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"The TONE OF MSV's BONGO"
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Ram N Ramakrishnan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 1:57 pm    Post subject: "The TONE OF MSV's BONGO" Reply with quote

A very Happy New Year to all of you! If Africa and South America contributed to Tamil film music it came out in a simple piece of instrument as “the Bongo”. The two drums of the Bongo typically made of wood, has the head made of animal skin and despite its small size, produces high pitched sounds tapping the artistic use of the palm and fingers. The variations of the bongo beats include using sticks or brushes or bringing “mute” sounds by placing part of the hand on the top of the head as the strike happens.

If the Bongo carved its own niche in the realms of Tamil film music, the entire credit goes to MSV (both with TKR and alone), for it is indeed a revelation that he deployed the bongo for a variety of use: be it to emote the psyche of the human mind, a grand opening, providing pace, getting the right sobriety, to put you to sleep, and finally casting a permanent place in your heart for a lifetime! In this exploration of the Bongo in MSV’s repertoire, the focus is mostly on the songs which had the Bongo as the “exclusive rhythm accompaniment in the song, end-to-end”, excluding the masterpieces he created on the Bongo in conjunction with the tabla, dholak or the drums. This is definitely not an exhaustive list as the treasure I am in is too large, but I have done my best to hear, nourish and present a collection for everyone to recollect, admire and cherish- the rhythm of the MSV’s bongo!.

THE GRAND OPENING: Let’s begin with an exception to the basic criteria I set, simply because the Bongo as an instrument can get no better introduction as in a song opening. In what I call a battle between the bongo and the drums in a grand prelude of the song “Oru pennai parthu nilavai parthu (Deivathai) ”, MSV tells us that he holds the Bongo close to his heart, that it could always match or even replace the omnipresent drums of his orchestra! Similar is his own screen appearance in “Avalukenna, Azhagiya mugam (Server Sundaram)" opening. However little did he realize that he beat these openings, with grandeur in a subsequent piece! Recall that the crux of the tale in Sivaji’s maiden venture “Pudiya Paravai” revolved around the song “Paartha Gnabagam Illayio ” rendered stylishly on-screen by the club-singer Sowcar equalled by a fascinating response and admiration by the cigarillo smoking Sivaji. But what gave the start for that attention-grabbing number is the demo of the bongo – MSV tells us through that piece– this is what my little wonder is capable of – while Dada Mirasi the film’s director aptly used an African on-screen, to demo its prowess or indeed tell us its historical origin!. MSV polished the entire song with the bongo which reflects his choice for the rhythm, everytime there was a tune requiring a soulful rendition with a dose of pathos attached to it!

PATHOS: There is many a tear in the heart which never reaches the eye, the heart beats louder and the soul hears quicker in silence and solitude. It is beyond belief that MSV had the bongo as an integral part of his play to express silence, sorrow or solitude. The grief-stricken echo of MSV himself in “Ponaal Pogattum Poda”, the intensity of the situation, lyrics and atmosphere get immense support by the tap of the bongo through the song’s entire journey revolving around eternal silence! In fact the title song “Paalum Pazhamum” demonstrated how the simplest beat of the bongo can be most effective. Who can forget the opening whistle of “Vantha Naal Muthal” in Paava Mannippu, as the simpleton Sivaji pedalled on a bicycle with a baby in the front-bag – the bongo provided the song’s balance – bear in mind that the continuous beat in the song had just one variation! Did pathos and bongo go hand-in-glove is the proverbial question, but MSV exclusively chose the bongo for “Aval Paranthu Ponale (Paar Magale Paar) ”, “Padaithane Padaithane (Nichiyathaamboolam)”, “Ullam Enbathu Aamai (Paarthal Pasi Theerum)”, “Avanukenna Thoongivittaan (Periya Idathu Penn)”, “Engirunthaalum Vazhga (Nenjil Or Aalayam)”, “Annan Kaatiya Vazhiyamma (Padithaal Mattum Poduma)” and the song which describes the philosophy of life - “Mayakkama Kalakkama (Sumaithangi)” which probably had the tabla sound like a bongo in the stanzas!. When the three musketeers of tamil film music - Viswanathan - Kannadasan and Sounderrajan brought out a Cliff-Richard like number, with continuous strumming of the bass, rhythm and jazz guitars in “Yaar antha Nilavu (Shanthi)” - matched one-to-one with Sivaji’s screen mimic of the song with a cigarette stub - what comes triumphant is that fantastic modulated rhythm of the bongo which rendered great fillip to this monumental number! If MSV used the bongo for a grand opening, so did he for what can be the Grand Finale to true light music – “Enge Nimmathi (Pudiya Paravai)” – etched in memory for its high-scale musical interpretation, the 100+ piece orchestra, the never-before and never-again strings arrangements but we need to add for sure, that all the artists and instruments used in the song were kept in sync by the rhythmic-run of the bongo!. That MSV choose the Bongo for this massive orchestration not just speaks of his confidence and love for the instrument but it also demonstrates his effort to bring its deserving credibility!

