Being born and growing up in a musical household meant that, I’d be encouraged to pursue Carnatic music even before I’d speak.
The following quote holds a testament for my upbringing. And, I am beginning to realize what a blessing it is to have lived life this way.
Music is there to enrich your life and make you aware of things in a slightly different way. ~Andrew Eldritch
Everyday, I was either made to listen to live concerts of reputed musicians, or listen to recordings from several tapes / radio relaying concerts of yesteryear musicians. My thatha (grandfather), my guru, Sri Thirupoonthuruthy Venkatesan would ensure that I paid attention to every little nuance and absorbed as much as I can. I reminisce these listening sessions with him which included Alathur Brothers’s (who were thatha’s gurus) ‘EmA Ni Ne’ in Mukhari, GNB’s ‘Manasuloni’ in Varamu, MLV’s ‘Nannu pAlimpa’ in Mohanam, Semmangudi’s ‘RAma Ni SamAnam evaru’ in Karaharapriya, M S Subbhulakshmi’s ‘SarOja Dala Netri’ in Shankarabaranam and many alike.
Until I turned 15-16, I knew nothing, other than music. I’d simply learn compositions taught by my grandfather, resume to endless hours of practice sessions at home with my amma following up on a day to day basis. 24 hours wasn’t enough but, amma ensured that I utilized every minute of it towards music and only music. Indeed, life was very different back then.
Sometimes, I begin to wonder the amount of things my amma has done, to make me who I am today. She was and is still a working woman. She could have progressed and moved up the career ladder. She chose to take it slow and never wanted to shift base from Chennai. She’d never retire on weekends, she almost single handedly managed home, aging grandparents, me and my erratic music schedules, very diligently. She missed being away from appa. So was appa missing all of us. But, they both made the conscious choice to do this, for me.
While amma was a disciplinarian, appa was liberal in every way. Possibly, because, I am the only daughter and he mostly got little time to spend with me back then. His enthusiasm to learn was infectious. He had an ear for good music and considered himself a fanboy of K V Mahadevan, M S Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraja and in that particular order (in current times, I tried influencing him, but that’s not affected him). He kept traveling on work and whenever he was home, he would narrate his musical influences mostly through story telling. It’s because of him, I got into exploring this side of the musical world (amidst a lot of resistance from amma).
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” ~ Aldous Huxley
I grew up, and suddenly, I preferred silence over music. Which only meant that, I needed a break from this beautiful art, especially in terms of performances. And, maybe, this is part and parcel of a package called life. I got into academics. Was mostly an average student, but worked very hard to catch up with everything that I thought, I missed in the last 18-20 years. I just wanted to stay away from all lime light that music exposed me to. I never quit learning music, but took a break from performing, very consciously.
The last 5 years between 20 and 25 was a phase, where I listened to more music – of all forms. Call me a rebel, call me a fool, call me anything you want. But, this would be one phase that I’d call a liberating one. I listened more to Hindustani Music, Ghazals, Jazz, Metal, Rock, Fusion and to endless genres and forms of this art. I rediscovered myself through this journey.
Today, at 26, I continue to learn from Sumithra akka. She has helped me gain confidence and strength as a person. I see life coming back in full circle.
But, I am still confused, I am still insecure about what I should do, in terms of performances, my contributions for the art and a plethora of things. The battle is between art and art itself. Unless, someone who has gone through the last 26 years from my shoes, I don’t expect anyone to understand this, as well.
For now, I just trust that the art will take care of my being and help me sail through this phase and to a better one, at the earliest.
Through this journey, I had support and empathy from several musicians and I am ever grateful for their presence. You all know who you are.
The movie ‘Nalanum Nandhiniyum‘ is an upcoming movie directed by Venkatesan Ramakrishnan, produced by Ravindar Chandrasekaran of Libra Productions. My association in this film project is because of the song I recorded for the extremely talented Ashwath Naganathan, the Music Director of this film.
It was that time of the year when I used to juggle between 2 cities – Pune and Chennai and somewhere around early 2012, one of my closest friends (name not disclosed here. But you know who you are) referred my name to Ashwath Naganathan. So, we met and tried on different genre songs, scales, feel, emotion, lyrics and everything a typical singer goes through musically. We had several sessions post this meet and recorded few tracks for this album as well.
After several months, I was asked to come for a final recording of the song and, today, after lots of ups and downs, I am credited for my song ‘Veetukulla Vaanavillu’. Ashwath wanted some newness in the song since its an unplugged version and gave me all the freedom to experiment. I share the song space with friends Madhumita Ramesh and Deepak from ‘Airtel Super Singer 2008’ and ‘Zee SaReGaMaPa Challenge 2009’ respectively.
The entire music album gets released in Geneva, Switzerland today.
P.S : I am really grateful to you Ashwath, because you genuinely believed in my singing and worked your way around to have me in this project. Thank you so so much!
P.P.S : As always, I share my happiness with you all – my supportive parents, my gurus, my friends, well-wishers and to all of you reading this post.
Krishna Gana Sabha | 06 January, 2013 | 11:45 hrs – 13:00 hrs
Violin : Shraddha Ravindran
Mrdangam : Rajna Swaminathan
Tyaga Brahma Gana Sabha – Vani Mahal | 17 December, 2012 | 12:00 hrs – 13:00 hrs
Violin : Kamalakiran Vinjamuri
Mrdangam : K Sai Prasad
Narada Gana Sabha | December 15, 2012 | 12:30 hrs – 13:45 hrs
Violin : Thirumagal S Dinesh Kumar
Mrdangam : J Arvind
Definitely one of the best days of my life. I have never felt as elated as I have today. Three good things I experienced.
