An engineer by training, she soon realised music was her true calling
Carnatic vocalist Nisha P. Rajagopal has been chosen as the first recipient of ‘The Hindu Saregama M.S. Subbulakshmi Award.'
Presented by RmKV, the award, which was instituted on September 16, 2010, seeks to honour and recognise the merit of a young Carnatic vocalist aged between 25 and 35 pursuing music full-time.
It has been a long journey for Nisha. Her family moved all the way from Toronto, Canada, to New Delhi, just so she could learn and engage with music at a deeper level.
She spent her first 10 years in Toronto. She began her music lessons with her mother, noted Carnatic vocalist Vasundara Rajagopal, in Toronto. It was senior musician and musicologist T.R. Subramanyam, fondly known as “TRS” in music circles, who motivated her to come to India.
“While in Toronto, we would drive to Pittsburgh during weekends to attend his classes. He told me that if I intended taking up music seriously, India was the place to be,” Nisha recalls. The family moved to New Delhi soon after and she began her training under TRS.
After a few years, Chennai, which has drawn some of the best musicians, drew Nisha, too.
Eager to learn more and enhance her repertoire, she started learning under senior musicians P.S. Narayanaswamy and Suguna Varadachari.
An engineer by training, she even had a brief stint in the corporate world before she realised that music was indeed her true calling.
“This award affirms that my decision was right. It is truly an honour to be awarded in the name of M.S. Amma, who is an icon for every musician,” she says.
While Nisha has been training under different gurus, her style is an impressive amalgam that draws upon different styles, yet retains the core values of classical music. She has also proved herself as a musician very strong in both melodic and rhythmic aspects of Carnatic music.
Her growth in Carnatic music, which is considered highly competitive, has been rather steady and consistent, marked by focus, hard work and determination. “This award is like winning a lottery. I feel like I've been given a good promotion at work. It motivates me to learn more, work harder and ask myself ‘what next?” she says.
Like most students of music, Nisha has great admiration for M.S. Subbulakshmi's music. “The intrinsic bhava [feel/emotive appeal] in her singing leaves me awe-struck every time I listen to her — whether it is a short verse of two lines or an elaborate rendition of a raga.”
Pointing to the “great human being” that M.S. was, Nisha feels she is a role model not only for musicians, but for every human being. “It is a great delight that The Hindu and Saregama have jointly instituted the award. I feel very proud and deem this a great honour,” she says.
A jury comprising veteran vocalist R. Vedavalli, art critic Gowri Ramnarayan and musician-composer Rajkumar Bharathi chose the awardee. Nisha will be presented the award at a grand ceremony to be held on April 11 at the Museum Theatre, Egmore. The former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, will preside over the function, which would also feature Nisha's performance.