Prince Rama Varma, a member of the Royal Family of Travancore, is a direct descendant of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma and Raja Ravi Varma. Born on the 13th of August 1968, Prince Varma fell in love with music in general and with the music of M.D.Ramanathan (In the Carnatic style) and Kishore Kumar (In the universal style) in particular when he was still a toddler. He grew up listening to the music of the various great maestros who performed regularly at the Navarathri Mandapam in Thiruvavanthapuram and the constantly updated collection of LP records of Hindi Film Music from his father and sister.
He started formal lessons in music in 1982 from Prof. Vechoor Hariharasubramania Iyer, a senior disciple of Dr.Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, who continued to teach him until his demise in 1994. He also studied the Saraswathi Veena under Trivandrum R.Venkataraman for five years and later under Sangeetha Kalanidhi Prof K. S. Narayanaswamy. At present the Prince is undergoing training under Sangeethakalanidhi Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna and has gone on to become one of his foremost disciples. He has had the rare privilege of not only singing in unison with his legendary Guru but also of having Dr. Balamuralikrishna accompany him on the violin when he sang. In his rendering there is an irresistible combination of tenderness and melody. A post graduate in Commerce, Prince Varma started giving public concerts in 1990 mainly due to the encouragement and support he received from Prof.T.V.Gopalakrishnan who helped him to break free from the royal fetters and perform in public. He has a repertoire of Swathi compositions that is unmatched even by the great masters. From the rare Khamas Varna (Saa Vaama Rusha) to the popular Paahi Sreepathe (Hamsadhwani Keerthana), Varma adds a fresh touch of surprise and grandeur that has become his hallmark.
Among his own favourite Swathi compositions is Aaj Aaaye Shyaam Mohan, the hindustani bhajan popularised by the great Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna in a rare shade of Pahadi. P. Ravikumar, an authority in Carnatic music and the author of a book on the eminent musician M.D. Ramanathan says: "Unlike the present generation, Rama Varma follows a slow tempo in his music, which is devoid of gimmicks. His idol is Ramanathan and it is no wonder that he follows a path of shuddh sangeeth. Certainly Rama Varma is the most exciting prospect to emerge from Kerala in Carnatic music in this period. More significantly, his talent on the veena is exemplary, taking music lovers to a soothing realm."
"It is better to be ignorant than to be misinformed"
Prince Rama Varma
Prince Varma has given concerts all over India and in other countries like USA, UK, France, Germany, Kuwait, Dubai and The Netherlands, to mention a few. His first CD was released at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London and he has performed at some of the most prestigious venues in Europe.
Fluent in Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil and French, Varma is well read and has traveled widely and uses inputs from walks of life other than music too to enrich his art. His music is noted for its strict adherence to tradition coupled with his own charming brand of creativity. He specializes in taking classes and giving lecture demonstrations about various aspects of music to much appreciation and delight from his students and members of the public. He believes in making his lectures entertaining and his concerts informative.
During the past decade he has proved himself to be an organizer of merit by organizing a week long festival of South Indian and NorthIndian Classical Music which is open to the public, at the palace of his ancestor Maharaja Swathi Thirunal in Trivandrum from the 6th till the 12th of January every year. The festival continues to attract a large number of listeners from various parts of the world year after year. He had the privilege of honoring two living legends, Shri Manna Dey who turned 85 and Dr. Balamuralikrishna who turned 75 in 2005, with concerts by the legends themselves that was held in Trivandrum in November 2005.
He proved his dynamism as an organizer and visionary yet again recently by spearheading the move to allow women inside the Navarathri Mandapam, both as performers and aslisteners too, breaking more than three centuries of that tradition. He handpicked octogenarian veteran Parasala Ponnammal to be the first woman to enter the Navarathri Mandapam, thus coaxing her out of a mostly retired life and reintroducing her glorious artistry to the music loving public of Kerala. He was invited to perform at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan by His Excellency The President of India, Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam who calls himself Prince Varma's fan after listening to his CD, ‘Thaanam - The Pulse Of The Veena.’
His college address book describes him aptly as someone who "Entertains us with his classical music and less classical jokes." He is striving to be a worthy descendent of his illustrious predecessor Maharaja Swathi Thirunal who is described as the "Prince among musicians and a Musician among princes"