Interview with Prince Rama Varma                                                                                     

By Raymond Jenkins, Indraneel Dey and Amarnath Ghosh 

Team: Your music has major following of either gender, consisting of people from different age groups, professions, nationalities, regions etc.  In other words, your music has traveled across a range of barriers. As a musician, is this what you set out to achieve?   
 
Varma: Yes, partly. I have discovered from my own experiences that good music is universal. I ended up falling in love with the music of people like Kishore Kumar, K.L.Saigal, Mozart, Googoosh and Fairuz easily and naturally though they weren't singing Carnatic music.
 
Team: Most interviews/articles on you state that you commenced musical studies at the age of 13, by way of fulfillment of your great grandmother's desire - does that imply that as a child you had to perhaps overlook/ignore other interests or talents to pursue Music? Were there other interests as a child that could have possibly taken the place of Music as your career/profession? 
 
Varma: The rules at home were rather simple. "Study, Study and Study." Extra curricular activities were not encouraged, at least by my parents. My aunt inspired me to start reading a lot, because of which I started to write a bit too now and then. I used to win prizes at school in pencil sketch, versification, short story writing and so on. But sadly the only importance given at home was to academic proficiency. I was always fond of nature and animals, partly because of the wonderful books written by people like Gerald Durrell and James Herriott. Because of this I used to dream of being a naturalist or vet for many years. I gave up the dream once I discovered that one would have to dissect cockroaches in the lab when one took this as one's chosen subject in college. I always loved music very much but only as a passionate listener. Becoming a singer myself was never even a fantasy those days.
 
Team: You have been tutored by three teachers including Balamuralikrishna - Can you point out, briefly, the most poignant similarities and dissimilarities between them, as Gurus and in their approach towards teaching and in their styles of teaching?
 
Varma: Four actually. Vechoor Hariharasubramania Iyer Sir and Balamurali Sir for singing and Trivandrum R.Venkataraman Sir and K.S.Narayanaswamy Sir for veena. Speaking of the two vocal teachers....the two of them have very little in common except for the place they each have in my heart, in my mind, in my music and in my life. Part of the reason why I had such different experiences with them is obviously because of the fact that Vechoor Hariharasubramania Iyer Sir got me as a beginner. He had to do all the hard work…..to get my notes in place, my pitching in place, my rhythm in place and so on. He also had the painstaking job of firmly, gently, patiently and systematically introducing me to the world of improvisation.

Balamurali Sir got me more or less as a finished product and he has had a relatively easy time teaching me. Vechoor Sir never allowed me to record our lessons and I never wrote down even the lyrics of the songs he taught me. But he would take things so slowly and thoroughly that it was difficult to forget almost anything he taught. Even now, more than a decade after his demise, when I think of a song I learnt from him, I remember the entire lesson like a video recording. It is quite an amazing experience really and I owe most of my subsequent musical development to the rock hard foundation he gave me + the solid repertoire of great compositions by the great masters, not to mention the love, support, patience, blessings and kindness he showered upon me in his understated manner. On the one hand I miss him tremendously even now and on the other hand I feel his presence constantly with me and in me.


Balamurali Sir embodies joy and freedom. And he opened a new world for me in music in general and compositions in particular. In the art of composition not much had changed during the two centuries after Thyagaraja and his contemporaries till Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna came along. I am continually amazed by and obsessed with his compositions and am in the process of trying to learn every single one of them from him. He is one of the sweetest, most laid back and generous people I have ever met. And I couldn’t have asked for a better combination than these  two great souls as my Gurus in music….Each one being special in his own way.

As for my Veena Gurus.....K.S.Narayanaswamy Sir continued where Trivandrum R.Venkataraman Sir left off. There are very few other instruments as perfect as the veena, to learn about the subtle nuances of our music.....our gamakas. The Ga or Gandharam in Ragas like Thodi, Dhanyasi, Asaveri and Varali might sound similar to the untrained ear. But through my Veena gurus I started to explore, discover, savour and celebrate the distinct flavour of each raga, each phrase, each note, each nuance. I try to base my singing as much as possible, on Veena playing and vice versa.
 
Team: Did you face any challenges as a music student of famous musicians? If Yes, what were they? 
 
