Ungrumso Raman, recent winner of the Delhi International Classical Guitar Competition (1st prize, open category) has been invited to tour Sri Lanka as part of the Guitar Association of Sri Lanka festival Guitar Fest. Guitar Fest is a four day festival with concerts at Royal College in Colombo (24 Jan), Town Hall Kurunegala (25 Jan), Rajarata University in Mihintale (26 Jan), and at Veerasingham Hall in Jaffna (27 Jan).
Veda Aggarwal interviewed Ungrumso and he told her about his relationship with the classical guitar, what his preparation for the competition in Delhi was like and what he intends to play for his concert tour in Sri Lanka.
What was your first encounter with classical guitar – where did you first hear it? When did you start playing the instrument yourself?
My first encounter with the classical guitar was in 2004. I was 13 years old when I was gifted a guitar by my father from Singapore, not realizing that it was a classical guitar. After few months, my father enrolled me for a private guitar classes with sir Bipin Chandra. The first impression I got of the instrument was Borree in E minor by JS Bach. My teacher played it for me on the first day class. It captivated my heart immensely, so much that I never skipped a day without practicing.
Romanza was another piece that inspired me and the only piece that I could play confidently during that time and I played it whenever I was given the chance to perform. After a year and a half, my teacher left my hometown for further studies. I was left with no one to continue learning from but was still very intrigued by the guitar. I kept on practicing the pieces I had learnt. With time, yearning to play the instrument properly grew and I despite a lot of effort to find someone to learn from, I did not have a teacher. I ended up playing hymns on my own and also pieces that were was pre-recorded on the keyboard and sometimes picking up tunes from cassettes or the radio.
That guitar was the best gift I have ever received. It changed my life and I am so proud and grateful to my father for never giving up when we couldn’t find a teacher for me to continue learning. He was always beside me whenever I practiced and that kept me going.
After four years, I came to Delhi to pursue my graduation in Fine Arts from College of Art, Delhi University and at the same time I enrolled myself with the Delhi School of Music under the tutelage of sir Thomas Kaping. I was with him for five years. After which, through my teacher’s advise, I went to sir Shanker Dey for higher studies with the classical guitar.
How did you prepare for the Delhi International Classical Guitar Competition?
First of all, I want to say it’s practice and discipline that helped me win this competition. Of course, it would not have been possible without proper guidance from my teacher and the experience I received from attending master classes whenever opportunity knocks, and also performing, (whether for a small or huge crowd) has always given me a new understanding and light for the pieces I play.
As I progress, I listened to many different guitar maestros and orchestra pieces. Listening to the violin helps me understand more about the interpretation of a piece, especially to do with vibratos and dynamics. I can’t really pin point the day on which I started practicing for the competition – every day is a preparation for that stage all artiste dream of!
Tell us more about Mystery of the Gift foundation that you have started.
Mystery of the Gift is a musical foundation initiated with my co-founder Ms Thingchonphi Vashum for all upcoming musicians. It exists with the aim of promoting and providing performance opportunities through a common platform to talented musicians across all genres, who otherwise are devoid of other such platforms. We also focus on imparting music education to young children and passionate musicians, so that we can create greater awareness and appreciation in understanding classical music as a career option.
We want to make music education and the joy that comes with it, accessible to all. We wanted to help gifted musicians unravel their gift and make that gift available to everyone, to realize the power of music to our soul, health and our creativity. Through us, we want to inspire and instill the next generation music lovers and performers. Through this foundation we are helping the New Life India in educating free music and imparting education by providing basic necessities. We have started preparing for our next concert and all this proceeds will be for charity purposes. If anyone is interested to perform, or help, or know more about details of our next concerts, you’ll find us here: www.mysteryofthegift.org or www.facebook.com/Mystery-of-The-Gift-Foundation.
Who are the guitarists who have influenced your playing?
Julian Bream’s colourful tonal variation captivates me a lot. Other players who influence me are John William, David Russell, Pirai Vaca, Ekachai Jearakhul and Kyuhee Park.
What pieces are you preparing for the Sri Lanka tour?
For the Sri Lanka tour, I’ll be playing pieces from JS Bach, Francisco Tarrega, Legnani, Issac Albeniz and Roland Dyens.