Carnatic music—a hard note to crack


Australia has an abundance of talent from India in the world of music, dance and the arts. This series follows the lives of some of those artistes—Uma Ramu Ayyar

India is a talent ‘Akshaya Paatram’ (never-ending treasure chest) and some of that talent has arrived here in Australia, enriching it over the years through its music, dance and other cultural endeavours.

One of the earliest talents to reach Australian shores was the brilliant Uma Ramu Ayyar. She specialises in classical Carnatic music vocal, but is equally versatile in other musical genres. Her contribution in popularising the hard-to-crack grammar-ridden South Indian classical music is commendable. She is academically a high achiever, proficient in classical music, being trained from the Trivandrum based Women’s college, with a rank 1 Masters degree in music. Among the teachers who trained Uma are Sri Sencotta Narayanan, Prof. Sarojini and Smt. Malini Hariharan, both renowned for their skill in the arts. Dr. Omanakutty, who later became Professor of Music of that august institution, is another guru of Uma who guided her through the hard to travel music highway. Uma has music teaching experience, having taught at Sitha Lakshmy Music College, of Trichy.

Uma was inspired into classical music by her grandmother Chellamma. Learning from Prof. Sarojini helped Uma to handle subtle gamakas, which are highly intricate specially while singing padams. Uma learned the style of voice modulation from Dr. Omanakutty.  Uma believes in listening to the greats and practising hard, if one is intent on making any inroads in music.

Speaking to Uma one gets the impression of how humble she is by disposition. However, she has some firm opinions on music and its journey through the years. She says, during her learning days, only very few students took to classical music learning primarily because of how arduous the journey was. “Most of the successful students then could only hope to become a music teacher of a local school, with no other openings available. If they ventured into film music success was instantaneous. The singer could become famous and rich with the least effort. Classical music dwindled over a period of time, although now, there seems to be a revival of sorts,” says Uma.

She says that the students she has coached over the past few years are truly dedicated to music. Some of her students are accomplished singers who give public performances, which she says is her biggest reward.

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