Varma: Among my four Gurus, only Balamurali Sir can be called a "Star" when it comes to celebrity value, though all four have been amazing when it came to musical merit. As with any celebrity, many people approach Balamurali Sir purely because he is rich and famous....and not because they have the slightest idea about his accomplishments or the uniqueness of his compositions. It  doesn't feel good to be classified as a celebrity groupie obviously, as some people have accused in the past. But time will tell how much of his music I have imbibed or not and I would rather let the music speak for itself.
 
Team: You are known to be Balamuralikrishna's favourite student - can you share some secrets behind the success of this relationship?
 
Varma: He and I share a blessed relationship for sure. But I don't know whether I could call myself his "Favourite Student" since he is a very kind and magnanimous person and is equally nice to everyone. There are so many reasons why he and I share a joyful relationship.


Firstly I feel it is because of the blessings of God as well as of my guru Vechoor Hariharasubramania Iyer Sir that we share this.


Both Balamurali Sir and I love laughing and we giggle together a lot, at the silliest of things. He exudes peace and is extremely laid back and soft spoken and I love that, just as I avoid tension generating or energy draining people.


Both he and I pay attention to the meaning of the lyrics as well as the clarity of diction.

We both like spontaneous music more than pre planned things.


I love to learn from him as much as he likes to teach me.....and vice versa.


We both enjoy good food and good conversation very much.


The list goes on and on really......
 
Team: How has your life changed before and after the advent of Balamuralikrishna in your life?  
 
Varma: Balamurali Sir embodies freedom....be it in music or in life itself. Interaction with him changed me a lot from being an intense and tense young man to being a laid back, easy going middle aged man who takes things more lightly than before.
 
Team: Your earliest concerts speak of some amount of restraint/inhibition - the journey from the inhibited, audience conscious, shy performer of yester years to the confident, uninhibited, spontaneous master musician that you have become today - what in your opinion has helped you to achieve this?
 
Varma: Most normal, sensitive people go through this transformation I suppose. Balamurali Sir's entrance into my life as well as acceptance of me as a student has helped a great deal. Since he wasn't close to my family and didn't wish to teach me initially, it gave me a huge amount of confidence when he changed his mind totally after he listened to me sing for two minutes. My travels to various places, the lectures I have given.....they all add to my being more relaxed....or at least in my masking my nervousness more successfully. 

Team: What have been the challenges you faced as a Musician hailing from a Princely family that has been one of the greatest promoters of arts in India
 
Varma: Many people used to write me off as a musician and some still do even now, without ever having heard me sing even once, purely because I happen to come from a royal family, believing that I get invited to sing only because of my royal background. I guess each of us have our own set of challenges to face. And this is mine....and I have learned to live with that.
 
Team: Do you feel that the element of curiosity has led many organizers to you during your initial days as a musician?
 
Varma: Yes.

Team: These days principles, ideals and music are often sold or compromised for fame, wealth and position.  However, as a musician, you have been rather very generous to permit broadcasting/sharing of your musical videos on youtube.  Furthermore, you are the organizer of a world class music festival called Kuthiramalika festival which is being offered to the music loving public at no cost at all, at which, you are one of the singers as well.  No other carnatic musician's music is as widely and freely offered to the public as yours.  At the same time, you do not appear to have compromised on your values at all.  How do you manage to propagate such untainted music without devaluing your principles or yourself?  What is your inspiration to do that which others, shy away from doing, are afraid to do or are not inspired to do?  
 
Varma: I believe that something like music, which brings so much joy, should be shared and enjoyed rather than hoarded privately or destroyed. I myself crave to listen to more and more hours of music of people I love, like M.D.Ramanathan or Kishore Kumar. And I feel extremely grateful for the few recordings that I get to listen to. I am no saint and love money just like most normal people. But I am fortunate that there are many things I love a lot more than I love money. And I try to strike a balance between financial wellbeing and untainted ideals.....with   varying levels of success.
 
Team: As a Prince of one of the oldest Royalties of India, you have broken tradition by performing "in" "public", "for" the "public".  In your concerts, you often break accepted/known norms by way of lyric explanation/interaction with your audience during concerts, sharing humorous anecdotes or jokes.  Two years ago, you threw open the Navarathri Mandapam at Trivandrum to womenfolk. All instances point towards what could be perceived as a Modernist approach towards many aspects of not just Music, but life in general.  However, your music is steeped in tradition most of     all.  You come across to the lay man as an interesting amalgam of traditionalism and modernism.  But, do you see yourself as more of a traditionalist or a modernist or are you merely experimenting with different choices? Is there truly a rebel within you that likes to break traditions?
 