RHAPSODY: If pathos came with bongo, so did the song genre of joy-de-vivre, colour, spontaneous inspiration, happiness or victory ! I recall as a kid the poster of MGR standing tall with a whip in his hand for Enge Veetu Pillai – the signature tune – “Naan Anayittal” announced the arrival of the real-hero in the film, the “thak -thak -thak –de- dhum -dhum” beat of the bongo with sound of the whiplash indicated that the hero will march to his conquest from thereon. Flashback to Annai Illam to depict a happy-go-lucky Sivaji and his pals singing “Aandavan Padaichan” to the punch of the bongo! Do you require to be self-motivated? – plug into “Ennathaan Nadakkum Nadakkattume, (En Kadamai). Give me a better choice to express the feel of clean air, blue sky, white mountains, all packaged into one as in “Pudiya Vaanam, Pudiya Bhoomi (Anbe Vaa) set to the variations of the little bongo! A teaser of a number as “Jhavre Jhaao (Kumari Penn) had the exclusive bongo which I chose instead of the bigger hit ‘Undan ponnana kaigal’ which had the tabla attached! Get into romantic teasing with “Aaha Mella nada (Pudiya paravai) with the soft touch of the bongo! Not to be too male-chauvinistic here are “Love Birds (Anbe Vaa)” and “Aval Mella Sirithal (Pachai Vilakku)” - modish Suseela’s renditions with the Bongo, where we hear the girl next door! And the magnum opus of LREaswari – innovated with a haunting pant – “Pattathu Rani (Sivantha Mann)” was done to the bongo’s taal! And finally, an entire movie based on combination of pathos+rhapsody had lingering bongo beats – Sridhar’s Vennir Aadai had “Enna Enna Vaarthaigalo”, “Chithirame”, “Nee Enbathenna”, “Ammamma”, “Kannan ennum mannan”, “Neeradum Kangal Inge”. They say perfection is finally attained when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to discard. How true of MSV’s bongo!

ON LOVE AND LOVERS: If the language of love is spoken with a look, a touch, a sign, sometimes a word, it needs to be sung to MSV’s duets on the bongo! MSV’s anguish to better his own tune is told in his Legends album but “Odivathu Pol Idai Irukkum (Idayathil Nee) and “Malayum Iruvum (Paasam)” are tasteful duets set to a racy bongo. A very peculiar, out-of-norm, humming bringing the best of P B Srinivas in “Mullil Roja, Kallurum Roja (Kalaikovil)” while K J Yesudas getting his first break in “Enna Paarvai (Kaathalikka Neramillai)” and Jayalilatha’s maiden film duet “Naanamo, Innum Naanamo (Aayirthil Oruvan) are some lustrous tributes to MSV’s bongo. I would definitely add another soul-searching duet from Kalaikovil – “Naan Unnai Serntha Selvam” despite having both the bongo and the tabla tapping in sync. If someone still thinks to teach himself the bongo here are the beats of - “Poga Poga theriyum (Server Sundaram) or “Kanni Venduma (Pachai vilakku) or the simple “Kumari Pennin Ullathile (Enga Veetu Pillai). Friends, the duets and songs with the bongo+drums+table combo require a separate research by itself…..and that’s for another day.

THE SWING OF JAZZ: The moderator of MSVtimes.com had described so beautifully on “Varavendum orupozhuthu” as the truest jazz rendition in tamil films but further interpretations of MSV’s jazz came with the bongo beats in “Addada Enna Azhagu (Nee), “Kankalukenna Kavalillayo (Nil Kavani Kathali). The exploitation of the piano, voice-echos, bongos to the swings of jazz revealed MSV’s appetite, instinct, passion and curiosity.

THE LULLABY: If rest is a fine medicine, sleep the ultimate way, here is a good prescription – catch a good night sleep with “Thookam Un Kangalai Thazhuvattume (Aalayamani)” and if you need a prelude - here is “Aaha ithu nalliravu (Kuzhanthayum Deivamum), for I know every time I play them, I fall into bliss. That a bongo which often gets associated with cacaphony helps you to get to sleep, is the wonder in MSV’s magic!

