Accompanists earn repute for their ability to enhance the quality of a kutcheri, and their skill to complement the vocal rendition. The Swati Sangeethotsavam at Kuthiramalika in Thiruvananthapuram has witnessed young instrumentalists such as Avaneeswaram S. R. Vinu cutting their teeth playing for music legends like Dr. Balamuralikrishna, T. K. Govinda Rao, T. N. Seshagopalan and T. V. Gopalakrishnan, to name a few. Vinu's career as a violinist was formally begun with an arangetram at the Panachikad Dakshinamookambika temple in Chingavanam. Recipient of the Lalgudi Gopala Iyer and the Lalgudi Jayaram Award on two occasions, the Kanchikamakoti Asthana Award 2010 and the Sangeeth Ratna Award 2010, Vinu has worked under Mavelikara Prabhakara Varma for two years on a Central Government scholarship. Excerpts from an interview…
Introduction to the violin
As a child I remember taking up the violin that was at our home in Kottarakara. It was my father, Avaneeswaram Ramachandran, himself, a musician (he retired as Principal of RLV College, Thripunithura), who initiated me into the violin. His training was followed by academic training in music at the Sri Swati Tirunal College of Music in Thiruvananthapuram, where I did my diploma and post-diploma courses.
Learning the traditional way
When I came to the capital city it was as if a whole new world of music had opened up for me. There were several opportunities to attend concerts. I developed an admiration for the M.S. Gopalkrishnan style. However, it was during my years with Mysore Nagaraj, my guru, that I got the training and exposure, which has stood me in good stead all these years. When he expressed willingness to accept me as his shishya, from 1992 to 1997, I shuttled between Mysore and Thiruvananthapuram, depending on his availability. There was flexibility in the time spent, but I got the opportunity to watch my guru and his brother, Mysore Manjunath, practise. Since it was a very informal set-up they discussed, practised and debated, and this exchange was inspiring as well as educative.
The major break came when I performed at the Navarathri Mandapam in 2001. My guru could not attend, so I was asked to step in for him. Although I felt the trepidation and nervousness of a greenhorn, the occasion gave me confidence. Since then I have had occasion to accompany a galaxy of Carnatic vocalists; each one of those recitals has been a learning experience for me. The memory of concerts that I have listened to is a great text for me.
The music ‘season' in Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram's concert scene, a comparison
During the season in Chennai, it is saturation that one finds. People from all over come to enjoy music and there are live performances of practically all the major names in the field. In Thiruvananthapuram, we do have our small but regular and dedicated venues for classical music concerts and it has its own plus points. Quite unlike these two is the concert experience abroad, particular in the United States. People travel long distances to attend the concert, which are of three to four hours duration, and clearly adhere to the raagam, thanam, pallavi structure. One gets to see a large variety of performances during the Chennai season and the exposure naturally enriches me.
As a shishya of Aswati Tirunal Rama Varma
After my guru, it is Aswati Tirunal Rama Varma who has had an indelible imprint on my grooming. The introduction and familiarisation with the not-so-common approach, and the manner of conducting a concert are things that one learns from him.
When I was invited to accompany Thrissur V. Ramachandran and Neyattinkara Santhanagopalan at the Navarathri Mandapam, it opened up a sacred space for me. Chamber concerts at the Kowdiar Palace become memorable venues; accompanying maestros and playing before a select group known for their rootedness in the classical music tradition, are unforgettable experiences. A session with just thukadas that he once gave remains sharply etched in my mind. As a learner, the cumulative experience itself is a priceless contribution to my growth as an artiste.
Experience as a teacher
The possibilities before the younger generation are much more. Now they have access to the works of their gurus online. While they train they can also venture into new compositions from the Net, so the time they take is much shorter. Venues have opened up, and naturally there is more talent in the field
Trends vs. classicial tradition
This is a very personal decision. As an instrumentalist, it is my duty to render appropriate support to the vocalist. As the oral tradition has been handed down over generations, there is need to recognise that some dare to experiment. In fact, one does not have to resort to using popular compositions to hold the listener's interest. There is always a rasika somewhere for quality performances, call it by any name.
Photo: S. Mahinsha