Varma: I have never seen myself as a rebel, to be honest. And I have never broken rules or changed traditions purely for the sake of doing so. I have only followed my heart, which I still do, be it in  music or in life....and have done things purely because I have believed that they were Right.
 
Team: Can you tell us about the Kuthiramalika and the Navaratri festivals, please?
 
Varma: The Kuthiramalika festival was a wonderful thing started by the Public Relations Department of the Government of Kerala around two decades ago.....a series of concerts at the palace where Maharaja Swathi Thirunal himself lived. When they suddenly discontinued the festival in 1999, I impulsively decided to plunge in and conduct the festival myself, without thinking of the physical, emotional and financial strain I would be subjecting myself to. But the rewards have been truly heart warming since the size of the audience keeps increasing year after year, as do the number of concerts that really take off brilliantly. The Navarathri concerts on the other hand, have been happening for centuries and I am just a tiny link in the long chain of people who have been conducting this festival. While all are welcome for the Kuthiramalika concerts, only Hindus are allowed inside the Navarathri Mandapam. There is no time limit at Kuthiramalika while the time limit is strictly followed at the Navarathri Mandapam. The concerts at Kuthiramalika are performances while those at the Mandapam are devotional offerings, because of which there is no applause. I fixed the dates of the Swathi Sangeethotsavam at Kuthiramalika from January 6 to 12 every year while the dates of the Navarathri festival keep changing with the Hindu calendar. There are quite a few differences as you can see.
 
Team: Can you share your experiences as an organizer of the unique Kuthiramalika festival, please?
 
Varma: Well.....the first festival was put together literally within a matter of hours and I paid for the entire thing myself. And my hair developed a grey patch within a week. These days a trust called H.H.Sir Rama Varma, Maharaja of Travancore Trust officially conducts the festival. This trust has an income tax exemption under Section 80 G and is free to receive donations. I still have a major hand in the selection of artists and try my best as an organizer, to honour artists of merit, irrespective of their age, gender, religion, caste or mother tongue. There are sponsors who offer huge sums of money on condition that I invite a certain artist or the other whom I would never invite because of purely artistic reasons. I patiently await the day when a rich and generous person who has total faith in my abilities and integrity as an organizer would come along. As an artist and organizer myself, I believe that it is the duty of the organizers to seek out good artists and honour them and not vice versa. Sadly the present trend is for most artists to suck up to organizers and solicit concerts. I find this trend lamentable and have made a lot of enemies by refraining from sucking up to certain powerful people on the one hand and giving the cold shoulder to certain pathetic fellows in the music field......more music brokers than artists really....who have tried to get concerts by sucking up to Me. But when one concert really takes off well, all these major and minor irritants seem negligible and irrelevant.
 
Team: Can you share your experience as the organizer of the strictly traditional, ritual based, Navaratri festival, please?
 
Varma: Navarathri is a different thing altogether. I feel so utterly blessed and privileged to be able to do my bit to continue such a sacred and wonderful festival as the Navarathri festival. I have a treasure-trove of the most amazing memories and images of Navarathri concerts I have witnessed there in the past.....M.D.Ramanathan's amazing voice booming like thunder, Palghat Mani Iyer's awe inspiring presence, T.N.Krishnan's honey like renditions of Ragas, Semmangudi's Pankaja Lochana, the way people like V.V.Subramaniam and Palghat Raghu accompanied artists like D.K.Jayaraman, the way TVG Sir made his mridangam sing, the way the entire gathering stood up silently and deferentially when Balamurali Sir walked into the Mandapam, K.S.Narayanaswamy Sir's chaste Thaanams, Kalyanakrishna Bhagavathar enjoying melodies both heard as well as unheard, rapturously.......the list goes on and on.....and above all the Shakthi exuded by the Devi Herself.  One really has to Be there and experience it to understand what I am talking about.
 
Right from the time of Travancore Radio during the 1930s, the Navarathri Mandapam concerts had been broadcast Live, from 6:00 pm sharp till 8:30 pm. Because of this, the timings were followed Extremely strictly so that a complete concert gets relayed on the radio. The day the live broadcasts stopped, the Extreme strictness in the timings became irrelevant. But people have forgotten the reason for the time keeping and still try to wind up their concerts at 8:30 pm sharp.
 