THE DECLINE: I wouldn’t know the exact reason but I probably think that with keeping of the times, the emergence of electronic and digital sounds, the original bongo’s use got depleted in the early 80s, through the 80s and in the 90s. Today it is a tragedy that I hear it only occasionally, ironic to see people performing on stage use two sticks on an electronic drum pad to imitate the tone of the bongo. The attempts of drummers on stage, to stand-in and play the bongo to its merit, has to-date been also futile.

In my collection of popular light music across India and based on my listening of numerous music directors across languages, it is my feeling that MSV takes sole-ownership to give credence and respectability to a simple instrument. Quality in music is not by accident, it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives, the cumulative experience of many masters of craftsmanship, it also marks the maker for his quest for an “ideal”. Search and look around for an alternative, or try it if you will, there will be no more hearing that will ever replace “THE TONE OF MSV’s BONGO!”

MSV’s Music is the gift for all………..it asks nothing in return……except that we simply listen. Happy listening in 2008 and for the years to come
……….Ram N Ramakrishnan
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vaidymsv
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 2:42 pm    Post subject: SIMPLY ASTOUNDING!!! Reply with quote

Dear Ramakrishnan,

I feel terribly bad when I post the following reply to your fantastic analysis on the wide ranging usage of Bongo by Our Legend. Please bear with me for this shortest reply!!!

SIMPLY ASTONISHING!!! (MSV OF COURSE AND YOUR ANALYSIS)

CHEERS
MSV IS MUSIC
VAIDY

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madhuraman
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:53 pm    Post subject: Songs Composed by MSV-TKR-Bongo Reply with quote

Dear Mr.Ramakrishnan,
Your write-up on the use of the small bongo to a big effect in TFM by MSV is both fabulous and articulate, besides being exhaustive and illustrative all in one stroke. Your homework on the theme is meticulous and wholesome. We are exceptionally fortunate to have such writers of the calibre of yours. Undoubtedly the quality of writing and of writers are both promising and soothing.
MAY I JUST DRAW YOUR KIND ATTENTION TO YOUR REFERENCE TO Pava Mannippu SIVAJI GANESAN WITH THE EPITHET "SIMPLETON". With a style of delivery fluent and powerful. I presume you tried saying something there. In its present form that particular locus does not 'reach' the intended target. May be you can clarify it better for us to grasp your suggestion.
Congrats for your comprehensive treatment of the theme.
Warm regards Prof.K.Raman Navi Mumbai.
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Ram N Ramakrishnan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 5:29 pm    Post subject: Thank you Sir..... Reply with quote

Sir, when I used the word "simpleton" on the role of Sivaji in Paava Mannipu the stress was more on the simplicity than the lack of intelligence or common sense for which the word carries its true meaning. I must say, Sivaji did that classic movie underplaying his signature acting overtones to stress the innocence of the character so much that he came close to a simpleton. The difficulty he faces in the story is woven around the extreme innocence of his character. My true intent was to demonstrate the use of a simple beat by MSV to portray that innocence. In any case I must have used "innocent" rather than "simpleton" to convey my true intent. Thanks for pointing out the error.

Truly
Ram
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Venugopalan Soundararajan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 6:32 pm    Post subject: A Wonderful Analysis. Reply with quote

Dear Mr Ramakrishnan,

Hats off to you for a simply wonderful analysis of the "Bongos" usage of the Legend.

But you have missed out one most important number, probably one of the fastest paced numbers, where the Master has used "Bongos" in an amazing manner. The song is "[b]Paavai, Paavaithan, Aasai, Aasaithan, Paarthu Pesinaal Yega Bogamthan, Naney Vandhal Vaasam Illayo.....[/b]", from "[b]Enga Maama[/b]". When this song used to be sung on MSV's stage programmes, the "Bongos" piece played by Mr Gopalakrishnan used to get a big ovation from the audience.

Another fast paced number where the Bongos has been splendidly used by our Master was "[b]Aandavan Padachaan, Engitta Koduthan, Anubavi Raajannu Anuppivachan[/b]", from "[b]Nichaya Thamboolam[/b]".

I think in the 60s there were hardly few numbers where the Legend had not used the "Bongos". But you have highlighted the best. Once again, a big pat on your back for the excellent write-up.

