A passionate vocalist
Noted for her chaste classicism, pitch-perfect voice, immensely creative ‘manodharma’ and the erudition of her concerts and lecture-demonstrations, Dr Pantula Rama is now rightfully regarded as one of the finest Carnatic classical musicians of today. The graceful musician has been notching up one honour after another in the world of classical music.
And to think that she almost did not become a professional musician but a doctor instead!
She secured a merit seat in MBBS after high school but gave it up and decided instead to dedicate herself to music theory and practice. Indeed, medicine's loss has been music's gain!
Rama, who is based in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, recalls that her parents did support her decision though many friends and acquaintances were surprised. After all, her parents too are musicians. Rama's father Pantula Gopala Rao is a violinist and her mother Padmavathi is trained in the veena. Her father was actually her first teacher. Later, she received advanced training under the legendary violinist Ivaturi Vijayeswara Rao. Today, though she performs as a vocalist, she occasionally plays the role of a violinist in some concerts and is also proficient in the viola.
Later, she married a violinist, Mutnuri Srinivasa Narasimha Murthy aka MSN Murthy, who is a highly accomplished violinist, vocalist and viola-player and top-graded All India Radio artiste. This only meant that the musical atmosphere around her became richer. MSN Murthy often accompanies Rama on the violin during her concerts in India and abroad. Interestingly, when he plays a solo violin concert, Rama accompanies him on the violin. The sparkling chemistry of this onstage combination draws repeated applause from audiences.
Like many artistes of this generation, Rama has chosen to also train in music at an academic institution. She did her BA and MA in Music from Andhra University and topped the university in both degrees and was awarded gold medals for both achievements. She followed this up with a doctorate in music from the same university.
She has performed all over India at prestigious venues and toured several countries winning rave reviews, everywhere she performs. Pantula Rama is particularly commended for her amazingly imaginative ‘manodharma’ especially RTP i.e. ‘Ragam-thanam-pallavi’. She also likes to render less-heard ragas and rare krithis.
Rama has just returned from a successful Fall Tour of USA. "I gave a series of concerts and lecture-demonstrations, which were very well-received," she reveals.
At her Chennai concerts over the years for the prestigious Madras Music Academy, she has won many awards like ‘Outstanding Lady Vocalist’, ‘Best RTP of the December Season’, and ‘Senior Outstanding Vocalist’.
Recently, she created a history of sorts in the music world when she made the first-of-its-kind presentation at Madras Music Academy. This was in December 2018. She presented a Garbha Pallavi.
For this, she received the ‘Outstanding Pallavi Award’ from the Academy. This Garbha Pallavi is actually a musical interpretation of one of the ‘prakriyas’ in poetry namely Garbha Kavithvam.
As Rama explains: "Garbha kavitvam is a phenomenon wherein a single poem will encapsulate within its core one or smaller poems. The smaller poems are arrived at, by removing some specific words yet remaining meaningful. The pallavi is composed in the same way." Lyrics – “Mandahasa sundaranga vadana gopee brunda chandana pahi pahi mam; Sundaranga vadana gobrunda chandana sundaravadana sundara mam pahi.”
Pantula Rama has also recently written an open letter to the music world about the way the famous Thyagaraja krithi sadhinchene in Arabhi ragam is rendered. She believes a correction is necessary. To quote her letter: "We have been singing all the swarasahityas suffixed by ‘Samayāniki’. The correct way would be to sing all the swarasahityas suffixed by ‘Sādhinchene’, the Pallavi. This was first proposed by the great musician N Ch Krishnamacharyulu. Many great musicians of authority like Sri Lalgudi G Jayaraman, Sri Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Sri S R Janakiraman and many others to name a few have concurred with the same idea. In fact, this was how the great composition was composed in the first place. It is our responsibility at least now to revive the original structure and propagate it so widely that everybody gets used to it and this significant change is incorporated at Tiruvayyaru from next year onwards."
Right now, she is also busy with the second anniversary of her brainchild ‘PaRa: The Supreme’. It is a musical movement meant to generate interest in music and engage people in meaningful discussions about music and art.