Team: How does it feel being the organizer and a performer, at the same time, at these two festivals?
 
Varma: I have often felt really awkward putting my name in both these festivals year after year since I organize both. But the others who help me organize these festivals insist that I do a good job and I myself am aware of just how passionately committed I am to both these festivals and more importantly, to music itself. So I've learnt to live with this slightly embarrassing situation over the years. I try and make things more interesting by singing a few times and then coming up with a Veena concert, singing different compositions each time and so on.
 
Team: The Kuthiramalika Music festival is rather flamboyant in many ways, while the Navaratri Mandapam festival finds its roots in a religious celebration, i.e. the Navaratri Festival.  As an organizer of the two festivals, what changes do you try to bring about within yourself in preparation for the two festivals.  As a performer at both, how different and similar are the emotions that are generated within you?
 
Varma: The Kuthiramalika festival has an international audience and no time limit.  So one has much greater freedom artistically as well as otherwise. During the Navarathri concerts one is shirtless, which itself inhibits many people hugely. I normally revel in explaining the meaning of the songs, sharing insights, recounting anecdotes and so on during most concerts. But at the Navarathri Mandapam, I refrain from all this and sing totally for the Goddess.
  
Team: In 2006, women performed for the first time at the Navaratri Mandapam during the Navaratri festival.  The person behind it is you.  What or who was/is your inspiration? Was this achieved simply over the table during one committee meeting, or was it the result of a change inducing process set into motion years ago?  In other words, was the change an easily accomplished one in terms of the acceptance of concept?

Varma: I could never understand why women were not allowed to perform at this festival, where the concerts were held essentially in honour of Devi who was a woman. I started to make efforts to change this from the time I was 16 years......and succeeded 22 years later. Actually this was just the final step in a process I initiated 22 years ago. Earlier there were just vocal concerts by men and Veena concerts by men. I started off by inviting male artists who were not invited to the Mandapam earlier and went on to organize concerts of Gottuvadyam, Violin and Flute by various great artists over the years. Inviting women involved allowing women inside the Mandapam both as performers as well as listeners!

Team: This change was welcomed within Musical circles, with warmth, for obvious reasons, but this change is also seen in social circles as a milestone in the social empowerment of women. Do you agree?

Varma: Welcomed yes....and criticized too. And yes. I do agree.

Team: What in your opinion is true womanhood? Who do you think is an empowered woman?

Varma: Since my mission of finding and knowing Myself itself is in "Work in progress" stage, I am hardly in a position to make general statements about one gender or the other. I have been generally attracted more to women...rather to People....who exude strength than the opposite. I find women like Martina Navratilova, Eartha Kitt, K.B.Sundarambal, Marie Curie and Ellen Degeneres amazing for example.

Team: Apart from being a musician and a student, you are a music teacher yourself. You have taught within India and outside India. What are the essential differences and similarities between the students in India and the students abroad? In your opinion, are talent, commitment and opportunity equally distributed?

Varma: I am infinitely more of a student than a teacher myself. And the older I grow, the more I realize that many of my so called "Teaching" sessions have been learning experiences too. As for the kind of students I have had thus far, many of them were actually teachers in disguise, who taught me some hard and valuable lessons in life. As for students in India and abroad, there is good and bad everywhere, which is to be expected. I find it very very very Very rare when a talented student who has the passion, the commitment, the focus and the means to take music up as a profession comes together with a teacher who has the knowledge, the patience, the kindness, the generosity and the ability to teach, inspire, motivate, instill the right values and give the right direction come together.

Team: Do you believe that fine arts such as Music and dance are best taught Gurukulam style? And  why? (either case) Are there such institutions that impart music education Gurukulam style?

Varma: Yes I do. Because with things like music, dance, yoga, martial arts and so on, it isn't just the art that is transmitted from Guru to Shishya but the love, the blessings and the spirit itself and the legacy of the Guru, who in turn received all these from His guru and so on....that is transmitted to the Shishya. I have heard of institutions that claim to follow the gurukulam tradition of teaching. But I guess you would have to check them out for yourself to find out how ideal or exploitative these places are.

Team: What is your style of teaching?