Wishing each and every one in MSV Club a very [b]Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year 2008[/b] and happy listening to the Legend's most memorable and unforgettable numbers.

Regards,

Venu Soundar
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madhuraman
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 6:45 am    Post subject: Songs Composed by MSV-TKR-Bongo Reply with quote

Dear Mr.Ramakrishnan,
I never mistook your intention anywhere in that fabulous compilation. My lone inconvenience was, a person of this calibre can not afford to place any ambiguity for interpretation.Reading your posting I was absolutely sure of your command in that domain of apt expressions, hence I felt the need to heal the spot even if it had came by sheer slip. The point is why inadequacy should be ascribed to an excellent writer when the entire piece is a gem by every reckoning.
Warm regards Prof.K.Raman Navi Mumbai.
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Venkat
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Mr.Ramakrishnan,

That was a really amazing analysis on the usage of BONGO by our legend.
I was speechless for sometime after reading your analysis...
Your analysis is as great as our legend's bongos...

I would like to quote one more beautiful bongo number from the movie Ninaithale Inikum (All songs in this movie are different in its own way).
Kaathirundehn kaathirundhen kaadal manam nogum varai...
BONGOS and GUITAR together rules...
There are no words to praise the usage of these two instruments in this song...

Another luvly melody:
Ilamai Koluvirukum... PBS from Hello Mr.Jamindar.
Aaha enna arputhamana BONGOS.
The same song by PS will be with a different BGM. Thats our MSV.

Some more amazing numbers...
Kaatru vaanga ponen... Kalangarai Vilakkam
One day one way... honeymoon... Nee
Mouname paarvayaal... Kodi Malar
Malaruku thendral pagayanal... Enga Veetu Pillai
Thoodu sella oru thoni... Pachai Vilakku

Ippadi sollikonde pogalam...

Wow... how many different rhythms our emperor has given us with this instrument.

MSV the greatest...

Happy new year to you all...
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Mahesh
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Ram
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Ram.Ramakrishnan,

Outstanding survey of BONGO usage by the Legend, MSV... The presentation - which includes subject classification, absolute justification - is something marvellous!

And your definition for quality:

"Quality in music is not by accident, it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution".

I think this definition aptly applies to your writing too... Great write-up sir!

Hats-off !!!!!
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tvvraghavan
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 10:27 am    Post subject: UNGALAI VAAZTHA VAYADHILLAI !!! Reply with quote

DEAR RAM N RAMKI !!!
WHAT WOULD I SAY....UNGALAI VAAZHTHA VAYADHILLAI....VANANGUGINDREN !!! I JUST BOW WITH UTMOST RESPECT IN FRONT OF YOU FOR THIS EXCELLENT WRITE-UP

KINDLY COME OUT WITH MANY MORE SUCH WRITINGS !!!

MSV RULES !!!
VENKAT
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irenehastings
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Ram N.Ramakrishnan,

Amazing..... Amazing....

Wow.. what a wonderful analysis about usage of Bangos by our MSV sir.

Fantastic, Wonderful, Excellent... are ordinary words for your analysis. How keenly you have observed each and every song of our MSV sir. You have started your analysis with the History of Bangos, eloborated widely and inserted suitable songs to add more strength.

We are eagerly waiting for more and more of such amazing posts from you sir.

Hats off.
irene...
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:36 pm    Post subject: Re: A Wonderful Analysis. Reply with quote

Venugopalan Soundararajan wrote:
Dear Mr Ramakrishnan,

But you have missed out one most important number, probably one of the fastest paced numbers, where the Master has used "Bongos" in an amazing manner. The song is "Paavai, Paavaithan, Aasai, Aasaithan, Paarthu Pesinaal Yega Bogamthan, Naney Vandhal Vaasam Illayo.....", from "Enga Maama".

Another fast paced number where the Bongos has been splendidly used by our Master was "Aandavan Padachaan, Engitta Koduthan, Anubavi Raajannu Anuppivachan", from "Nichaya Thamboolam".


Venu sir,

There are plenty of songs by MSV sir for the usage of Bangos. But Mr. Ram N.Ramakrishnan has covered some of them to give as examples for each category. He never told that he fully covered all 'Bangos specials'.

So, it is no need to point out 'you missed this one'... 'you missed that one'.. like that. Appadi paarththaal, you also missed many bango specials such as 'idhu vErulagam thani ulagam' (nichaya thaamboolam), 'ninaiththadhai nadaththiyE mudippavan naan naan naan' (nam naadu) etc...etc...

