He is a quantitative economist, with a doctoral degree from the University of Georgia and a post-doctoral degree from Harvard University. He has worked for Fortune 10 companies and has a slew of internationally published research papers to his credit. Yet, it is the concert stage he frequents, not the board room — for he has given up his undoubtedly lucrative career for his true calling, Carnatic music. His voice is resonant, and his music distinctive — emotive, yet intelligent. He has a strong propensity for ‘praacheena’ music and a principled, no-nonsense outlook — in fact, they are the cornerstones of his musical value system. Put that together with innate brilliance and you get a musician par excellence — meet Palghat Dr R. Ramprasad, vocalist and grandson of the legendary mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer.
Effortlessly extraordinary – Saketharaman
He works a full-time corporate job (as Senior Vice President at Goldman Sachs) five days a week, travels and performs during weekends and manages to be absolutely extraordinary at both. So extraordinary, in fact, that it seems like he straddles his two careers effortlessly. With his distinct nasal twang, the stamp of the Lalgudi bani and his intelligent music, his musical style is truly inimitable. Meet Saketharaman Santhanam, vocalist par excellence and disciple of maestro Lalgudi Shri Jayaraman.
Charting his own course – Rithvik Raja
His guru is a star on the Carnatic music stage and off it, having received international acclaim for his ideals and work. His mother is a popular music teacher who has trained hundreds of children. But this young man comes with no sense of entitlement; instead, he combines his tutelage with plenty of talent and tenacity, and is charting his own — successful — course. Over the past few years, he has travelled far, performed widely and won much appreciation. Confident and candid, he is ascending the ladder to the top, surely and steadily. Meet Rithvik Raja, prime disciple of the redoubtable Shri T.M. Krishna. Continue reading
Pursuing excellence in pedagogy and performance – Padma Sugavanam
My childhood memories of her as my senior at St Johns English School and then at Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School are vivid. She was a brilliant student who won every academic proficiency prize there was, year after year. She was also known for her outstanding singing, never failing to bring laurels to the school at inter-school competitions. I followed her career path with interest, until she all but disappeared from the Chennai music scene — to become a lecturer of music in Tirupati. It has now been about a year since she made a comeback, and a very successful one at that. ‘The response has been overwhelming’, in her own words. Not surprising, what with her erudition, sense of aesthetics and open-throated singing. Meet Dr Padma Sugavanam, a musician who is just as passionate about music pedagogy as she is about performance. Continue reading
Stardom beckons – Sriranjani Santhanagopalan
When she’s performing, she captivates not only with her musical prowess but also with her extraordinary stage presence. When she’s fielding questions, she does it with poise and a maturity that belies her age. Choosing words with care, she puts her points across clearly and succinctly. As I interact with this remarkable young lady, I realise it’s hard not to be impressed by her self-assuredness. Meet vocalist Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, daughter and disciple of vidwan Shri Neyveli Santhanagopalan.
Like grandpa, like grandson – J.A. Jayanth
He is blessed with a precocious talent for music and revels in all the attention it gets him, yet has a firm head on his shoulders. Not one to rest on his laurels, he works hard and with passion, and is constantly trying to improve and innovate. With oodles of enthusiasm, a smiling countenance and the looks of a hero, this young man never fails to impress — on the stage and off it. Meet flautist J.A. Jayanth, grandson and disciple of the late flute maestro Shri T.S. Sankaran.
Silken voice, soulful music – Vasudha Ravi
It is not often that in a performance by a veteran dancer, you forget to watch the dance and instead find yourself focusing on the singer and her riveting music. With a silken voice that she uses beautifully to produce a myriad of emotions, the young singer effortlessly takes the quality of the dance performance up several notches. Whether she’s singing in a dance recital or in a solo concert, she sings with abandon and an unmistakable cheeriness. On the stage and off, she displays a rare joie de vivre in everything she does. Meet Vasudha Ravi, talented young vocalist and disciple of Dr Manjula Sriram.
Where passion and talent run deep – Amritha Murali
As I sit down to write this little introduction to a young but extraordinarily talented artist, my mind comes up with one superlative after another — without them, it seems like I would not be doing justice to her virtuosity! In the way she approaches her music, there is deep veneration, unwavering focus and sincerity. Her training with senior gurus and her own quest for perfection make a formidable combination, one that reflects in all her concerts — cerebral yet emotive, well structured and neatly presented. Meet vocalist and violinist Amritha Murali, disciple of the Kedarnathans, Shri P.S. Narayanaswamy and Smt. T. Rukmini.
Master of the kanjira – K.V. Gopalakrishnan
It is only the 2nd of January 2016, but he has already accepted two concerts for the next December Season, twelve months away! He performs nearly every day of the year, is constantly travelling within the country and abroad, and has played with nearly all the stars and veterans of today. Yet when you ask him for an interview, he responds promptly and with warmth — making your respect for him increase multi-fold. A disciple of his father Shri K.V.R.S. Mani and Sangita Kalanidhi Dr T.K. Murthy, he is quick to acknowledge the role that other musicians and veterans have played in his career. Meet K.V. Gopalakrishnan, the unpretentious and amiable master of the kanjira. Continue reading
An expert balancing act – R. Ramkumar
When you first meet him, what you will see is a young man with a pleasant disposition, a permanent smile and a passion for Carnatic music and the mridangam. What you won’t see is any hint of the other, rather busy, corporate life he leads, as Senior Vice President at WNS Global Services. While you may then be impressed by how he balances his corporate career and concert life admirably, it is actually his unassuming, down-to-earth attitude that will bowl you over. Meet R. Ramkumar, mridangam artist and disciple of Sangita Kalanidhi Shri Umayalpuram Sivaraman. Continue reading
A worthy scion — Dr Nanditha Ravi
She is the daughter of a venerable vocalist and a torchbearer of the Brindamma bani. Those are not easy tags to live up to, but she does it with quiet aplomb. The mark of her gurus is unmistakable in her singing, but she has imbibed the best from them and moulded it into a graceful style of her own. Her guru bhakti comes across in the reverent tones in which she speaks about them. She has distinguished herself not only as a vocalist, but also as a research scholar, having earned a doctorate in music (for her research on the Sanskrit composers in Muthuswamy Dikshithar’s shishya parampara) and presented several papers on other research topics. Meet the redoubtable Dr Nanditha Ravi, daughter of veteran vocalist Smt. Rama Ravi. Continue reading
Vijay Siva — Rare pictures and a fun interview
In 2008, I did an email interview with Vidwan Vijay Siva in conjunction with that year’s Bharat Sangeet Utsav (Carnatica’s annual music festival). It wasn’t meant to be a serious interview — I sent in two light-hearted questionnaires and asked him for pictures from his childhood until 2008. Vijay Siva responded with a treasure trove of photos and answers that were a delight to read!
Doordarshan interview with Carnatica Brothers
A few years ago, when I was still in India and anchoring shows every week for Doordarshan, I interviewed Carnatica Brothers K.N. Shashikiran (my guru) and Chitravina P. Ganesh on a show called ‘Nam Virundinar’. It was a two-episode interview; the first episode is available here.
Dr Sunder — Versatility is his middle name
I did a series of interviews with accomplished musicians a few years ago for Sruti magazine. One of the musicians was Dr Sunder, a multi-faceted musician I had the pleasure of working with during our shoots for Maithreem Bhajatha, a Carnatic music appreciation serial telecast on Sankara TV. This interview was done on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th episode of Maithreem Bhajatha. The original file is available here. I have reproduced the text below.