Dr Jayaprada Ramamurthy, a classical flautist, is one of the few performing women musicians in the country. She says she was inspired by the persistent presence of music around her since childhood, the credit for which goes to her mother Prema Ramamurthy — one of the earliest disciples of Carnatic music legend, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna. Jayaprada speaking about the pros and cons of taking up music professionally as a woman, says, “It’s not easy for a woman to take up music as a profession. A lot of time and energy goes away in taking care of the family, the elders and home needs. Sometimes, I have faced peculiar situations wherein some organisers feel that a particular remuneration is good enough for a woman artiste. On the positive side, there are few occasions when people appreciate my effort. For me, it’s always a case of overnight stays during outstation concerts as I cannot travel in the night after completing the concert. A woman definitely needs some more support and facilities given the situation prevalent in our country.”
As far as the present situation of classical music is concerned, Jayaprada feels that more ‘mass-oriented’ programmes are being held by organisers, including government bodies. The main intention of these events is to attract huge crowds with big guests and performers, and a lot of resources are spent on such programmes, she feels.
“It is more important to identify the talent which is emerging among the younger generation and provide them the opportunity. There is lot of following for film and light music, so a constant effort to promote classical music would make it equally popular. An audience would never mind watching a good music or dance programme even for three hours at a stretch. Things are changing and I find the younger generation coming forward to pursue arts with more confidence and I look forward to opportunities to empower them in the field of classical music,” concludes Jayaprada.
Another remarkable woman musician, Dr Yerramilli Ramaprabha, has some interesting things to share. Yerramilli joined the Andhra Mahila Sabha (AMS) College of Fine Arts, 13 years ago as a lecturer of music and has now, owing to her passion for the field, become the principal of the department.
“At the age of five years, I used to reproduce the music I heard from my mother K.S.S. Lakshmi. My mother-in-law, Y. Sheshamani, who is a violinist, encouraged me and took me to wonderful teachers like Neti Srirama Sarma and many music festivals. It’s definitely not easy for a woman to be in the music profession during the early stages of life. A lot of time management — from making the required arrangements for children, home and family to planning everything — could help you spend some quality time with music.”
For Yerramilli, pursuing music is like a daily prayer. “One needs to be serious and work hard to imbibe and understand the values of music. As a woman it’s very difficult to speak to organisers for any opportunities for concerts and teaching. All this requires constant communication and follow up which is not easy,” she says. Interestingly, Yeramilli has initiated a unique programme Sangeetam for Sangahita, which aims at the upliftment of women in society. She also includes lectures in psychology and explains the meaning of many different compositions of great masters for students to understand their relevance in the modern society.