R. Venkataraman was one of the finest exponents of veena. Venkataraman was a top rank (A top) artist with All India Radio and Television. Venkataraman was known for his own style of veena playing, a style with a rare blend of tradition and modernity. With his facile fingering techniques and innovations, he had proved that the veena is an instrument with great propensity.
Venkataraman started his initial training in vocal Carnatic music when he was barely four years old, under his father late Rama Subba Sastri. From the age of eight he started learning veena under smt. Lakshmi G.Krishnan. Venkataraman then became a disciple of Padma Bhooshan, Sangeeta Kalanidhi Late K.S.Narayanaswamy. Under his expert guidance, Venkataraman completed his National Scholarship for the Veena. He secured first rank in vocal music and veena in Ganabhooshanam course from Sri Swathy Thirunal College of Music, Trivandrum. At the college he further developed his vocal music under the guidance of Shri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Shri C.S.Krishna Iyer. After completing his studies, Venkatraman served as Assistant Professor of Veena at Sri Swathy Thirunal College of Music, Trivandrum before joining All India Radio, Trivandrum in 1964 and served there until his retirement in 1996.
Venkataraman performed all over India during a career spanning over five decades. He along with Shri Lalgudi G. Jayaraman and N. Ramani performed the famous Veena-Venu-Violin trio concerts during the period 1965 to 1968. This unique blend of three instruments was a great hit at that time and paved the way for innovative instrumental combinations in Carnatic music. Venkataraman had performed numerous times at the Navarathiri Mandapam during the Navarathiri festival organised by the Travancore Palace of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal.
During his tenure in All India Radio, Venkataraman had conceived and presented numerous special feature programs, notable among them being ‘Shankarabharanam – Sangeethabharanam’, ‘Vrinda vadyam’ orchestra and vocal music lessons over the air twice weekly for many years.
Venkataraman had performed for dignitaries including the former Indian president Shri V.V.Giri, Her Highness Sethu Parvati Bhai, His Highness Chithira Tirunal Bala Rama Varma Maharaja. Numerous awards and honours have come Venkataraman’s way, notable among them being the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy award for 1982, Veena Dhanam Memorial Gold Medal and Shanmukha Vadivu Award from the Music Academy, Madras in 1973, ‘Ganasudhakara’ title from Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy of Rishikesh and ‘Kalaratnam’ title from Travancore Devaswam Board. During the 64th conference of the Music Academy, Madras, in 1990, he received the Shanmukha Vadivu award and Chellapally Ranga Rao award as a senior vidwan. During 1999, he was honoured by the Semmmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer trust.
Venkataraman has a number of recordings to his credit. He trained a number of students in vocal and veena. Notable among them are Seetha Balakrishnan (veena), Prince Rama Varma (vocal and veena), Sesha Nambirajan (veena), Sugandha Kalamegam (vocal), Iyer Brothers (veena). He served as Member, Faculty of Arts in Annamalai University as well as Head of the Department for Veena at the Music college run by the Madras Music Academy. Venkataraman had given a number of lecture/demonstrations including ‘allied ragas – suruti, kedaragowlai, sahana’; ‘Importance of tanam in Carnatic music’ and ‘Gamakas in Carnatic ragas’.
R.Venkataraman toured Australia in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009 and performed at major cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. During these tours he also taught vocal and veena to many students and conducted lecture demonstrations and workshops. He was a regular performer and teacher at Madhurya in Paris. In 2005 Venkataraman was invited to perform at the Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana in the US.