminton, cricket, and squash. And swimming too. I like to show off my magic tricks when I meet my friends, often failing miserably,” he says.

Talking about his practice schedule, Ramana says that he tries to include some exercises for instrumental virtuosity.  He believes that an instrumentalist’s aim should be to bring out a combination of instrumental beauty and musical content in a concert. “I like to work specifically on the musicality part in a variety of ways too. Finding one's own manodharma is very much part of it. Pallavis fascinate me so I do spend some time working on related aspects. I also like to listen to great masters trying to grasp the structure underlying their ideas apart from enjoying the music itself,” says Ramana.

The most heartening thing he has experienced and does experience every now and then is when he loses himself on stage. “There is nothing but the music and you, and you really don’t labour at producing anything specific. It is just that flow of discovery. I try to get into some of those moments in every concert; whether I succeed, or fail is another story! I would love to find a way to work hard on various things without fixating; I am still finding my way. This is a quality that deep contributors seem to have had. That inspires me,” says Ramana.

Adherence to the dictates of classicism, loyalty to the traditional contours of ragas, unobtrusive plucking, the fine tonal quality, and skilful modulation displayed in the recital, predict well for the development of a young artiste into a consummate performer. Here is one such youngster from Bangalore who is taking his audience to a state of trance through his Veena rendition. With so many accolades and awards to his credit, Ramana Balachandran is indeed a Vainika of the highest calibre.

Ramana was hardly 100 months old, when he first stroked the strings of his mother’s veena to play a complex note, which in the hindsight is not beginner’s luck. He had undergone formal training briefly before he took off as one of the most promising classical musicians of our times. Veena Ramana is one of the infinite stars that twinkle each time an angel points a finger to make a beautiful drawing, joining them-all.

Born into a musical family, Ramana, at a very small age, has shown that he was much more than a playful child by trying to mimic the music around him. “A few things I remember include me imitating musicians, being awed by music in general, developing ideas about what appeared musical and what didn't. I also remember noticing nuances but not having the vocabulary to express or discuss those. My earliest memories are of playfully upsetting the tuning pegs on the veena while my mother played on it. My parents used to make me identify ragas when I was very young. Music was there at home, but it was not until when I was 7 or 8 that I really started to understand or rather started to appreciate music with a certain amount of zeal,” says Ramana.

Later, he has made yet another bolder step by quitting regular school. The reason he was de-schooled had been the dissonance his parents felt with the current education system despite Ramana being a decent student. They noticed a distinct lack of space towards pursuing certain deeper things beyond academics. “Being home-schooled, I get my own time to learn anything. It might be academics, music, magic, or other hobbies. I also got to spend time in interesting places and with interesting people. There's also this exploration and deep-dive possible. In my case, music became intense after I was home-schooled,” he says.

All the early achievements of Ramana make good sense about how much of hard work and parenting went into this young artist’s making. They pull off a dual responsibility as both a parent and guru. Ramana says that being a parent and guru is much like being a chameleon on two different surfaces; like a natural blend of motherly/fatherly concern and the sternness/stoniness of a guru. “I don’t really think about my parents as being gurus and ‘parents’ separately, but when I do think about it, I think what they do in any situation is the most natural thing to do for that particular situation,” he says.

While talking about his gurus who drive his to excel with a powerful blend of instruction and encouragement, Ramana says that he has had wonderful gurus who encouraged and kindled interest. “My parents keep me on track, both musically and morally, making sure that I don’t go astray. There can be no better mentors than them. I also like it when someone points out a glitch in me because you get to learn something new that was unnoticed. Overall, things being what they are, I feel I’m the luckiest person on the planet, and I thank Bhagawan (Ramana Maharshi) for that,” he says.

Apart from getting dissolved in his Veena, Ramana has other activities to keep him engaged. “I do get hooked on to my tablet sometimes. It is mostly when I surf YouTube for some wildlife videos, magic tricks, or some funny videos of animals, etc., apart from music of course,” he says. Ramana loves to spend time composing melodies etc. Mridangam holds a deep fascination for him, as also vocal music. “I also like playing football, badminton, cricket, and squash. And swimming too. I like to show off my magic tricks when I meet my friends, often failing miserably,” he says.

Talking about his practice schedule, Ramana says that he tries to include some exercises for instrumental virtuosity.  He believes that an instrumentalist’s aim should be to bring out a combination of instrumental beauty and musical content in a concert. “I like to work specifically on the musicality part in a variety of ways too. Finding one's own manodharma is very much part of it. Pallavis fascinate me so I do spend some time working on related aspects. I also like to listen to great masters trying to grasp the structure underlying their ideas apart from enjoying the music itself,” says Ramana.

The most heartening thing he has experienced and does experience every now and then is when he loses himself on stage. “There is nothing but the music and you, and you really don’t labour at producing anything specific. It is just that flow of discovery. I try to get into some of those moments in every concert; whether I succeed, or fail is another story! I would love to find a way to work hard on various things without fixating; I am still finding my way. This is a quality that deep contributors seem to have had. That inspires me,” says Ramana.

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