Updated: Jul 4, 2021
Consonance and dissonance
P K Reghukumar Varma (Raghu master)
Reghu Master is one of those great artists who didn't get the recognition he deserved. Many people in Kerala who hum and sing his songs have probably not heard of him. A gentle soul, always with a smile on his face, he didn't care or crave publicity.
In my teens, we had a Ganamela troupe (a music band that renders Popular Indian language film songs) named 'The Symphony'. The practice, or rather rehearsals, is conducted at the Band's office near my residence. It's a room in a lodge that provides accommodation for bachelors.
Reghu Kumar, or Reghu Master as we call him, used to visit the place during rehearsals. Fair-skinned, his cheerful, beaming face always looked blushed.
Though I was just a youngster then, he never showed any supremacy or reservations to me. During the rehearsals, he cared to listen, even if I express doubt about any arrangement in a song. Once while practising an old classic Malayalam song, I pointed out that I always feel there's something wrong with the original recording. The other artists, all of them relatively senior to me, felt uneasy that some of them initially just sported a mortified smile. Reghu Master suddenly turned solemn that he asked to repeatedly play that specific part (beginning of the song). After playing it numerous times, he asked all the artists, "What do you think? ". While most of them became doubtful and confused, few agreed there's something wrong. Then he turned to me and asked, "What do you think is wrong?". I said that I have always felt that the song begins with the pitch dragging. With a stern look, he said, "You are right. Wonder why nobody noticed it earlier". After that incident, to my embarrassment, most of those artists depended on my confirmation to tune their musical instruments.
Probably to provide me confidence, I remember he once told me that he started his musical journey in his childhood, and in his early twenties, he was part of the chorus that sang the Tamil song 'Ondrey Kulamendru Paaduvom' sung by K J Yesudas. Though it's not his composition and there are so many hit songs ('Koottil Ninnum', 'Chembarathi Poove Chollu', 'Pon Veene' etc.) composed by him, I remember this song when I remember him.
Raghu Master died prematurely on 20 February 2014.