Percussion instruments have been their life for the past five decades, producing the right note at the right pitch, be it for films, concerts or festivals. H P Ramamurthy and H P Bala Subramaniam, two brothers from Karnataka now settled in Chennai, were in Bangalore recently to regale music lovers with their mastery over a range of musical instruments.
Since their childhood, they have been playing the tabla and still continue to do so be it for a Kannada or Hindi film. Being part of the cultural circuit in the south, they have carved a name for themselves in the field of music since 1957. But what makes them stand apart from many musicians is their passionate rendering not only on the tabla but also other percussion instruments such as pakhawaj, dholak, dholki, conga and dundun drums, bongos, mridanga, harmonium and tabla tarang.
Accompanying many prominent artistes in the South Indian film industry, the siblings are well-versed, proficient and considered to be successful artistes in their chosen field. 74-year-old Ramamurthy is an A Grade tabla artiste of AIR. Elaborating on his passion, he says, “Initially I started learning tabla from my father H R Padmanabha Sastry, at the age of eight. Later on, I took lessons from renowned masters like Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, Pandit Kishan Maharaj and Ustad Zakir Hussain. Whenever I had the time and opportunity, I played Light and Classical Tabla for All India Radio, Chennai. I also conduct music classes.”
On the other hand, the younger sibling, 58-year-old Bala Subramaniam added, “I was taught by my father and brother too. At the age of 12, I played Dholki for a Telugu film. Later on, I played Tabla for a Tamil film Vilayattu Pillai. After that, I learnt Dholak from Abdul Sattar at Mumbai. By playing many instruments, I have introduced many unique and innovative styles. For the first time, I played a Latin percussion instrument called tumba and people started calling me as Tumba Bala.”
Their contribution to the south Indian film world has been recognised as vast and immense. Till date, the duo have played a wide range of Indian and foreign instruments for more than one lakh songs. During their initial days, they had the opportunity to work with many well-known music directors like Guru SV Venkataramaiah of Gemini Studios, SM Subbiah Naidu, Hindi directors Saleel Choudhary, AR Rehman, Bappi Lahari, Jatin Lalit and C Ramachandra, leading Kannada directors Rajan Nagendra, Upendra Kumar, Vijaya Bhaskar, GK Venkatesh, Hamsalekha, TG Lingappa, C Ashwath and PB Sreenivas, Telugu directors SP Kodandapani, S Rajeswara Rao, Ramesh Naidu, Malyali director Jayaraj and many others.
“We both have played for some evergreen super hit Kannada numbers like Aadisi Nodu, Bilisi Nodu (Kasturi Nivasa), Poojisalende Hoogala Thande (Eradu Kanasu), Elliruve Manava Kaduva Roopasiye (Bayalu Daari), Aakashave Bilali Mele (Nyayave Devaru), Neera Bittu Nelada Mele Dhoni Sagadu (Hombisilu)," says Ramamurthy.
Apart from this, Bala has also rendered for many Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam films.
His Telugu films include Annamaiah, Swathi Muttyam, Gitanjali and Shiva. Tamil films include Anna Killi, Yajaman, Apoorva Sahodarargal, and Manjal Nila, while his Malayalam include Sallapam, Kuyiline Thedi and many more.
Adding to this, Bala opined, “We have even entered Bollywood industry playing for famous music directors like Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Salil Chowdhury, Ilayaraja and AR Rahman's music in films like Jodha Akbar and Delhi Six. I have further played the tabla and dholak for Mangal Pandey and Katiya Karoon .”
Performing all over India and abroad, they have been bestowed with titles like Kanchi Vidwan, Traya Jnani and also honoured by Kala Ranjani School of Music, Cine Musician Union of Chennai and a host of other academies. Recently, the siblings participated in a cultural event of Odukattur Mahaan Swamigal Mutt at Ulsoor in Bangalore.
The duo who have taken their talent to great heights advise young upcoming artistes, “Youngsters need to work hard and practice regularly which leads to perfection. They should be disciplined and respect their teachers,” they sign off.