Varma: Vechoor Hariharasubramania Iyer Sir would repeat a phrase again and again.....even a hundred times if necessary......till the student got it right. He would move on to the next phrase only after the student perfected the phrase in question. He saw to it that the student memorized every single song completely. I follow him in these aspects. But he never allowed students to record anything while I encourage them to do so. Balamurali sir allows everyone to record his lessons but doesn't bother to correct the mistakes much. He obliges my demands by giving me the word by word meanings of the compositions that he teaches me.  I do the same with the people I teach.  My Veena gurus were extremely meticulous and clear about each inflection, ornamentation and gamakam they used and I have taken this analytical approach from them. My style of teaching is a combination of all this + a few bad jokes of my own from time to time.

Team: You are a remarkable instrumentalist who has displayed prowess on the Veena - what do you find more stimulating? Vocal Concerts or Veena Concerts?

Varma: I love both equally though I sing more since I don't get to practice the veena when I travel.
Team: Is it important for every aspiring musician to master some instrument or the other to improve his vocal abilities?

Varma: Three answers to this one : Yes, YES and YESSSSSS ! ! !

Team: Talking about Hindustani Music and Carnatic Music, the two streams of Indian Music - as an expert, do you think there are more differences between the two or more similarities?

Varma: I am a student cum lover of Carnatic music, a lover of Hindusthani music and an expert in neither. The fact that there might be many out there who may be even More ignorant than I am Still wouldn't make me an expert. There are similarities as well as differences between the two, obviously. It is upto each of us to concentrate more on the one or the other. In my CD, "Thaanam. The Pulse Of The Veena" for example, I have concentrated more on the similarities than the differences.

Team: You are also a writer and in articles too, one finds the unmistakable element of spontaneity and freshness that one is treated to in your music - would you say that it is more and more music   that has made you a spontaneous/creative writer or is it a spontaneous and creative mind that has contributed towards your interestingly different musicality?

Varma: I am glad you think so. I guess the ratio would be 50/50.

Team: Does having talented and prodigious ancestors mean that your audience can sometimes be judgmental towards you?

Varma: Yes.

Team: What do you think is the greatest tragedy of the Musician Maharajah Swathi Thirunal? Is it his lack of disciples?

Varma: Yes again.

Team: Talking about film music, you are known to be a lover of truly old, vintage film music. What are    the elements in them that made them such remarkable/exquisite pieces?
 
Varma: I love original instruments and am allergic to electronic sounds. It is like comparing freshly squeezed orange juice with an orange flavoured aerated drink. And much of the Hindi Film music I listen to use mostly original instruments. The voices had individuality too...Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, Kishore, Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Talat Mehmood, Manna Dey, Khurshid, Devika Rani, Rajkumari, Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum.....you name it. And the melodies were and are amazing and obviously made to last. When I listen to songs from say, the 40s, they give the impression of a much more innocent and beautiful time though in reality, dreadful things like the second world war was going on. I love any music that moves me and I find that the older songs move me much more profoundly than the later ones.

Team: Likewise, you are known to be a Connoisseur of Western Music. What is your earliest introduction to Western Music?
 
Varma: Again I am no connoisseur but just a lover of Western Classical music. I was introduced to it   when I was almost 20 years old I think. Since it is such an important part of my life now, I find it difficult to remember a time when the music of people like Mozart and Beethoven hadn't yet started to enrich my life. Apart from the pleasure, the joy and the nourishment that the works of the great masters obviously bring me, I have also benefited infinitely from the recordings of people like Serigiu Celibidache for example who has a Guru like presence in my heart, mind, life and music.

Team: You are also a lover of Arabic Music. How has your openness to practically every available form of good music shaped your own music?
 
Varma: It makes me learn day by day that not even a hundred lifetimes would be enough to have even a superficial knowledge of all the forms of Good music that exist in the world. And I count my blessings each time I hear something good. The other forms of music provide a wonderful canvas to define my own music......Indian classical music that is.....in even sharper relief.

Team: You have an amazing sense of humor and like Music; humor sense never seems to leave your side even during your concerts. How does it help to have a great sense of humor?
 
Varma: Given a choice between giving up music or laughter, heartbreaking though such a choice would be, I think I would give up music and not laughter. I need laughter like I need oxygen, and get my "Fix" of comedy from books, funny people, DVDs and videos from sites like youtube.com.

Team: What is your philosophy of life?

