Early Life of Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan
Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan was born in Manjapara, Palakkad District, Madras Province (Present Kerala) on 20 May 1923. His father Devesa Bhagavathar was a music teacher by profession. MDR did his schooling in Palakkad and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Victoria College, Palakkad. On completion of his studies, he travelled to Chennai along with his father to improve his musical talents.
Study of Sangita Siromani Music
During the same time, the legendary Rukmini Devi Arundale initiated a new course on Sangeeta Siromani at Kalakshetra. MDR auditioned for the course and was the only student to be selected for the first batch commencing in 1944. Soon, MDR emerged as Tiger Varadachariar's favourite and was his closest disciple when the latter died in 1950. Principal of Kalakshetra
After his graduation, MDR continued as an assistant to his guru and later became Professor of Music at Kalakshetra. He also served as the Principal of the College of Fine Arts at Kalakshetra.
Career in Music for Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan
MDR was known for his unique style of singing. In addition to having an extremely deep, booming voice, he rendered songs at an extremely slow pace, thereby allowing ample time for the listener to catch every word of the song and gauge its meaning. He also sang with adequate Bhava or expression. Ramanathan has sung in most of the ragas of Carnatic music such as Sahana, Sri, Anandabhairavi, Reethigowla and Yadukula Kambhoji. Other favourite ragas of his include Kedaram, Kambhoji and Hamsadhwani. As he himself once admitted, his Vilambita Kaala Gaanam renderings during Kathakali dances had influenced his music and style of singing.
His style of rendering was very different from the standard format of a Carnatic concert. He often deviated from the standard set of Sangathis and sang his own versions.
Compositions of Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan
Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan has composed more than 300 songs in Carnatic music in Tamil language, Telugu language and Sanskrit language. He used the word Varadadasa as his Mudra, in respect for Tiger Varadachari, his teacher. Some of his famous compositions are:
Awards Received by Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan
For his contributions to music, MDR was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1974 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1975. The Indian Fine Arts Society bestowed upon him the title of 'Sangeetha Kala Sigamani' in 1976. He also served as a member of the Madras Music Academy's Experts Committee. He was also considered for the Academy's Sangeetha Kalanidhi award in the 1983-84 seasons though he did not get the award.
MDR died after a long illness on April 27, 1984 at the age of sixty.
Legacy of Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan
The legacy of Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan has been kept alive through his albums and private recordings. M.D. Ramanathan, A Unique Octave in Music by Dr. Madhu Vasudevan, which was released in 2003, is a fitting tribute to the legend.
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