Flute, Harmonica, Morsing, Melodica and likes and not to forget Carnatic Vocal, a total package is the one-man musician army – Wing Commander Minjur M Yagnaraman, IAF. He has rocked wherever he has been posted, be it the national Capital, the North East, Mana Hyderabad or his current posting Coimbatore. Speaking to Natyahasini on the eve of Independence Day, Wing Commander Minjur M Yagnaraman shares that in 2003, the then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy PVSM, AVSM, VM & Bar CAS, appointed him as the founder of Air Warriors Symphony Orchestra at Air Force Station Jalahalli, Bangalore.
His interest and command in Music and all classical art forms brought him recognition and in 2011, he was selected to regularly train the IAF contingent for almost all Ceremonial Parades of the India Air Force, which includes Presidential Presentation Parades presided by the Honourable President of India, the responsibility he shoulders till date. The soft spoken IAF officer says that when he was asked to take charge, he had already self-trained himself to compose and play various instruments. “Of all the genres I accomplished till date, Indian Classical Music and Dance forms will always be my most loved ones,” he says.
A Born Teacher: This gentleman has left no stone unturned to teach music to the IAF fraternity or the family of the Unit members wherever he has been posted. “Yes, yes. I always did it and still do it and feel immensely happy teaching others. It is during my tenure in the North-East, I was inspired to venture into cutting of raw bamboo, shaping to various lengths, season them and started making bamboo flutes on my own, with no formal training, mostly by trial-and-error method. I also did the entire spade work to raise a Music Club in my unit as a benevolent activity for the benefit and train personnel, families and children,” says Yagnaraman.
Giving a peek into his early Music life, the Wing Commander who hails from Minjur (north Chennai village), says that according to his family members since he was three years old, he was seen fiddling with an old harmonium and producing lyrical sounds soothing to the ears. “I had formal training in vocal music initially from Vidwan Smt. Kalyani Narayanaswamy of Tambaram East, Chennai. Further continued with Vidwan Tambaram Sri Sundaresa Iyer and later under Vidwan Smt. Suguna Varadachari during my days at Madras University when I did degree programme in Indian Music,” states the music lover. The art in him was so strong that he fiddled with all music instruments and achieved proficiency at a time, when there was no YouTube to self-learn. “I certainly enjoy playing the flute, but my heart is for playing Vina, more than anything else,” admits the IAF officer.
Birth Of PrAMaYaS: Still serving with the Indian Air Force in the rank of Wing Commander, Yagnaraman, established PrAMaYaS (to Promote Art and Music amongst You and Society) in 2004. Talking about his pet project, the officer says, “Musically Yours was born…this name and capitalisation of spelling occurred in my dream and it was a divine order…to ‘Promote Art and Music amongst You and Society’. Since then, there has been no looking back.” He says after the launch of PrAMaYaS, he has been signing his communiqué with a closing salutation ‘Musically Yours – Yagna’ as he is popular by that adjective. “PrAMaYaS has grown from strength-to-strength and is still a long way to go and it is run as a totally self-funded unit. Our YouTube Channel PrAMaYaS has almost all activities conducted by us stored there for posterity,” he says.
The secret of managing a host of things, Yagnaraman says, “I guess, after my professional time, I breathe and think only of PrAMaYaS and I dedicate my early mornings and nights to undertake my passion-related activities in performing and imparting knowledge regarding music, dance, musicology, theory etc.” The IAF officer acknowledges that his wife and daughter, friends, students, parents and volunteers, all of them support him immensely in all musical activities.
Amrutagnavina Patented: The musical man admits that he still makes flutes and sends them to his students. On his dream project, Yagnaraman says: “My long-time dream of making a new instrument, which I have already named and patented as ‘Amrutagnavina’ will materialise after I retire from IAF as it needs a lot of time and availability of technical resources. But I have already made a new variety of drum.”
Sharing a memorable anecdote, the Wing Commander says he was invited as a Chief Guest to preside over a Bharatanatyam dance school annual day, in Delhi, in 2015, and was shocked to see, that for the same function, Guru Padma Visbhushan Smt. Saroja Vaidyanathan, the legendary Bharatanatyam Guru, was to join as Guest of Honour. “I conveyed my surprise to the organisers that it would be ethically incorrect for me to preside over the function with such a Legend being available there on the stage. To my utter surprise, the organiser informed that it was none other than Saroja Ma’am herself who gave the idea to the organiser to invite me for the function and preside over,” he says. The officer recalls that when he reached the venue, Saroja Ma’am was there at the entrance, to receive him along with others and they all walked into the venue together. “After the function was over, she also wanted me to address the gathering as first…this personification of humility and great heartedness left me spellbound and this would remain etched in my memories indelible,” Yagnaraman says.
Inspiration: The founder of PrAMaYaS says that nothing is impossible to achieve, within the right and justified dimensions of our capabilities. “I take great inspiration from this Vedic statement, Vadanam prasada sadanam, sadayam hrdayam, sudhamuco vacah, karanam paropakaranam, esham tvam sadaiva vandaniyah, (a person keeping a pleasant face, a heart full of compassion for others, and believing that the very reason of his / her existence is to help others in need, is the one who is revered, always and ever).”
Apart from belting Carnatic music, the IAF officer loves listening, performing and teaching all forms of music. “I firmly believe, music has no barriers at all,” he says quickly adding that the one Patriotic Bollywood number that is very emotional and haunting is ‘Sandese ate hain…hume tadpate hain…’ (from Border). “It fills my heart every time I hear it,” says the Indian Air Force officer, before signing off.