By the way, Mr Ram did not miss 'Aandavam padachaan engitta koduththaan' song (as you said). He already mentioned it in RHAPSODY category.

irene...
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Venugopalan Soundararajan
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:51 pm    Post subject: Clarification. Reply with quote

Dear Irene Hastings,

I think you look at my writings only from a NEGATIVE ANGLE. Please read my posting again. I have paid rich tributes to Mr Ramakrishnan for his excellent analysis - “Hats off to you for a simply wonderful analysis of the ‘Bongos’ usage of the Legend”.

When I said “you have missed out one important number”, it has a significance because the usage of Bongos in that particular song is some thing special and different. Please understand, by saying "missed out" we are not pointing out a mistake or any thing like that.

Every one knows that there are plenty of songs by MSV Sir for the usage of Bongos. Quoting from my posting again –“ in the 60s there were hardly few numbers where the Legend had not used the "Bongos". But you have highlighted the best. Once again, a big pat on your back for the excellent write-up”.

Of course, I apologize for not noticing “Andavan Padaichan” in Mr Ramakrishnan’s list.

I once again request you not to look at things from a Negative Angle only.

Regards,

Venu Soundar
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baroque
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some person in this forum fast becoming my favorite author with his detailed write up, highlighting some ravishing musical pieces, most of them are my favorites, some of them I have never seen the visuals.

Impressive, sir!

KING OF PERCUSSION indeed.

While reading your article 'kaadhal kaadhal endru pesa...' , 'oru pennai paarthu...' are playing at the background, Shri.MSV steals my heart with his tempo, percussion change with nalinam, very gracious, its hard for me to snap out of the magic spell. His apt, gracious,varied percussion usage shows CLASS! Not only his usage of varied rhythm instruments, the way he presented them as layam(both tempo & rhythm) is total bliss where Shri.MSV turns the aesthetics of music to spirituality.

I will go over your BONGOS list.

Thanks for your time & passion to enlighten us.

love, Vinatha.
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s ramaswamy
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mr Ram,

Congrats for an excellent analysis of MSV's bongo usage. As someone has said he was the king of percussion not only in TFM but even if you include the vast ocean of HFM. And MSV's usage of bongo is different from that of SDBurban's.

SD also used the intrument to good effect. One example I can give is that excellent duet from "Nau Do Gyarah" with cooing by Asha starting it, followed by a flute-whistle prelude and the soft follow-up of the bongo in that great song "Ankhon mya kya ji woh pehela baadal".

You have mentioned many songs and in particular I would like to mention about the "Kalaikkoyil" duet of PBS-PS "Naan Unnai Serndha Selvam" in which each stanza ends with a different bongo beat, starting gently and finishing with a bang.

BTW can you recollect which was the first movie in which the VR duo started using the bongo.

Once again accept my congrats.
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Ram N Ramakrishnan
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 9:22 pm    Post subject: Thanks to all of you Reply with quote

To all at MSV Times:

Thanks a ton for all the kind remarks on the article. Frankly, this article came from my heart. I used very little head in the research, except for finding the distinction on songs which had the complete bongo or the bongo combo!

Thanks to everyone for highlighting the songs I missed. I have added them to my listening list.

I was indeed waiting for someone to make a reference to Hindi songs and I finally found that from Mr. Ramaswamy who pointed out a song of SDBurman - my most favourite of the Hindi Music Directors. I have almost all his compositions in my collection. But I have, in the best of my musical listenings, analysed the bongos used by SDB, OPN, S-J and SalilC in Hindi, and have always intrigued by the Tone of MSV's bongo - that is why the title!

For the benefit of MSVians......when MSV and TKR came to Doha, Qatar (Arabian Gulf) for a show, I worked my way (using my local influence, as I was working there) to become MSV's chauffer and took him, his family and TKR in my Landcruiser for the 4 days they stayed there! My interactions with MSV and TKR is something which cannot be penned but cherished. A photo with them adorns my drawing room. That event, ticked off an agenda of my lifetime. In fact, my friends and family say most of the time that if I had the option to choose my career maybe I would have waited all my life in front of MSV's office until I became his man Friday and lived a life cleaning his harmonium..........they dont realise that I would have witnessed the making of classics for a lifetime. Men continue to lose the battle between the head and the heart!

I am fortunate that I lived in era where I could see his works attain the glory they should. Through MSV Times let us keep his flag fllying high.....thanks and cheers,, Ram N Ramakrishnan
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