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One should see the God or Goddess in mind when the Keerthana is recited: Vidushi Sarojamma


Vidushi Sarojamma is a senior musician of Mangalore, India. She comes from the evergreen nature background of Karnataka, South India. She is a 85 year old musician and she has been teaching music to many students for the past 60 years.

This week, Vidushi Sarojamma spoke to Beauty Wall Spot CEO - Vishwas Krishna, as requested by many Art lovers of Beauty Wall Spot.

For music practising, one should have pure Shruti.  He should practice that first? Then tala. These two are essential. Or else where will be the music?  One should drown in the Shruti for 5 minutes.  Then start singing with perfect Tala.  You should also know the meaning of the Kruthi.  You should bring the God/Goddess in your mind. 

Vidushi Sarojamma

VISHWAS: Namaste Sarojamma 🙂
SAROJAMMA: Namaste Vishwas 🙂

VISHWAS: On behalf World of Art Cards, Beauty Wall Spot and our esteemed viewers and listeners, I personally thank you for giving me this opportunity to have an interview with you. We at Beauty Wall Spot and our member art loving community wanted to hear from you for a long time. Now we have this opportunity and we heartily welcome you for this chat.
SAROJAMMA: Ha...ha…[laughs] I am also happy to have you here. I know you are doing a good job and I wish you all the success in your art venture.

VISHWAS: Thank you 🙂 I wish you are comfortable to talk about your inspirational achievement and the glorious past which will help us the youngsters to learn. All these 85 years you were practising and teaching music to your disciples. We wish to know more about your story and your present activities.
SAROJAMMA: I was born in the native Suratkal. I grew up in Bangalore. My parents were settled in Bangalore. I have started my music studies at the age of 5. My paternal uncle was a lover of music. He was working with Tiger Varadachari drama company. He gave me my first music lessons taking me onto his lap with a Harmonium. I still have that Harmonium. Then came the music master Venkateshappa. He was working for Vani Tutorials.  He came home and taught me music. There was a well known Master in our neighborhood, Harmonium Arunachalappa, who was the teacher of my music teacher. At the age of 10, I went to him with my teacher. He asked whether I will sing there.  My master was hesitant and said that I knew only two lyrics.  But I spontaneously agreed to sing. I sang Shreemadadi Thyagarajah, composed by Mysore Vadudevacharya, the first keerthana, taught to me. Immediately after he told my master that this child is brilliant and give her all the encouragement.  There started my musical journey.  Then I studied my junior and senior music portion.

Thereafter I used to give concerts here and there.  Those days we just repeated whatever the master taught us.  No manodharma. I was asked to give a Ramaseva.  It is a big function.  I won a gold medal there.

I was married at the age of 15. My learning got a break due to this.

My husband loved music and musicians. But he couldn't sing.  Our house was in Shedigudda of Mangalore.  He wanted every artist visiting Mangalore to come and stay with us. This helped me in keeping alive the music in me.

VISHWAS: It seems your husband and family gave encouragement to you in music.
SAROJAMMA: Yes yes. He demanded my singing every day in the evening soon after he came from the office. That was our concert. All the family members were the audience. My two sons had learned mridangam a little bit. My daughter took the tamburi.  Every day new Keerthanas should be sung. No repetitions.

I had appeared for the examination in 1956. I studied under the guidance of Narayana Bhagavathar. We had to sing for 6 hours. We should play the tamburi ourselves. You know whom I got as examiner's?  Chowdayya, Bhuvaneshwarayya famous violinist, and my master.  I failed in the examination that year. I was told that my music is not good;  so come next year. Next year I left my small children with my husband and went again. Out of 200 students only 20 passed.  6 hours we had to sing and answer the questions asked.

VISHWAS: Even at this age you are spending your life musically by listening to music and teaching music to students.
SAROJAMMA: I love to listen to music the whole day. I don't see the TV much. Only music. I am alone but I never felt that, because I have my music with me. It's like Vanaprastashrama for me. My health is not good now a days. That scares me.  So I have asked a boy to be with me during night. Day time I keep my door open for my neighbor. For the past two years I am not that well. So I don't go anywhere.

VISHWAS: But you have that musical brightness on your face 🙂
SAROJAMMA: Ha ha ha, is it?  Nothing man. This is my daily routine. I get up by 5 AM.

VISHWAS: You get up that early?
SAROJAMMA: It is my habit from the beginning. I do some yoga. Can't do much because of the pain in joints. Then I do Rekhi. Now I have learnt Reiki. It takes one hour. Then I read for one hour. Thus till 10-11am I am engaged in these activities.  Then I watch some TV.  That's all.

From 5 in the morning I start listening to music.  I have more than 100 music records with me.  If you have give me some more.

VISHWAS: Oh Sure 🙂 Ok, Sarojamma, when were you first introduced to music?
SAROJAMMA: First? [thinking..] My grandmother’s place was there in Surathkal. When I was of 3 year old, I was there for two months.  My grandmother was an excellent singer.  She used to get up at 5 in the morning and she used to sing during churning of curd. For churning of curd she had to sit for hours together. I also sat with her.  “Ranga Nayaka”  “Udaya Kaladoledu gopi” she sang very well. Sitting with her I learnt these keerthanas. We can say that became my first music lessons.

VISHWAS: Do you remember the first day of your music class?
SAROJAMMA: I never went outside to learn music. Master came home and taught. As I said earlier my paternal uncle taught me ‘Sa Ri Ga Ma’ and some hymns. He played Harmonium and taught me. Then master took over. I don't remember exactly, as I was of 5 years of age.  He came home and sitting on the floor taught me.

