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Soorya (Singapore) Presents

Vocal concert of Prince Rama Varma

An enthralling evening of light classical music & bhajans
Date : 21 June 2009, Time : 7 pm
Venue: Auditorium at Level 3, Chong Pang CC, Yishun, Admission : Free


Prince Rama Varma

Prince Rama Varma

Interview with Prince Rama Varma

Prince Rama Varma is a Carnatic singer, veena artist and a mentor of the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. He was born to Pooyam Thirunal Parvati Bayi and Chembrol Raja Raja Varma, on 13th of August 1968. He was born in the Royal family of Travancore, which has been closely associated with music and art. Prince Rama Varma is the descendant of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, the outstanding composer and Raja Ravi Varma, the pioneering artist.

Prince Rama Varma, a member of the Royal Family of Travancore, is a direct descendant of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma and Raja Ravi Varma. Born on the 13 August 1968, Prince Varma fell in love with music in general and with the music of M D Ramanathan (In the Carnatic style) and Kishore Kumar (In the universal style) in particular when he was still a toddler. He grew up listening to the music of the various great maestros who performed regularly at the Navarathri Mandapam in Thiruvavanthapuram and the constantly updated collection of LP records of Hindi Film Music from his father and sister.

He started formal lessons in music in 1982 from Prof Vechoor Hariharasubramania Iyer, a senior disciple of Dr Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, who continued to teach him until his demise in 1994. He also studied the Saraswathi Veena under Trivandrum R Venkataraman for five years and later under Sangeetha Kalanidhi Prof K S Narayana-swamy. At present the Prince is undergoing training under Sangeetha kalanidhi Dr M Balamuralikrishna and has gone on to become one of his foremost disciples. He has had the rare privilege of not only in unison with his legendary Guru but also of having Dr. Balamuralikrishna accompany him on the violin when he sang. In his rendering there is an irresistible combination of tenderness and melody.

A post graduate in Commerce, Prince Varma started giving public concerts in 1990 mainly due to the encouragement and support he received from Prof T V Gopala-krishnan who helped him to break free from the royal fetters and perform in public.

He has a repertoire of Swathi compositions that is unmatched even by the great masters. From the rare Khamas Varna (Saa Vaama Rusha) to the popular Paahi Sreepathe (Hamsadhwani Keerthana), Varma adds a fresh touch of surprise and grandeur that has become his hallmark. Among his own favourite Swathi compositions is Aaj Aaaye Shyaam Mohan, the hindustani bhajan popularised by the great Dr Balamuralikrishna in a rare shade of Pahadi. P Ravikumar, an authority in Carnatic music and the author of a book on the eminent musician M D Ramanathan says: "Unlike the present generation, Rama Varma follows a slow tempo in his music, which is devoid of gimmicks. His idol is Ramanathan and it is no wonder that he follows a path of shuddh sangeeth. Certainly Rama Varma is the most exciting prospect to emerge from Kerala in Carnatic music in this period. More significantly, his talent on the veena is exemplary, taking music lovers to a soothing realm." Prince Varma has given concerts all over India and in other countries like USA, UK, France, Germany, Kuwait, Dubai and The Netherlands, to mention a few. His first CD was released at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London and he has performed at some of the most prestigious venues in Europe.

Fluent in Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil and French, Varma is well read and has traveled widely and uses inputs from walks of life other than music too to enrich his art. His music is noted for it's strict adherence to tradition coupled with his own charming brand of creativity. He specializes in taking classes and giving lecture demonstrations about various aspects of music to much appreciation and delight from his students and members of the public. He believes in making his lectures entertaining and his concerts informative.

During the past decade he has proved himself to be an organizer of merit by organizing a week long festival of South Indian and North Indian Classical Music which is open to the public, at the palace of his ancestor Maharaja Swathi Thirunal in Trivandrum from the 6th till the 12 January every year. The festival continues to attract a large number of listeners from various parts of the world year after year. He had the privilege of honoring two living legends, Shri Manna Dey who turned 85 and Dr Balamuralikrishna who turned 75 in 2005, with concerts by the legends themselves that was held in Trivandrum in November 2005. He proved his dynamism as an organizer and visionary yet again recently by spearheading the move to allow women inside the Navarathri Mandapam, both as performers and as listeners too, breaking more than three centuries of that tradition. He handpicked octogenarian veteran Parasala Ponnammal to be the first woman to enter the Navarathri Mandapam, thus coaxing her out of a mostly retired life and reintroducing her glorious artistry to the music loving public of Kerala. He was invited to perform at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan by His Excellency The President of India, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam who calls himself Prince Varma's fan after listening to his CD, 'Thaanam - The Pulse Of The Veena.'

Reviews

Royalty is writ all over Ashwathy Tirunal Rama Varma, a direct descendent of Swati Tirunal. And very much like his illustrious ancestor, he has found his forte in music - a composer, singer, teacher, learner all rolled into one. The mesmerising melody and richness of his voice as he gets immersed in the class, stays with you for a long, long time, for here is someone special who makes a dent both as musician and man. (Hindu, 12 Dec 2008)

The Travancore royal family's centuries-old patronage of the fine arts did little to prepare them for a surprise - a performing musician in their own ranks. Prince Rama Varma's profession consists of what he enjoys doing best - making music. A veena exponent and vocalist of high order, he also wears the cap of organiser with ease and waxes eloquent on what makes his world go round. (Hindu, 12 Sep 2008)

If the ability to sing is special, the ability to take music beyond time, culture, language and geography is even more awe-inspiring, more so in a world marked by demarcations of all kinds. Enthralling Indian and non-Indian audience alike, taking them to exalted states of joy, with musical ingenuity; Varma proves that Music heals, uplifts and unifies the world. His mystique as a musician is incomparable and his inventiveness and adeptness in an art form that has long been more than his passion, is laudable. As a musician bringing new flavor and fervor to the Indian classical music scene, adding a new dimension to the Indian music world with his openness to other forms of music, he holds promise and there is no doubt that in the years to come, Prince Rama Varma's name will be synonymous with not just Indian classical music but with music in the universal sense also. (http://www.carnaticindia.com)

View more videos - Prince Rama Varma

Video 1
Video 2 - (in the presence of HE President Dr Abdul Kalam)
Video 3 - (with Dr Balamuralikrishna)
Video 4 - (in Soorya (India) festival)
Video 5 - (Bhakti TV)
Video 6 - (swathi sangeetholsavam)
Video 7 - (musiquebox)

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