Carnatic vocalist Chandramana A. Sajiv Namboodiri is a rasika-turned-musician, who chose to become a musician on account of his “intense” appreciation for the art. Professionally known as C.S. Sajeev, as he is known in music circles, is a graduate in engineering as well as a post-graduate in business administration. The Chennai-based artiste who hails from Thiruvananthapuram is an ‘A' Grade artiste of All India Radio (AIR), Chennai. He is also the founder of the Neelakanta Sivan Cultural Academy and Music Academy in Chennai, which promotes the works of the late master composer. He is the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi's Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in 2009. Excerpts from an interview with the vocalist…
Turning to music
I was a rasika of Carnatic music from a young age. My uncle Chandramana Narayanan was a musician and a student at the Swati Tirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram. I used to listen to him practise and regularly accompany him to concerts. I learnt to identify ragas just by hearing them. While I was pursuing my higher education, Carnatic music was always on my mind and whenever I was free I used to attend concerts, most often at the Kancheepuram Kamakshi Temple, which was near my university, or even go all the way to Chennai just to attend concerts. That was really the turning point of my life. I liked the field of Information Technology but I knew that I didn't like it as much as I like music. I have no regrets. Also, there were no issues with my parents. All they said was that I should endeavour to do my best at whatever profession I choose.
I started off learning Carnatic music under Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma and later under Lathika teacher and Geeta teacher in Thiruvananthapuram. For a number of years I also trained under the visually-challenged Irinjalakuda Vijayakumar. Then later on I came into the sphere of Varkala C.S. Jayaraman and trained with him for 20 years. It was under him that I got the National Talent scholarship award in music and many other achievements too. My gurus, especially Jayaraman sir, moulded me into the singer I am today. The legacy they have passed on to me is something that I will always cherish and strive to carry forward.
Fascination with Neelakanta Sivan
It began when Janardhanan Iyer, former secretary of the Neelakanta Sivan Sangeeta Sabha in Thiruvananthapuram – a rasika, a Carnatic music patron and ardent devotee of Sree Neelakanta Sivan, introduced me to the music of the genius. Sree Neelakanta Sivan's repertoire is quite simply amazing. He is said to have composed over 2,000 kritis but unfortunately most of them have not been too well documented. Moreover, the composer is not as acknowledged in the music circles as he deserves to be.
I used to go for the December Festival with Janardhanan Iyer and realised that there was no sabha in Chennai that actively promoted the maestro's music. I felt that it was imperative to start a sabha in the name of Sree Neelakanta Sivan and preserve his works for posterity. Now we make it a point to hold regularly concerts that mainly feature the maestro's kritis. Some of the more memorable concerts we organised were by the Bombay Sisters, T.V. Shankaranarayanan, P. Unnikrishnan and a jugalbandi by Anuradha Sriram and her husband, Sriramkrishnan, to name a few.
On getting the Ustad Bismillah Khan Award
I'm aware that an award such as this is a great responsibility because we [the 33 young artistes from different fields across the spectrum of Indian arts] are now supposed to be the torchbearers of these ancient traditions. And now the stakes are up too. The onus is now on us to preserve these traditions, maintain the quality and the standards. And yes it's a competitive world out there, especially in Chennai music circuit, but I believe that if you work hard enough you can achieve whatever you want.