I found this recording on youtube through knisar22’s youtube channel (which is amazing and really active with new uploads from unique recordings all the time). Ramji’s playing is mind blowing! Even though this an older recording without high quality, the essence of his mastery is so crystal clear. The clarity, speed, and sheer variety of his bols is breathtaking. I wish there were more recordings out there of his.
From reading a few articles on the web about Ramji, I learned that he is the son of the famous Benares tabla master Anokelal Ji, and was all set to take the world stage “but that certain other jealous Benares tabla players slipped him some mind-cracking drugs and sent him mad. It is one of the big shames of Benares music-circle politics.” (http://forums.chandrakantha.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=982) This intrigues me because regardless if it is true or not, this story adds a certain mystique to his life, which, if juxtaposed on the few recordings of his that are available, tell a story untold about a rare genius. In hindustani music this juxtaposition may not be a necessarily new phenomenon (i.e., of a mysterious life against the work of a genius), but this recording here undoubtedly displays an artistic feat seldom heard. Supposedly, he still plays concerts occasionally, but because he is quite old now rarely gives long performances. I would love to learn more about Ramji’s life, and hear more of his recordings, so if anyone knows what direction to point, let me know!
There are 5 clips loaded of Ramji’s tabla, but I just added one here: