They say destiny has its own plans no matter what you do and in the case of flautist Dr Ramachandra Murthy, it can’t be truer. Had it not been for his fascination with the instrument, he would have become a doctor. As a merit student pursuing his MBBS, it took him one and a half year to complete his house surgeoncy owing to his lessons with the flute.
A doctor by education, and musician by passion, though he is named Ramachandra Murthy, he has the moniker of Sri Krishna. Among very few ace flautists in Hyderabad, Dr. Ramachandra Murthy holds a special place in the music industry.
“I started learning flute at the age of 13. It’s been 31 years since my association with the flute began,” says Dr. Ramachandra Murthy. His uncle Dattatreya was an artist for Doordarshan who encouraged him to take up the hobby by gifting him his first flute. “I learnt Hindustani on flute with my uncle and Carnatic from my mom. Most of the film music is based on hindustani and western styles,” adds Murthy.
In his day as a young protégé, the absence of tracks in recordings meant he often accompanied his uncle as a second flautist. “My family was scared that I may leave medicine without completing it. Till now, my mother is unhappy with my profession. They expected me in a white collar job,” says the disciple of Osho.
After much convincing, his parents agreed to let him play and eased up when he started to earn. “Very few people supported me when I took the decision to become a musician. In that way I am thankful to get an understanding partner. She was told that I was a doctor at the time of our wedding, but I told her that I would take up flute professionally. She agreed and has supported me till now.” Surprisingly, his in-laws and parents are still under the impression that he is experimenting with the flute and will return to medical practice one day.
Like any musician worth his salt, he prefers getting his instruments customised. “I buy flutes from Mumbai, Delhi and Sirsi district in Karnataka.” From time to time, we leave the flutes to season the wood to avoid spoilage. Akin to a wine that gets better with age, the music from a flute gets sweeter as time passes. Generally, flutes which are 3 to 4 years old are kept on the loft to be used later. While a good quality bamboo flute used by professionals can cost around Rs 10,000, a regular costs around Rs 2000. He advises basic learners to go with the base flute pitch. “I have 30 bamboo flutes which comprises a complete set, besides many other woodwinds. It’s a 30-year bond with them. Having spent some 500 hours with each flute, I can pick the required pitch easily. It takes three months for a learner get a constant sound. The pitch is made based on measurements. Depending on the diameter and the blowing hole, the pitch of the flute is decided. It’s much easier now since there is specific software for this,” adds Murthy.
When he is not busy playing, he also shares musical knowledge with students. “I have been teaching basics of vocal and flute for over fifteen years now. Students also learn advanced techniques of flute music and movie recordings under me,” shares Murthy.
But he does admit that musicians still suffer from a negative perception which tends to affect all spheres of their lives. “We don’t get bank loans,” he says, adding it’s difficult to survive just on music. “It is in fact necessary for us to have an alternative business for the families to survive. Now it has become imbalanced, musicians don’t garner any respect,” adds Murthy.
Owing to his medical degree, he gets the respect needed, but admits those fulltime musicians still struggle to be accepted.
“It’s a pitiful situation. Due to digitilisation, most of the songs where the sounds of manual instruments are all present in the keyboard. So the tabla, harmonium, guitar and other players lose their livelihood. If the singers don’t use karoek tracks, maybe that can help the instrument players,” opines Murthy.
Everything revolves around money these days. While a doctor can earn one lakh; a musician earns Rs 20,000 per day, if he is exceptionally talented. Music is for the soul, but to live one needs a livelihood. “People think musicians seen on TV are the only ones around. But there are many equally talented artistes who are overshadowed.”