Discovering MDR


carnatic, music / Friday, January 8th, 2016

One usual compliment that is generally said after someone sings is, “You have a sweet voice”. The listener observes the pleasantness in the voice than the rendition. And a corollary to that would be that a musician with a tough, base voice would be less pleasant to hear. At least I was looking at music with this perspective for sometime. Especially with respect to one particular yesteryear musician called MDR aka MD Ramanathan.

Even when Diwakara Tanujaha used to play MDR songs when I was around, I used to crink my face and run away from there. One day he said, “Vid, you will be able to fully appreciate Carnatic music only on the day you can appreciate MDR”. Though he never forced me to listen, that line kept haunting me and seemed to have stayed active at some corner of my mind all the time. That very line made me curious to go and explore a couple of recordings. I searched youtube for MD Ramanathan and listened to the below link, a thillana.

He is an enigma. I read that he sings songs extremely slowly but I have listened to quite a few fast paced ones, like the thillana above. And his voice is very misleading – one booming unintelligible sound that I had heard once, now seems a voice that is one with the tambura and deep.

In the recordings I have listened to, I have not known one place where there was an unwanted kaarva or sangathi. Many a times while singing, we commit this mistake of adding ornamentation to music at the wrong places, just to show we can. Probably that is what makes carnatic music boring to the Muggles. MDR taught me not to.

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MDR on the right

MDR has composed krithis under the name (mudhra) Varadadasa as a tribute to his teacher Tiger Varadhachari. Today, a group of MDR aficionados have a group on Facebook called Varadadasa (maybe the name is a tribute to the tributer! ) These guys help me in my MDR discovery further. Uploads from media fire that I have downloaded on my phone, makes sure I have “Coffee with MDR” everyday morning during my travel to office. Thanks to them!!!

  • Until next,
    Vid 🙂
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3 Replies to “Discovering MDR”

  1. Wow! I didn’t know about your music side. Has been a few years since I listened to MDR but my dad says the same. Appreciation of carnatic music is much more than just their voice or style or .. sarees/jewellery!!! Whom do you listen to more among the current musicians?

  2. There were many more musicians without good voice in yesteryears who were most popular and who had much recognition, naming a few, T K Rangachari, Chembai Vaidhyanatha bhagavathar, T M Thiagarajan . Every one established a place in music world through their distinct approach/ Bhaani. MDR no doubt, had a unique style of presenting music.

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