Mandolin player Ratan no more

Well-known mandolin player Sathyanarayana, popularly known as Ratan, died here on Sunday. He was 76.

The eldest of 14 siblings, father late MS Subba Rao ,mother MS Subbalakshamma, elder brother to another Mandolin player Janakiram, he was inspired to pick up the mandolin after he heard Mysore Anathaswamy, the celebrated bhavageete singer and composer, playing it.

Born in Mysuru on October 10, 1941, Ratan taught himself mandolin techniques. His skill earned him a legion of students to whom he taught songs in Kannada, Hindi and Tamil.

In fact, no college music festival in Karnataka between the 1970s and ’90s was complete without competitors from Mysuru playing film melodies they had learnt from Ratan.

“He was kind, and has groomed at least 1,500 students over five decades,” said N S Prasad, one of Ratan’s prime disciples. Prasad is among those who made the mandolin a part of sugama sangeeta, a genre that sets contemporary Kannada poetry to music.

Ratan developed his own style: his hammering, sliding, and release techniques are followed by many.

For some years, he was an employee of the motorcycle factory Ideal Jawa in Mysuru. His house Janakirama Mandira, at Chik Market in Mysuru, was open to anyone interested in music. Prasad, Suma Rani and Bhupal are among his students who went on to become professional artistes, playing for film sessions in Bengaluru and Chennai. Prasad runs an academy for mandolin music.

In his later years, Ratan worked in Bengaluru as a marketing executive. He taught at his house in Vyalikaval, Bengaluru. He had been ailing for six months, and died of a heart attack.

Ratan recorded for many films. His music can be heard in songs featured in the Kannada films Amarashilpi Jakanachari, Kulavadhu, and Gowri. He performed at an occasional live concert, but was more famous as a teacher.

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