VISHWAS: Wonderful. Sarojamma, can please share with me your childhood memories of learning, playing and music days.
SAROJAMMA: My father never allowed me to play. He used to sit with a stick in his hand. Soon after my school I should start my music. Once in a while I used to get beaten by the stick. If I went to play, I will be forcibly dragged and made to sing. We were staying in a lane. There were many girls in the neighborhood. They used to call for playing. I was not allowed. I was forced to learn music.  My mother used to complain, “Poor child, don’t get a chance to play also.” My father did not have any musical knowledge. One day I have completed my Kalyani Raga. He came and asked me to sing Kalyani Raga again. Ha ha [laughing]

VISHWAS: Ha ha [laughing] Did you get enough opportunities to listen to music when you were a child?
SAROJAMMA: How do you think I got so much experience? I think, at the age of 7 or 8 years old, there was ‘Ravindra Kala Bhavan, the Town Hall’ near our house.  Regular concerts were being held there. Once my master took me there. Saturdays and Sundays, many concerts were held. Big artists like Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, and many more. I don't remember their names. Oh, yeah, Mridangam Mani, Palghat Mani, Chowdayya, all these performed. Every week concerts, master took me there. I was asked to sit in a corner of the balcony as I was a small girl. I became a regular visitor and the watchman told me to sit in the front row. I was thrilled and took notes of the concert. That time where was the recording facility? We had to copy the lyrics and memorize. After every concert I used to practice at home. You know, those days these artists repeated the same raga and keerthanas and hence it was easy for me to learn. Today people sing a new one every time, but you can record it. Madurai Mani repeats the same nottuswara every time.  I got interested in music, this way.

Then there was this M D Ramanath, Madurai Somu, you know his “ Ramanamamu” in Attana raga; I sang  the same in Nidle shibhira [Karunbithil Shibira], Rajarajeshwari had come that year. Those days I used to sit in shibira. I was forced to sing. So I sang. Rajarajeshwari was very much pleased and asked me to teach her. I asked her “Can't you learn yourself? What is there to teach?”  I have learnt it from the script I prepared during the concerts.

VISHWAS: Oh K 🙂 Sarojamma, Who was your life inspirer?
SAROJAMMA: For my whole life it is my father. If he didn't improve me at that young age, I wouldn't have become like this. I will never forget. That time I was angry with him. But he had shown me a path for my life. Then my husband. He helped me improve my music. He took me to many functions and program. He had taken me to even Udupi hiring a taxi for concerts. He was a lover of music, a Rasika, like our Prabhachandra. Prabhachandra Mayya is also a great music lover, a Rasika, always trying to please the artists. He is doing many things for the artists and their comforts, unmindful of the cost involved. Such rasikas are rare to be seen.

VISHWAS: Yes, that’s true. We have heard many musicians had come and stayed with you during those days?
SAROJAMMA: My husband brought home every musician who happens to come to Mangalore for examination duty or concert. He used to meet them in their hotel rooms and convince them to move to our home with their baggage. We had a big house at Shedigudda. Chandrappa, Chandra Singh, and many others also had stayed with us. I could have learnt music from them, but at that time, I had no interest in learning. I went to Bangalore for a month once in awhile and learnt some.  But Chandrappa had taught me “Chathurashra raga malika”.

Then Chembai had come. He came on the dias I was singing. Dharmatma nannipudu, have you heard? it is in Kedargowla. A rare keerthana. He also sang great!!! Then he told my husband “Mohan Rao, your wife sings very well”.  Then he went.  Thus I was fortunate to sing with the great artist. So till his end he encouraged me.

VISHWAS: What was the greatest advice you got?
SAROJAMMA: Advice? My master always told me not to leave music. In any age it will be your life. Same thing happened with me. Music will be there with me till my end. He had asked me to make Saraswathi Upasana. I am doing it.

VISHWAS: Who is your favorite artist?
SAROJAMMA: Olden days  it was M. L. Vasantha Kumari. She was singing very well. Her Devaranamas are of first class. Then K. V. Narayana Swamy. I love these two very much. My husband liked Madurai Mani but I don't.

Lately T. M. Krishna sings like K. V. Narayana Swamy.  K. V  Narayana Swamy was excellent.  His ragas were fantastic.

VISHWAS: Which is your favorite Kruthi?
SAROJAMMA: Needu Charana of Raga kalyani and Balagopala of Raga Bhairavi. Then some Keerthanas taught by Bhagavathar I sing with ease.

VISHWAS: Wonderful. Which is your favorite raga?
SAROJAMMA: I love Kalyani raga very much. I feel kalyani is like a goddess, when I sing.  Once I heard Kalyani, I don't remember who was that, maybe M. D., I requested my master to teach Kalyani. I was very young. So he said” first you sing, then I will teach”  I sang. Next day he taught me Kalyani.

VISHWAS: What is your message to the younger generation?
SAROJAMMA: Learn music till the senior level. Because one should know the raga and tala and swara. Only if you want to be a musician go for vidwat. Vidwat is not that easy. This is my advice to music students.

VISHWAS: Dear Sarojamma, It was our pleasure to have you interviewed and all our art lovers will really appreciate this interview.  We wholeheartedly thank you for this golden opportunity of talking to you and you have given us your views deep from the heart.  Thanks a lot.
SAROJAMMA: Thank you Vishwas.