Varma: I was never very good at expressing great thoughts in a few words. I guess "Whatever we do, finally we die anyway" would answer your question partly.

Team: You are a widely traveled person - how has this influenced your musicality. Any unforgettable experience during you travels?
 
Varma: Yes......I have been hugely enriched by my travels.....physically too, as one can see from my potbelly. I would have to write something like an autobiography if I were to start recounting the unforgettable experiences I have had during my travels. And right now my fingers are ready to drop off, after having answered all these questions. So let us save that for some other time.

Team: You are a firm advocate of the importance of lyrics mastering, WHY? You are multi-lingual yourself - do you encourage your students to master other languages for the purpose of improving their music? Do you think it would be a good idea for our Music Degree studies to compulsorily include language classes?
 
Varma: Lyrics are as much part of a song as the music. And it is a crime to mangle them and to remain insensitive to them. If one is interested only in music, I think one should sing just Ragam, Thanam and Swarams and leave compositions unmolested. And yes. Including language classes......or for that matter, Music classes by teachers who know their subject...would improve things tremendously as far as many institutions that offer degrees in Indian Classical music go.

Team: A lot of times one hears of musicians making statements about what they have contributed towards Music. What do you think would be your contribution to the world of music?
 
Varma: Only time will tell whether I have contributed something to music or not. As of now, I am happy that I was able to make a few genuinely talented musicians perform for my festivals; musicians who may perhaps not have been heard much otherwise only because they chose to live with dignity and refuse to play low level politics the way so many others do. I am happy to have given insights at least to a few people, about Balamurali Sir's compositional abilities. And finally I am happy to have introduced a few lesser heard compositions by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, M.D.Ramanathan and others to the music loving public.

Team: Have you identified your musical successors?
 
Varma: No I haven't.

Team: Do you see yourself establishing a music school on the lines of your principles?
 
Varma: No I don't. I have seen more often than not, that these principles die with the person who founded the institution in the first place.

Team: What do you think is the future of Carnatic Music in India and the world?
 
Varma: Don't I wish I knew!

Team: Would you welcome the idea of a book on you?
 
Varma: A no holds barred autobiography published posthumously sounds rather tempting.

Team: You are well read - who are your favorite writers?
 
Varma: There are many many Many.....Roald Dahl is my top favourite. Others include Maupassant,
Milan Kundera, Collette, Saki, Gerald Durrell, James Herriott, Dr.Seuss, Hong Ying, Zeruyah Shalev, Swami Vivekananda, Osho, Ben Elton, Premchand, O.Henry, William Sutcliffe..... the list goes on and on and on really.

Team: Do you believe in rebirth? If so, have you ever felt that you could be the rebirth of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal?
 
Varma: I have mixed feelings on rebirth. At times I feel there Is something to it and at other times I feel that once we are gone, we are gone. If I am the rebirth of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, all I can say is that as his descendant, I have descended greatly.

Team: The different periodic seasons, the rain, the wind, the lashing of the waves etc. all have a certain rhythm, a certain Musicality about them. In other words, Music and Nature are inseparable.  Like Music, Man is also an element of nature. Unfortunately Man, with his devious mind and limitless ambitions has not only wandered away from Nature but is also causing untold   destruction to Nature resulting in a disturbance to the rhythm of this Universe. As a remedy to many of the problems that man is faced with today, would you recommend Greater Musicality?
 
Varma: Hmm.....Never thought of it from this angle. I do wish there would be a lot more of Nature in our music as well as in our lives for sure.

Team: You prefer to be addressed merely Rama Varma, without the salutations due to you by virtue of your place in society as a member of the Royal family of Travancore. How does your family respond to your desire to be a common man? Have they come to terms with the Performing Prince in their midst?
 
Varma: I honestly believe that each of us is a common person. Some people may be blessed with uncommon abilities perhaps. But essentially nobody is indispensable. As for family, there are all kinds of relatives, just like in most normal families. And consequently, there are all kinds of reactions too, to my having become a musician.

Team: What is your advise to music students/aspirants?
 
Varma: Be sincere. Listen to a Lot of good music. Learn the word by word meanings of the lyrics of the songs you sing. Learn an instrument for sure.

 "I'd much rather have someone hear me and exclaim "Hey! He sings so well! How come I've never heard of him before?" than have people go "God! He is so bad! How come he is so popular?"

Prince Rama Varma 

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