Started off with good news about placements back at campus. It gave me a kick to see my friends get placed today.
And, later in the evening, I met a person who is well versed with what he is passionate about. Indeed a lesson that I learnt from him was what does passion really mean. He is the director of an esteemed film institute in Chennai. The minute he narrated about how he called most of his students dispassionate about film making, I interrupted and asked him why? He said that he feels his students are merely infatuated with film making. If the period of infatuation existed even after facing several failures for an extended period, he claims it might lead to passion for films. Such a wise person.
Finally, the day ended in the most unexpected way. Strange, Weird, Delighted, Hopeful, Happiness, Content, Brilliance, etc. are just few words to describe what I am going through right now. I had an opportunity to speak to a person who shares similar thoughts to mine in almost every possible way. Like a person who has mirror image of who and what you are. I sensed myself when I spoke to this person. From the kind of vision I share to my ideologies, my principles, my belief, my state of mind, my dream, my reason for existence. I don’t think I could have asked for more than a happier day in my life.
Thank you 13.12.11. You will be cherished forever. On this day, I believe in creating a social movement for the good, I believe in destiny, I believe in hope, I believe in change, I believe in my existence. I believe in music completely.
October 17th 2010
It was Vijayadasami day which is referred to as a day where students pay tribute to gurus. By doing so, they are letting one’s guru know how much they mean to their students.
To give an insight, Vijayadasami, is a day that follows the nine-day Navaratri festivities. This day celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. It’s the day of Vidyarambham, when students are introduced to the world of learning. And in Chennai, this learning is either in the form of music/dance classes. For few, its also art classes these days.
My Vijayadasami day is always special. Its usually been the same. But this time, I thought of my past and wanted to mention few of my teachers who made an impact in my life. My first guru had always been my mom “Amma” who started teaching me shlokas and kutti (small) songs when I was around 2 or 3 years. She would make me repeat whatever she sang and slowly I began to learn. Then, my thatha (my maternal grandfather) took over. Since then, thatha had struggled a lot to make me what I am today as a vocalist. He bestowed all he could so that he could see me as one of the finest Carnatic Musician. This has always been his dreams. Thatha and the guru form in him never really complimented well. As a guru, he is definitely very strict and I respect him for whatever he is. As thatha, he is the best. Also, he has associated himself with promoting compositions of Saint Sri Narayana Theerthar. I wish to fulfill his dreams in the near future as a Carnatic Vocalist (of good standard) and help him with organizing music festivals and letting the world know more about Sri Narayana Theerthar.
Later, my music learning expanded to violin. I began with violin when I was almost 7 years but with all possible breaks, I would have changed atleast 7-8 gurus until I fixed with Akkarai Sri Swamynathan. Akkarai Sir, as he is fondly called by me, is truly inspiring. He is gem of a teacher and a person too. Never have I seen a person who had been selfless in helping others. He is a genuine human being I have come across in my life. I have had my share of experiences with him as a student, a family friend, a well wisher, a daughter at times and so on. It just didn’t stop with Sir, but, continued with both his daughters namely Akkarai S Subbulakshmi and Akkarai S Swarnalatha (Akkarai Sisters) aka Sudha akka & Latha akka. I have shared a special bonding with both akkas. I have been like their little sister(at times an irritating one too). Words are not enough to appreciate their playing and dedication to music. To me, both akkas are role models. Its so true to adopt people of your age as role models than any older person because, you can relate well with the younger people quite often. I have never told to Sudha akka that she inspires me in all little things I do even in my daily life. But yeah, she does. These days when I stay alone in hostel, I would think of how as a toddler Sudha akka would go alone for concerts abroad and in India and still hold her never give up attitude. She is extremely hard working and a perfectionist. To all of her incredible talent, sir polished her talent and made her what she is today. Well, a special mention definitely goes to Latha akka who according to me is the best teacher in the making. She understands my weaknesses and filters all complexities when it comes to music and literally spoon feeds me at times. She allows me to experiment after she feels I have understood the musical concepts. I once upon a time used to spend days together in their house. I do miss those days. Wish, I can start learning the same way with Sir and akkas and become a decent violinist as well a good musician in the years to come.
Finally, about Chingleput Sri Ranganthan Sir. He is one of the best music teacher a student can get. I was lucky that I am his student. Along with thatha, I started learning from Ranganthan sir too. One thing I like about him is that he understands the pressure a student goes through and encourages them to do well in their academics too. I have heard a lot of my friends stating that their music teachers are extremely strict and all of that. But CR sir is like a cool dude types (atleast to me). He expects you to sing well in his classes and if you do so, you have made his day. There are days when I would sing the Kalpana Swarams perfect and he would just bless me saying, “Avalavu thaane! Idhukku poi bayandhudu irukulaama?” meaning “That’s it! Don’t be scared for these simple things”. CR sir holds huge respect among all his students and he can be extreme fun in cracking jokes to us about how some great Carnatic Musicians would converse in his days as a student.
I wish that all my gurus stay hale and healthy and live for a long time. I also wish that they forgive me for not continuing classes until 2012. And guess, I shall practice to my best of ability.