MYSURU: The air in a California auditorium could be described as lively or electric as crowds spontaneously broke out into a dance to the beats of the kanjira. And the man responsible for the moment was Amma Ramachandra, a folk singer from Karnataka.
“Music doesn’t require any language to feel and enjoy it. No sooner than I began singing ‘Challidaru Malligaye’, a famous Kannada folksong in California, foreigners broke into a dance. They later hugged me and clicked photos and my happiness knew no bounds,” says the 32-year-old artist.
A native of Devalapur, a village in HD Kote taluk, Ramachandra has achieved international repute by spreading the essence of Kannada Janapada across the globe.
Born into a family of labourers, Ramachandra started earning at the age of eight to support his family and to finance his education. With their paltry earnings, the family barely scraped through.
“I have done all sorts of odd jobs in my life like grazing cattle, road asphalting, crushing stone and some how managed to finish school. It was a big task to run the family and study at the same time.”
After failing SSLC, Ramachandra discontinued his education for two years. He later resumed his studies and completed his post-graduation in 2013 going on to win a gold medal in MA Folklore. Seven years ago, he started out as a folk singer. Today, he has performed widely across the country and in countries like China, the US and across Europe.
“I was studying PUC in VSS College and stayed at an ashram. One night, there was a power cut and I started singing. My roommates appreciated my singing and informed teachers who encouraged me to take part in a singing competition. I was nervous but a teacher built my confidence and encouraged me to sing. I got the first prize in that competition and since then a new chapter began in my life.”
Without a guru to guide him, he practised on his own. “When I was a child, I did not even have a radio at home. I used to go to my neighbour’s house to listen to the radio. It was my mother’s dream that I become a singer. Now I earn `25,000 every month and am happy,” says Ramachandra, who was also inspired by his father DG Gopalaiah who used to sing Ranga Geethe.
Apart from touring the world with Kannada folk song, he has also trained hundreds of youngsters in folk music in a bid to create awareness among them. His dream is to open a folk art training centre at HD Kote with a museum that houses all artefacts related to Janapada. He also wishes to do research on musical instruments used in folk art.
Dr M Nanjaiah, HoD, Department of Folklore, University of Mysore, said, “When most people are today attracted towards western culture, his achievements in folk art is laudable. No student has achieved like him in this field. He does not wish for any publicity, and even today engages in farming. I’m very proud to have had such a student.”