Mahajanam Shriramamurthy was an exponent of both Hindustani and Carnatic music. He was a disciple of Pandit Srinivas Sharma, a celebrated musician renowned for his mastery of Hindusthani and Carnatac music. Both of them have stayed at Banaras and absorbed the best of both the traditions.
He had a rich voice which contains melody and sweetness and so was able to enthrall listeners of all age group. He had a distinct style of rendering raga alapana and kirtana. The raga singing had the prime gamaka prayoga and bhava bringing out the appropriate mood of the particular raga.
Keerthana singing had the poetic beauty of the composer, apt attention given to the various gamakas which are interwoven with the swaras on the sahitya bhava, a blend that not only nurtures the Ritualistic base of classicism but also fosters a realm of divinity which could be felt, whenever he performed or taught.
He was a deft gayaka who sang in the sruthi (pitch) of two-and-a-half. He firmly believed that following the old school of thought and practice led to retaining a rich voice even after reaching the mid-70s .
His first Guru was Pakshi RajamIiyangar and Srinivsa Sharma [vocalist and veena player]. When he was a student he would walk to his music class; sing for nearly three hours, walk back home, go again in the evening and practice for another three hours. He has said a student who could not sing what had been taught would be sent out of the class by his guru and asked to come back only if he was prepared with his lessons. He was A good composer too, has composed music for ballet, dramas, film and HAJAREOVINDA [Hindi translation of Sankaras Bajagovindam].
He came to Delhi from Chennai in late 1983 at the invitation of G.Lakshmanan, then Deputy Speaker. His first programme was at Mavalankar Hall, Constitution Club . The date of the concert was 18th April, 1984. His stage performances were far too few in recent years. Nor did he record his music in any significant quantity. However, the Sangeet Natak Academy did record his rendition of the Abhayambaamba cycle of Dikshitar, and the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Recorded some rare songs of the Trinity of carnatac music. a fortunate event because Mahajanam was indeed one of the true experts in presenting Dikshitar with faithful adherence to the spirit in which his compositions were created.
Subbudu Mama (late P.V. Subramanian, critic) had compared his voice to that of Pandit Kumar Gandharva and also written about his talents as a musician in ‘THE STATESMEN’.
Mahajanam as a teacher
He used to say: “Music should express the feelings; otherwise the soul of the music is lost.” He was a demanding teacher, untiring in ensuring that his disciples arrived at absolute accuracy in rendering the correct swaras and patient in honing their voices to the most musical pitches, even as he enunciated the sahitya with accuracy and clarity. He was not just a great teacher but also a very fine person. He was very simple, sincere and punctual. The class was supposed to be for an hour but went on for two hours. During the class, there would be only music and no other subject discussed. He encouraged them to be creative too. We would listen to recordings of various artistes singing a particular kriti or varnam. He would point out areas where it had more scope for rendering sangathies.
He was very patient and would never leave until the sangatis were sung in his version.
His whole life was dedicated only to music. He always said no disease would come near true sangeetam. He also said that he would sing until his last breath. And truly, when the students went to see him in the hospital, though he could not move, they saw his right fingers putting talam. He must have been singing inside. As a person he was soft and innocent. He was a good soul, so even though he did not have any family in Delhi, God was kind enough to send a relative from the South who happened to be here for some other purpose, and who performed the last rites. God was also kind in sending Mr Gopal Subramani [ Solicitor General of India ]who arranged for his stay in Sandya an old age home and looked after him.
The tribute to this wonderful Guru by his students was published on 6th of May in ‘THE HINDU. Shradanjali was held on 22nd May by his students by singing his favourite song and his own compositions at the residence of his disciple.